Most programming languages have reserved words, which cannot be used for variable names and make up part of the syntax of the language.
case = 9.34 * MyVar
is bad syntax for an assignment statement because case is a reserved word.
Important to understand in reading any programming language reference book which parts of a statement are shown exactly as they must be written (reserved words), and which parts you are free to change.
ATTAWAY OBSCURES THIS CRUCIAL ISSUE! Authors usually write reserved words in a different typefont or color. Our book shows them looking the same as function names or variables. In our overheads, we'll (try to) use a distinctive color or emphasis (or both) to set off reserved words thus.
Note that we are treating the predefined function names disp and plot as reserved words.
A script is a sequence of executable Matlab commands that are stored in a file with a name like myscript.m The .m suffix specifies that the file contains Matlab code. The name myscript becomes an alias for the sequence of statements in the file.
For example, if the file myscript.m contains the lines
a = 5;
b = 6;
c = a + b;
at Matlab causes variables a, b, and c
to be defined, and to take on the values
5, 6, and 11.
Note that because of the semicolons following each line, Matlab does not print out any intermediate responses when the script is invoked.
This scripting ability is staggeringly useful if you ever want to issue a sequence of commands more than once. You have created a stored program that allows a complex sequence of operations to be invoked with a single command.
>> type myscript
Because of the potential for confusing names and unexpected interactions when using scripts, Matlab provides a more circumscribed mechanism for chunking commands together in useful blocks. This mechanism is the user-defined function.
You can write your own abs() function or a brand-new function useful in your problem. Your function can take or return any number of arguments, or even a variable number of either, but we'll start with one returned value.
Each function must be defined before it is used. For example, suppose we want to create a function called my_func,
In Matlab, from the File tab choose New (script or function). The function choice gives a template that must be modified. The script choice is blank.
The Function prototype is a standard form that provides the name of the function, the number of arguments (inputs) and the names that will be used to refer to those arguments inside the function definition, e.g.,
function return_val = fun_name (arg1, arg2,...)
When the function is called (used, invoked) with the arguments, it evaluates to (returns) the return value (usually depending on the arguments).
So, for example...
function sum_ans = Sum3(a,b,c)
% returns sum of three arguments
sum_ans = a + b + c;
function C = fahr_to_cel(F)
% converts degrees Farenheit to degrees Celsius
C = ( 5/9) * (F - 32);
NOTE CAREFULLY: The function uses the arguments to compute its answer and assigns the answer to the return-variable.
When you have written your function, save it (if you used the "new script" menu selection, you need to provide a name that is the same as the function name. For "new function", the name of the function is suggested automatically as the file name to use).
Function call: To use the function, your code must mention the function name, provide actual arguments and capture returned value(s), just as with built-in functions, e.g.,
>> Sqrt2 = sqrt(2);
>> some_sqrt = sqrt(5 + sin(.44));
% written by me
>> freezing_cel = fahr_to_cel(32);
>> my_sum1 = Sum3(1,2,3);
>> my_sum2 = Sum3(10, 20, 30);
The values you want to apply a function to (arguments) can be in variables.
>> x1 = 45;
>> x2 = sqrt(132);
>> x3 = x2 * pi;
>> My_sum = Sum3(x1, x2, x3)
>> Fdeg = 93;
>> Cdeg = fahr_to_cel(Fdeg);
Consider the following:
>> x1 = 45;
>> x2 = 10;
>> x3 = pi;
>> My_sum = Sum3(x1, x2, x3)
My_sum = 58.1416
>> x1 = -99;
My_sum = ?????
Has My_sum's value changed? NO! It keeps its value until we re-assign or clear it. Assignment is not mathematical equality in Matlab (or C, Fortran, Java, C++, LISP, Python...).
Maintaining consistent mathematical equality is what you pay a spreadsheet like Excel® for, and why its inventors got rich.
