Learn the Prism programming language

A crash course on Prism. Learn the Prism programming language in a few minutes.

Whether you are an experienced programmer or not, this website is intended for everyone who wishes to learn the Prism programming language as soon as possible.

Note that, this guide is for the prototype version of Prism and doesn't cover all of Prism and topics described here are explained in very simple terms - terms that might not be used by Prism internally to refer to them. Since Prism is currently not yet released to the public, the language can have drastical changes with every iteration and consequently this guide will have to change too. You need to have an open mind if you want to learn Prism in its early stage.

Hello, world!

To print an object in Prism, just write:

println("Hello, World!")

Variables and Types

Prism is not statically typed. You don't need to declare the type of variable while declaring it. The Prism interpreter can infer the type based off of the type of the assigned value.

Prism uses the let keyword to declare variables. And you can reassign values to these variables as needed.

For example, first we declare the variable everything and assign it to 42. And then we can reassign it to "is possible".

let everything = 42;
everything = "is possible";


The none data type is used for objects which doesn't have any value. A variable can be declared without providing an initial explicit value. In these cases, the variables are usually assigned the none value.

let response = none;


Boolean is a data type that holds only one bit of information. It can be either true or false.

In the example below, isValid is a boolean variable with the value of true:

let isValid = true;


Prism, currently in the prototype version, only supports one type of number - integers.

In the example below, count is a variable of assigned an initial value of 13:

let count = 13;


Rune is a data type that represent unicode codepoints. Runes in Prism are defined with single quotes.

let hashTag = '#';


A String in Prism, as with most other languages, is a sequence of characters. Strings in Prism are defined with double quotes.

let language = "Prism";


Lists are very similar to arrays. They can contain any type of Prism data, and they can contain as many elements as you wish. The elements can be any valid Prism expression.

In the example below, magicNumbers is a Prism list that contains both Number and String values as well as an expression.

let magicNumbers = [ 1337, "0x8BADF00D", 42, 10 + 3 ];

List elements are indexed from 0 and can be accessed in the same way it's accessed in most languages.

magicNumbers[3]; # 13

Hash Maps

A hash map is a data type that works with keys and values. Each value in a hash map can be accessed using a key, which can be either Boolean, Integer, Rune or String. This key is hashed to make a hash key and this hash key is what is actually mapped to the value. The keys and values can be any valid Prism expression. The only constraint is that the key expression should evaluate to any Hashable type - i.e. Boolean, Integer, Rune or String.

let null = "0x00";

let hashTable = {
    "pound": '#',
    42: "anything" + " & " + "everything",
    10 + 3: "thirteen",
    null: 0,

hashTable["0x00"];  # 0
hashTable[13];      # thirteen

You can add values to the hash map even after you've initialized it and access it the same way as before:

hashTable["traction"] = "speed";
hashTable["traction"];   # speed

And if you try to access a key that doesn't exist, Prism will return none to let you know that no value is mapped to that key:

hashTable["void"];   # none

One thing to note here is that hash maps are not ordered in the same way you've declare or initialize it. So, do not rely on their ordering while working with them.

Basic Operators

Arithmetic Operators

Just as any other programming languages, the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division operators can be used with numbers.

println(40 + (5 + 15) * 30 / 10);  # 100

The + operator can be used with Strings to concatenate them:

println("Hello, " + "world!");  # Hello, world!

The unary + and - operators can be used to represent positive and negative numbers, respectively. Numbers are, by default, positive.

println(+42); # 42
println(-13); # -13

These can be used with Boolean values too, since true evaluates to 1 and false evaluates to 0.

println(-true); # -1
println(false); # 0

Relational Operators

As with most other languages, the relational operators are used in Prism to check the relation between two operands:

println(13 == 42);  # false
println(13 != 42);  # true
println(13 > 42);   # false
println(13 < 42);   # true
println(13 >= 42);  # false
println(13 <= 42);  # true

Logical Operators

The unary ! operator is used as the negation operator in Prism, as with most other languages. It inverts the value (or logical state) of the expression's truthfulness.

println(!false);    # true
println(!!13);      # true
println(!"hello");  # false


Prism currently only features if-else mechanisim for implementing conditional logic. If an expression wrapped in parentheses next to an if keyword evaluates to true, then code within that branch (i.e. the immediately-following code that is wrapped in curly braces) is executed. Otherwise, the code within the else branch is executed.

if (choice == 42) {
    println("You've the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything");
} else {
    println("Keep looking for the answer.");

Conditional Expressions

Conditional statements are useful for representing stateful logic, but you may find that you repeat yourself when writing them. In the example above, you simply print a String in each branch. To avoid this repetition, Prism offers conditional expressions. The last example can be rewritten as follows:

let outcome = if (choice == 42) {
    "You've the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything";
} else {
    "Keep looking for the answer.";


Implicitly, each conditional branch returns the result of the expression on its final line, so you don't need to use a return keyword. In this example, outcome is assigned an initial value from the result of the if-else expression.

Prism does not include a traditional ternary operator, instead favoring the use of conditional expressions.


