Numeric literals in Standard ML can be written in either decimal or hexadecimal notation. Sometimes it can be convenient to write numbers down in other bases. Fortunately, using Fold, it is possible to define a concise syntax for numeric literals that allows one to write numeric constants in any base and of various types (int,, word, and more).

We will define constants I, II, W, and ` so that, for example,

I 10 `1`2`3 $

denotes 123:int in base 10, while

II 8 `2`3 $

denotes in base 8, and

W 2 `1`1`0`1 $

denotes 0w13: word.

Here is the code.

structure Num =
      fun make (op *, op +, i2x) iBase =
             val xBase = i2x iBase
                ((i2x 0,
                  fn (i, x) =>
                     if 0 <= i andalso i < iBase then
                        x * xBase + i2x i
                        raise Fail (concat
                                       ["Num: ", Int.toString i,
                                        " is not a valid\
                                        \ digit in base ",
                                        Int.toString iBase])),

      fun I  ? = make (op *, op +, id) ?
      fun II ? = make (op *, op +, IntInf.fromInt) ?
      fun W  ? = make (op *, op +, Word.fromInt) ?

      fun ` ? = Fold.step1 (fn (i, (x, step)) =>
                               (step (i, x), step)) ?

      val a = 10
      val b = 11
      val c = 12
      val d = 13
      val e = 14
      val f = 15


fun fst (x, _) = x

The idea is for the fold to start with zero and to construct the result one digit at a time, with each stepper multiplying the previous result by the base and adding the next digit. The code is abstracted in two different ways for extra generality. First, the make function abstracts over the various primitive operations (addition, multiplication, etc) that are needed to construct a number. This allows the same code to be shared for constants I, II, W used to write down the various numeric types. It also allows users to add new constants for additional numeric types, by supplying the necessary arguments to make.

Second, the step function, `, is abstracted over the actual construction operation, which is created by make, and passed along the fold. This allows the same constant, `, to be used for all numeric types. The alternative approach, having a different step function for each numeric type, would be more painful to use.

On the surface, it appears that the code checks the digits dynamically to ensure they are valid for the base. However, MLton will simplify everything away at compile time, leaving just the final numeric constant.