Super-good idea: Excel 'cells' have a (column, row) address like A1 or B3. A cell holds a number, possibly computed by a (hidden) formula in the cell, like a little function call. Excel's job is to keep all the numbers in all the cells consistent. Below, C1 has a formula, "the sum of cells A1 and B1"). If I change A1 or B2, C1 changes!
A B C 1 45 -90 =(A1+B1) 2 =(B2+1)
Note that I can't assign a number to C1 without losing the formula and severing the (mathematical equality) dependence between the three cells. Therefore the formula in row 2 must be (and is) a spreadsheet error. It is like writing x = x+1 in math, which is either crazy, a flat-out contradiction, or an 'infinite loop'.
On the other hand in programming we correctly write things like
x = x + 1;
all the time! The difference is that in Matlab this assignment is
to be executed once. It's NOT a condition to be maintained.
Function user should have to know only the minimum about a function to use it.
The function user does not need to know details about the code that
implements the function,
specifically not the internal names used.
We don't know what
names are used inside Matlab's implementation of
and we don't care.
The whole idea is that after we have a working function (written by us or by a co-worker on a group project, say), we can happily forget most of how we or she did it, especially the internal names we used!
Room analogy: a function is an environment, like a room, with its own chests of labelled drawers (variables). Calling a function is like going into another room, where you might find the same labels but they're on different drawers!
function ret_val = BobFn(arg1, arg2)
% above is the first line of a function definition
% the definition lives in a file called BobFn.m
Freddy = BobFn(A(1), -87);
% above is a call to BobFn.
% Only the function name is (must be)
% the same between the call and the definition.
Functions and Scripts: A script is a sequence of statements executed at the command level. It's unnatural and unusual to call a script within another one. It can ask for user input but cannot take arguments. It can print and assign but it cannot return values.
A function is a useful piece of code that usually accepts arguments, computes with them, and returns an answer -- the function expression is evaluated (in the function body, using the arguments) and the result is substituted into the program that called the function at that place.
Programmers often nest function calls since problems often fall apart
into almost-independent sub-parts.
Functions provide a way to structure your code and abstract useful
functionality, just as built-in functions do. E.g.,
elt_total = sum(sum(My_Mat));
Euclid_dist = sqrt(sum( (a - b) .* (a - b)));
Sum3(x(1), y(20,20), pi)); % user-written
To browse all available MatLab functions (!) use the small "fx" icon
in the lower left corner of the command window.
For details on using a built-in function, use
>> help function-name
For more detail click the on-line help link. Use Matlab help.
function ret_val = Func_Name(arg1, arg2,...)
Don't put the function name before the =, remember that functions almost always need arguments so there will be one or more variable names in the parentheses, etc.
function ans = foo(x,y) %function prototype line
x = 3; % in function body
y = 5;
Above is misguided.
It compiles in particular values of the function's formal variables
and thus destroys the function's generality. Always think of needing
things: a function call and a function definition.
You can imagine the call at command-level and the definition off in
some .m file.
>> one_ans = foo(3, 5); % use foo w/actual arguments
% this call sets values of
%foo's formal arguments and runs it
function ans = foo(x,y) % in foo.m file
% define foo w/ formal arguments,
% does not execute foo.
In Matlab's editor, write and save a function (you pick its name) to convert miles to meters: the single input argument is a number of miles, the output value is the equivalent number of meters. You can use the constants 100, 2.54, 5280, and 12. At command level, use your function to get the meters in a mile and the meters in a marathon.
When you are done, enter your answer for meters in a marathon (to four decimal places) below. Just once, please.
In all future assignments, you'll be calling functions you write from a script (called main.m). The script is the glue that assembles your functions into a working program.
Not just the script, it's the names of variables that does
the gluing. Here's a typical script calling functions you've written.
% First, somehow get input data
Input_Values = Get_Inputs(); % or maybe
Input_Values = Get_Inputs(lo_val, hi_val); % or
Input_Values = Get_Inputs('file_name');
% Then apply your functions
Answers = Process (Input_Values);
On a more mundane level, for next few weeks we'll be making scripts
% exercise 1
Ex_1_Func(0,0,0) % should return 0
Ex_1_Func(1, 3, 5) % should return -99
Ex_1_Func(pi, -99, 140) % no idea but should make sense
Func_2(43) % should return 42
Scripts should be mostly function calls with Very Little Else!
