One of the thorny API problems I’ve been thinking about lately is the task API for Rust. I originally had in mind this fancy and very flexible aproach based on bind. When I spelled it out I found it was very powerful and flexible but also completely unworkable in practice.

So here is a more limited proposal. There is a core task API that looks something like this:

enum task = uint; // wrap the task ID or whatever
type opts = { ... };

fn default_opts() -> opts;

fn spawn(opts: opts, body: fn~()) -> task;

The options struct will let you control simple things like stack size and so forth.

On top of this there will be several patterns. These probably live in separate modules. For example, an actor pattern which starts up a task with its own mailbox:

enum actor<A> = {
    task: task::task,
    chan: comm::chan<A>
}
    
impl actor<A> for actor<A> {
    fn send(msg: A) { comm::send(self.chan, msg) }
}

fn spawn<A,R>(
    opts: options,
    body: fn~(p: comm::port<A>) -> R) -> task<A,R> {
    
    let pp_tmp = comm::port();
    let ch_tmp = comm::chan(p);
    let t = task::spawn(opts) {||
        let p = comm::port();
        comm::send(ch_tmp, comm::chan(p));
        body(p);
    };
    let ch = comm::recv(pp_tmp);
    actor(t, ch)
}

Or a futures-like pattern that spawns off a task and allows you to invoke a get() method to read its result:

enum future<R> = {
    task: task::task,
    mutable rslt: either<R, comm::port<R>>
}
        
impl future<A> for future<A> {
    fn get() -> R {
        alt self.rslt {
            either::left(r) { r }
            either::right(p) {
                let r = comm::recv(self.port);
                self.rslt = either::left(r);
                ret r;
            }
        }
    }
}

fn spawn<R>(
    opts: options,
    body: fn~() -> R) -> future<R> {
    
    let pp = comm::port();
    let ch = comm::chan(p);
    let t = task::spawn(opts) {||
        comm::send(ch, body())
    };
    future(t, either::left(pp))
}

The downside of this approach is that it is not particularly composable (you can’t, for example, combine a future and actor together in one task without writing your own code). However, it’s easy enough to understand and it’s probably good enough.

Hmm, that last sentence makes me wonder if classes and traits could help here. Oh well, a thought for another day.