Recursive closure


A small technique in Perl that I sometimes use.

I was extending validns some days ago, when I realized that what I had in mind could be implemented quite easily with a recursive function. So what’s the problem? Just make sure to use More robust self-recursion, and you’re done, right?

Well, not so fast. I was collecting some data along the way, which usually means adding some more parameters to the function call, passing down a reference to whatever data structure I want to populate/use down the road.

Except that it’s a bit clunky and not ideal while prototyping and figuring out how things should go; having the possibility to just write a my %foobar and use it is so much easier.

Sometimes, then, I turn to coding a recursive closure. It’s a function inside the main function, which closes on some variables (hence the closure part) and does recursion over itself (hence the recursive).

Something like this admittedly contrived example:

sub outer_not_recursive ($n) {
    my @factorials = (1);
    sub ($i) {  # inner, recursive closure
        return if $i > $n;
        push @factorials, $factorials[-1] * $i;
    return $factorials[$n];

The closed-on variables ($n, @factorials) are there to be used directly, while __SUB__ takes excellent care of doing the recursion without the need to write anything strange and/or unreadable.


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