Ivory Language: Introduction

Ivory Concepts

Ivory is an embedded domain-specific language for safer systems programming.

That’s a mouthful. Lets break that down:

  • Embedded: Ivory is implemented as a library of the Haskell programming language. Ivory programs are written using Haskell syntax and types.
  • Domain-specific Language: Ivory is not a general purpose programming language. It aims to be a good language for writing a restricted subset of programs.
  • Safer: Ivory gives strong guarantees of type and memory safety, and has features which allow the programmer to specify other safety properties.
  • Systems Programming: Ivory is well suited for writing programs which interact directly with hardware and do not require dynamic memory allocation.

You can consider Ivory to be a lot like a restricted version of the C programming language, embedded in Haskell.

Continue to a more detailed treatment of Ivory’s core concepts.

Learning Ivory

Ivory is embedded in the Haskell language: this means that Ivory reuses the syntax and type system of Haskell. It is best if you are comfortable with the Haskell language before learning Ivory. In particular, Ivory uses modern extensions to the Haskell language, such as DataKinds and TypeOperators.

Once you understand the goals of the Ivory language, start by reading about the Ivory Toolchain and common libraries.

Additionally, you can learn Ivory by:

Example Programs

Hello World

puts :: Def ('[IString] :-> Sint32)
puts  = importProc "puts" "stdio.h"

main :: Def ('[] :-> ())
main  = proc "main" $ body $ do
  call_ puts "hello, world\n"

Hello World in Ivory.

In this example, we tell Ivory about an external procedure called puts in stdio.h. The puts procedure takes an IString (the Ivory type for strings) as an argument, and returns a Sint32 (a signed 32 bit integer).

Then, we create a procedure called main which takes no arguments and returns nothing of interest. The procedure body makes a call to puts, supplying the string "hello, world\n" as an argument. The underscore in call_ indicates the result of the procedure is discarded.

After the call, the next statement in main is retVoid, which causes the procedure to exit.


fib_loop :: Def ('[Ix 1000] :-> Uint32)
fib_loop  = proc "fib_loop" $ \ n -> body $ do
  a <- local (ival 0)
  b <- local (ival 0)

  n `times` \ _ -> do
    a' <- deref a
    b' <- deref b
    store a b'
    store b (a' + b')

  result <- deref a
  ret result

An Ivory program for computing Fibonacci numbers using a loop and mutable state

This example is explained in depth in our Ivory Language tutorial.