No programming language would be complete without some form of iteration (repeated execution of a block of statements) or loops. Prism can iterate through the until statement. If you're familiar with other languages, it's similar to the while loop.

If an expression wrapped in parentheses next to a until keyword evaluates to true, then code within that branch (i.e. the immediately-following code that is wrapped in curly braces) is executed, until the aforementioned expression evaluates to false - then the loop stops and execution goes to the next line.

The following example will print all odd numbers from 1 to 13.

let counter = 1;

until (counter <= 13) {
    counter = counter + 2;


You can group one or more expressions into a function. Rather than repeating the same series of expressions each time that you need a result, you can wrap the expressions in a function and call that function instead.

In Prism, a function is an expression. To declare a function, use the func keyword followed by the types of inputs that your function takes, if any, and then assign it to a variable that will be the function name. A function's body is where you define expressions that are called when your function is invoked.

Here's a complete Prism function that returns the absolute value of the passed number:

let getAbsolute = func (num) {
    if (num < 0) {
        return -num;
    } else {
        return num;

The function in the example above has the name getAbsolute. It takes one Number as an input. It returns a result of type Number.

To call a function, use its name, followed by the invocation operator (()) with the arguments it takes as inputs.

Building on the previous example, the outcome variable is initialized with the result obtained from calling getAbsolute with -13 as its arguments.

let outcome = getAbsolute(-13);
println(outcome);   # 13

When declaring a function, you can specify any number of arguments (or no arguments at all). In the example above, getAbsolute() takes one argument named num. Within the function, you can refer to the argument by using its name.

Simplifying declarations

getAbsolute() is a fairly simple function. The function checks a condition and then immediately returns. Utilizing the implicit returning of the result of the if-else expression contained in the function, we can simplify our function as shown in the following example:

let getAbsolute = func (num) {
    return if (num < 0) {
    } else {

Implicitly, functions in Prism returns the result of the expression on its final line, so you don't need to use a return keyword in such situations. So, we can further simplify the function as shown in the example below:

let getAbsolute = func (num) {
    if (num < 0) {
    } else {

Anonymous Functions

Not every function needs a name. Some functions are more directly identified by their inputs and outputs. These functions are called anonymous functions. Anonymous functions are generally used as arguments being passed to higher-order functions (more on that later), or used for constructing the result of a higehr-order function that needs to return a function.

func (num) {
    num * 2

You can keep a reference to an anonymous function, using this reference to call the anonymous function later. You can also pass the reference around your application, as with other reference types. It fulfills the same role for the function type as literals do for other data types.

let getDouble = func (num) {
    num * 2

As you might have guessed it by now, named functions in Prism are anonymous functions bound to an identifier. Functions are literals in Prism.

Higher-order Functions

Functions that use other functions as arguments or return another function as its result are called higher-order functions. Prism functions supports both - taking another function as an argument and returning another function as its result. Therefore, all Prism functions are first-class functions (as it treats functions as first-class citizens).

Here's an example of a higher-order function:

let funcWrapper = func (arg, fun) {

The funcWrapper() function takes two arguments - a literal arg and function fun - and returns the result of fun() which takes the arg as its input.

You can call funcWrapper() by passing a literal and a function, as shown in the following example:

let outcome = funcWrapper(-42, getAbsolute);
println(outcome);   # 42

In the example above, we call funcWrapper() with the arguments -42 and the getAbsolute() function we defined previously and the output is assigned to the outcome variable.


Functions being first-class citizens in Prism, they are able to form closures. A closure is the combination of a function and the lexical environment within which that function was declared. This environment consists of any local variables that were in-scope at the time the closure was created.

let multiplier = func (C) {
    func (num) { num * C }

let multiplySeven = multiplier(7);
let multiplyZero = multiplier(0);

println(multiplySeven(191));    # 1337
println(multiplyZero(1337));    # 0

In this example, we have defined a function multiplier(), which takes a single argument, C, and returns a new anonymous function. The function it returns takes a single argument, num, and returns the multiplication of num and C.

In essence, multiplier is a function factory — it creates functions which can multiply a specific value to their argument. In the above example we use our function factory to create two new functions — one that multiplies 7 to its argument, and one that multiplies 0.

multiplySeven & multiplyZero are both closures. They share the same function body definition, but store different lexical environments. In multiplySeven's lexical environment, C is 7, while in the lexical environment for multiplyZero, C is 0.

Now, when we call multiplySevel with an argument of 191, it multiplies it with the previously stored value 7 and returns the output 1337. Similarly, multiplyZero returns 0.

Immediately Invoked Function Expression

If you're familiar with ECMAScript, you might already know this. Essentially, an immediately invoked function expression (or IIFE) is a function that runs as soon as it's defined.

It can be used to protect against polluting the global environment and simultaneously allow public access to methods while retaining privacy for variables defined within the function.

func () {
    # Statements

It contains two major parts. The first is the anonymous function so that the expressions defined inside the anonymous function doesn't pollute the global scope. The second part creates the immediately executing function expression () through which Prism will directly interpret the function.

