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1.85 Generator

Defined in namespace Smalltalk
Superclass: Stream
Category: Streams-Generators

A Generator object provides a way to use blocks to define a Stream of many return values. The return values are computed one at a time, as needed, and hence need not even be finite.

A generator block is converted to a Generator with "Generator on: [...]". The Generator itself is passed to the block, and as soon as a message like #next, #peek, #atEnd or #peekFor: is sent to the generator, execution of the block starts/resumes and goes on until the generator’s #yield: method is called: then the argument of #yield: will be the Generator’s next element. If the block goes on to the end without calling #yield:, the Generator will produce no more elements and #atEnd will return true.

You could achieve the effect of generators manually by writing your own class and storing all the local variables of the generator as instance variables. For example, returning a list of integers could be done by setting a variable to 0, and having the #next method increment it and return it. However, for a moderately complicated generator, writing a corresponding class would be much messier (and might lead to code duplication or inefficiency if you want to support #peek, #peekFor: and/or #atEnd): in general, providing a #do:-like interface is easy, but not providing a Stream-like one (think binary trees).

The idea of generators comes from other programming languages, in particular this interface looks much like Scheme streams and Python generators. But Python in turn mutuated the idea for example from Icon, where the idea of generators is central. In Icon, every expression and function call behaves like a generator, and if a statement manages scalars, it automatically uses up all the results that the corresponding generator provides; on the other hand, Icon does not represent generators as first-class objects like Python and Smalltalk do.

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