Const datatype 

Chapter 5 of Datatype-Generic Programming, the last one before Conclusions, is called “The Essence of the Iterator pattern,” the same name of the paper Gibbons and Oliveira wrote in 2006. The one available online as The Essence of the Iterator Pattern is from 2009. Reading this paper as a continuation of DGP gives it a better context.

Here’s the example given at the beginning of this paper, translated to Java.

public static <E> int loop(Collection<E> coll) {
  int n = 0;
  for (E elem: coll) {
    n = n + 1;
  return n;


We emphasize that we want to capture both aspects of the method loop and iterations like it: mapping over the elements, and simultaneously accumulating some measure of those elements.

The first half of the paper reviews functional iterations and applicative style. For applicative functors, it brings up the fact that there are three kinds of applicatives:

  1. Monadic applicative functors
  2. Naperian applicative functors
  3. Monoidal applicative functors

We’ve brought up the fact that all monads are applicatives many times. Naperian applicative functor zips together data structure that are fixed in shape.

Appliactive functors were originally named idom by McBride and Paterson, so Gibbons uses the term idiomatic interchangably with applicative througout this paper, even though McBride and Paterson renamed it to applicative functors.

Monoidal applicative functors using Const datatype 

A second family of applicative functors, this time non-monadic, arises from constant functors with monoidal targets.

We can derive an applicative functor from any Monoid, by using empty for pure, and |+| for ap. The Const datatype is also called Const in Cats:

 * [[Const]] is a phantom type, it does not contain a value of its second type parameter `B`
 * [[Const]] can be seen as a type level version of `Function.const[A, B]: A => B => A`
final case class Const[A, B](getConst: A) {
   * changes the type of the second type parameter
  def retag[C]: Const[A, C] =
    this.asInstanceOf[Const[A, C]]


In the above, the type parameter A represents the value, but B is a phantom type used to make Functor happy.

scala> import cats._, cats.instances.all._,
import cats._
import cats.instances.all._

scala> import cats.syntax.functor._
import cats.syntax.functor._

scala> Const(1) map { (_: String) + "!" }
res0:[Int,String] = Const(1)

When A forms a Semigroup, an Apply is derived, and when A form a Monoid, an Applicative is derived automatically.

Computations within this applicative functor accumulate some measure: for the monoid of integers with addition, they count or sum…

scala> import cats.syntax.apply._
import cats.syntax.apply._

scala> Const(2).retag[String => String] ap Const(1).retag[String]
res1:[Int,String] = Const(3)