Yet another Quine tutorial

A quine is a program that prints its own source code. For example, this would be a quine (save as quine.hs):

main = putStr =<< readFile "quine.hs"

When the program is run, the following output is produced:

main = putStr =<< readFile "quine.hs"

Although this program technically prints its own source code, this wouldn’t be considered a real quine. A real quine cannot read its own source code from a file.

A first approach

Usually the most obvious way to approach this problem is to print a program, something like this:

main = putStr "main = putStr \"Hello\""

Of course, this isn’t really a quine, because the output of this program is main = putStr "Hello". Although the program prints another program, a quine must reproduce itself.

It’s clear that this approach isn’t going to work.

The structure of a Quine

One distinguishing feature of a quine is part of the program’s code encoded as a string. We’ll make this the structure of attention:

Usually there are code before and after this string. We’ll call them A and B:

Now the important thing is the code inside the quotes is a character for character representation of everything after the ending quotation:

Perhaps this would be a better representation of the structure:

Up to this point we haven’t mentioned what the code should contain. Here is a rough guideline:

You can see here that the code is printed twice. The first time, we print it the way it appears in the string, handling the quotations, and escapes (if any). The second time we print it normally.

Here’s a quine in Haskell:

s = "\nmain = putStr (\"s = \" ++ show s ++ s)"
main = putStr ("s = " ++ show s ++ s)

A major problem faced when writing quines is how to print the quoted code exactly as it appears in the source code.

Fortunately for us, we don’t have this problem in Haskell because the show function does exactly this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s