Most variables in Matlab are local. They have meaning in only one context. In matlab there are two main types of contexts:
>> who % variable names >> whos % variable names and values
The opposite of local is global. Since we usually want local
variables, and in fact globals are usually a bad idea, globals must be
declared as such by a command like:
global GLOB1 MYGLOB; % note no commas
Often global variable names are capitalized as a warning.
This is a VITAL CONCEPT and people have trouble with it. Be honest: if you don't get this, or have any doubts at all, read more, try more experiments in MatLab, or talk to TA or prof.
Suppose we have defined a function in the file my_diff.m as follows.
function difference = my_diff(a,b)
difference = a-b;
In a script, or at command level, we can do the following
>> a_diff = my_diff(17, 2.2)
a_diff = 14.8
>> m1 = 5;
>> m2 = 7;
>> the_diff = my_diff(m1, m2)
the_diff = -2
>> a = 9;
>> b = 4;
ans = -5
ans = 5
A function call is OK as an argument
>> some_diff = my_diff(sqrt(25), 5))
some_diff = 0
So this also works!
>> another_diff = my_diff(my_diff(20, 10), 5))
another_diff = 5
Functions with no arguments:
Functions don't necessarily need input arguments, (don't
need their parentheses, either!)
(in the following examples, the built-in function input does what you would think)
function ret_val = doubler
ret_val = 2 * input('number? ');
This is the same as
function ret_val = doubler()
ret_val = 2 * input('number? ');
And at command level they work the same:
ans = 8
ans = 14
Matlab functions can return multiple values. Here's an example for the quadratic formula:
function [root1, root2] = QuadForm(a,b,c)
% returns two x's for which ax^2 +bx +c = 0
% note: they may be complex numbers!
root1 = (-b + sqrt(b*b - 4*a*c)) / (2*a);
root2 = (-b - sqrt(b*b - 4*a*c)) / (2*a);
CAREFUL! Must explicitly name the variables for multiple
answers in the calling statement.
Rootvec = QuadForm(3.0, T2, F); will NOT work!
You'll get root1 assigned to Rootvec and lose
[myroot1, myroot2] = QuadForm(3.0, T2, F); works
All variables in the function definition and body are NEW! They may have the same names as variables in other functions, or defined in the current workspace, or whatever, but they are LOCAL: the formal argument variables are bound in the function call, and others are assigned in the function execution, and they all totally vanish upon function exit.
The scope of a variable is that extent of code in which it is defined (a 'context'). When a function is called (from a script or outer function) the program leaves the scope of any local variables defined at the call point. On return, all local values are intact.
Normally there is no way to change the value of a variable
at a "higher level" (say the command level) by
making a function call
(except by assigning it to the value returned by the function call). So
x = 10; % say we're in context A
y = 5;
z = -99;
x = my_function(x,y);
changes the value of x in context A, but only in the same sort of way that x = x + 1 would. Nothing hidden inside the function can change x or y in context A, despite them being passed in as arguments.
In my_function's context, z's (context A) value of -99 cannot be seen; consequently, the function can use z as a local variable without affecting its value of -99 in the function-calling context A.