In the example below, the function becomes a function expression which is immediately executed. The variable within the expression can't be accessed from outside it:

func () {
    let str = "I'm untouchable";

# Variable `str` is not accessible from the outside scope
print(str); # NameError: `str` is not defined

Assigning the IIFE to a variable stores the function's return value, not the function definition itself.

let outcome = func () {
    let str = "I'm untouchable!";
    return str;

print(outcome); # I'm untouchable!

Built-in Functions


The append function is used to append elements at the end of a list. It returns a new list with the new element appended to it and the original list remains unchanged.

let foods = [ "Pizza", "Burger" ];

append(foods, "Donut");
println(foods); # [Pizza, Burger]

foods = append(foods, "Donut");
println(foods); # [Pizza, Burger, Donut]


The bool function returns the boolean value of the specified data type.

bool(false)         # false
bool(0)             # false
bool(13)            # true
bool("Traction")    # true
bool({ "v": 0 })    # true


The chr function returns a rune representing a character whose Unicode code point is specified. This is the inverse of ord.

chr(97);    # 'a'
chr(8364);  # '€'


The dir function attempt to return a list of valid attributes for the specified object.

dir({ "answer": 42 });  # ["keys", "values"]
dir(math);  # ["Sqrt2", "MaxInt", "Log10E", "E", "Ln10", "MaxFloat", "MinInt", "SqrtPi", "Log2E", "SmallestNonzeroFloat", "Pi", "SqrtE", "Ln2", "Phi", "SqrtPhi"]


The first function returns the first element in the specified list. If the list is empty, it returns none.

first([ 1, 3, 3, 7 ]);  # 1
first([]);              # none


The input function is used to take single line input from the user's standard input device. When the line with the input() is executed, it waits for the user to give an input and it returns the input from the user as a string.

>>> input()
Hello, Prism!   # User input
Hello, Prism!   # Return value

If you intend to store the input string, you can assign the input() to a variable and access it as you'd do with any other variables.

let message = input();  # User input: Hakuna Matata
println(message);       # Hakuna Matata

And if you want the input prompt to be descriptive, you can do it by passing the prompt to the input function, as shown in the example below:

let name = input("What's your name? "); # User input: Traction
println(name);                          # Traction


The last function returns the last element in the specified list. If the list is empty, it returns none.

last([ 1, 3, 3, 7 ]);   # 7
last([]);               # none


The len function is used to find the number of elements in a lists, pairs in a hash map, unicode codepoints in a strings or rune.

let arraySize = len([ 13, 42 ]);
println(arraySize);             # 2

let hashSize = len({
    "user": "Traction",
    "username": "k3rn31p4nic",
println(hashSize);              # 2

let stringLength = len("Starman");
println(stringLength);          # 7

stringLength = len("😂");
println(stringLength);          # 3

len runeLength = len('#');
println(runeLength);            # 1

runeLength = len('€');
println(runeLength);            # 3


The lower function returns the specified string in lowercase.

lower("Traction");  # "traction"


The ord function returns an integer representing the Unicode code point of the specified rune or string representing one Unicode character. This is the inverse of chr.

ord('a');   # 97
ord('€');   # 8364


The reverse function is used to reverse a list. It returns a new list with the elements in reverse order and the original list remains unchanged.

let leet = [1, 3, 3, 7];
let revLeet = reverse(leet);

print(leet);                    # [1, 3, 3, 7]
print(revLeet);                 # [7, 3, 3, 1]


The str function returns the string representation of the specified object.

str(13)         # "13"
str(false)      # "false"
str('#')        # "#"
str("Traction") # "Traction"
str({ "v": 0 }) # "{ v: 0 }"


The sum function returns the sum of all the elements of a number list.

let numbers = [1000, 7, 30, 300];
sum(numbers);   # 1337


The type function returns the data type of the object that's passed as the argument, as shown in the example below:

let dataType = type("Don't Panic");
println(dataType);                  # STRING

dataType = type({"Cyber": "Punk"});
println(dataType);                  # HASH


The upper function returns the specified string in uppercase.

upper("Traction");  # "TRACTION"

Modules and Packages

Every Prism source file is a module. You can import exported objects from any module and they will be available under the same namespace.

# moduleOne.prism
let id = 13;
let user = "traction";
let Name = user + str(id);

Now you can import moduleOne in any other Prism code and use the exported objects.

import moduleOne;

print(moduleOne.Name);   # traction13
print(moduleOne.user);   # none

A package is a collection of multiple modules in one directory. You can import a package and all the exported objects in all the modules in that package will be available under the same namespace. That means, if you've multiple objects with the same name, it'll be overriden by the object that's imported at last in the lexical order of importing the modules.

If your package directory structure is something like this:


You can import all the modules under packageOne by just importing the package. Note that, modules in subdirectories won't be imported. So, in this case, only moduleOne and moduleTwo will be imported under the packageOne namespace. And all the exported objects in those modules can be accessed using the same namespace.

>>> import packageOne;
<module "packageOne">
>>> packageOne.SomeVar;

Any object in a module that has a name binding starting with an uppercase character is exported from that module. All the other objects are private to that module. And you can export any number of objects from a module.

Coded with ❤ & ☕ by Traction
© Sankarsan Kampa