Define a function:
function [x y] = Fred( u, v, w )
a = 1;
b = 2;
Here, notice that variables
a,b,u,v,w,x,y,z are ALL different from those in
any calling context, e.g
>> [u,v] = Fred(a,v,b)
Now here's a function call:
>> q = Hilda(5)
q = 24
What happened? With the definitions below, let's see:
function x = Hilda(y) % on call, y set to 5
z = 1; % z local to Hilda
x = Gerry(y+1); % Fn Call! (poor use for x)
% with y=5, Gerry returns 18
% local x becomes 18, z is still 1
x = x+z+y; % x is reset x = 18+1+5
end % Hilda returns x to caller
function x = Gerry(y) % different x, new y set to 6
z = 3; % Hilda's z unaffected
x = z*y; % x = 3*6
y = pi; % other y's unaffected
end % returns x to calling context in Hilda
function ... % primary function visible outside
Nested Functions: Actually define functions inside other functions: one function's definition nests inside another function's definition. The scope of a nested function's variables is the workspace of the outermost function where it is defined. The nested function can access all the "nesting" function's variables, reducing need for argument passing. See Attaway or Matlab help for details.
function ... % primary function visible outside
Can have "sub-scripts", and can compute same things with functions and scripts BUT...
We get new names every time we enter the function. Seriously! Even if it calls itself (recursion). Here's the Wow.m file.
Achtung! Example below is first introduction to selection statements, our next subject. As you see, the if statement is very easy to understand (reads like English). Also the fprintf() built-in function does what you would expect.
fprintf('\n into Wow with x = %d', x);
if x > 0
end % end of if statement
fprintf('\n leaving Wow with x = %d', x);
And at top level,
into Wow with x = 4
into Wow with x = 3
into Wow with x = 2
into Wow with x = 1
into Wow with x = 0
leaving Wow with x = 0
leaving Wow with x = 1
leaving Wow with x = 2
leaving Wow with x = 3
leaving Wow with x = 4
WOW! Note how a function always returns to the place it was called from. So from Wow with x = 0, the return goes back to that version of Wow with x = 1. The version with x = 0 has no clue how far "above it" the original call was: it can only return to its immediate calling context.
Recursive definitions very common in math and CS: e.g.
n! = n* (n-1)!;
0! = 1.
fib(n) = fib(n-1)+fib(n-2);
fib(0) = 1,
fib(1) = 1
We see a rule for the general case, defined on smaller problem with same function (recursive definition). We see a rule for the base case(s), which is often simple and MUST ALWAYS BE REACHED else we recurse forever.
Scoping rules mean we can write computer functions like the following.
function fact = my_fact(x)
% Idea is to notice, e.g.: 5! = 5*4*3*2*1 = 5*4!
if x <= 1
fact = 1; % answer for base case
% call (self) on smaller case.
% local x unchanged when my_fact returns
fact = x * my_fact(x-1);
end % end of if statement
end % end of function
Recursion is elegant, tricky to think about at first, very natural when grokked (dated 60s slang, look it up). Sometimes inefficient or wasteful. Fibonacci and factorial more efficiently done with iteration ("for loop" -- our next topic). In fact, fib's "doubly recursive" nature means we compute sub-answers multiple (exponentially many) times, so it's a terrible mistake to try to compute it this way!
So these are uncompelling functions to justify recursion... they only illustrate it. BUT plenty of problems where recursion is most natural and efficient approach.
4 / \ / \ 1 7 / \ / \ 5 3 8 \ / \ \ 6 1 9 / \ 9 2
Here's a schematic diagram of a binary tree with a root with value 4, nodes with values. Every node has at most 2 "subtrees". So a tree is a node (hmmm... a base case?) and subtrees (smaller trees). Sounds like recursion!.
In fact, this "tree" represents a data structure that is DESIGNED for recursion. The only things we can do with a node are print its value and find its left and right subtrees (can be null). Problem: given the root, print out every value. No information on how big tree is. Also, say the node values are totally random.
Note: Trees are a very common data structure: they can be used to speed search for a matching value, and their rationale is the subject of courses like CSC172 (Data Structures). Data bases, indexes, and other very practical computing applications depend on them, and they are conceptually useful in certain real life applications. (How search a phone-book?).
Given our rules, if we can search a sub-tree (which is a tree) we can search a whole tree, so this problem is set up for a recursive solution, which is made up of a base case and a general case involving solving identical (but smaller) sub-problems. This is like factorial but here recursion is an efficient and practical solution.
if node has left subtree
if node has right subtree