Given two types T1 and T2, we can form a tuple type (T1, T2), which can also be written as @(T1, T2). Assume that exp1 and exp2 are two expressions of the types T1 and T2, respectively. Then the expression (exp1, exp2), which can also be written as @(exp1, exp2), refers to a tuple of the tuple type (T1, T2). Accordingly, we can form tuples and tuple types of more components. In order for a tuple type to be assigned to a tuple, the tuple and the tuple type must have the equal number of components.
When evaluating a tuple expression, we evaluate all of its components sequentially. Suppose that the expression contains n components, then the value of the expression is the tuple consisting of the n values of the n components listed in the order as the components themselves.
A tuple of length n for n >= 2 is just a record of field names ranging from 0 until n-1, inclusive. Given an expression exp of some tuple type (T1, T2), we can form expressions (exp).0 and (exp).1, which are of types T1 and T2, respectively. Note that the expression exp does not have to be a tuple expression. For instance, exp may be a name or a function application. If exp evaluates to a tuple of two values, then exp.0 evaluates to the first value and exp.1 the second value. Clearly, if the tuple type of exp contains more components, what is stated can be generalized accordingly.
In the following example, we first construct a tuple of length 3 and then introduce bindings between 3 names and all of the 3 components of the tuple:
The tuples introduced above are often referred to as flat tuples, native tuples or unboxed tuples. There is another kind of tuples supported in ATS, which are called boxed tuples. A boxed tuple is essentially a pointer pointing to some heap location where a flat tuple is stored.
Assume that exp1 and exp2 are two expressions of the types T1 and T2, respectively. Then the expression '(exp1, exp2), refers to a tuple of the tuple type '(T1, T2). Accordingly, we can form boxed tuples and boxed tuple types of fewer or more components. What should be noted immediately is that every boxed tuple is of the size of a pointer, and can thus be stored in any place where a pointer can. Using boxed tuples is rather similar to using unboxed ones. For instance, the meaning of the following code should be evident:
Given the availability of flat and boxed tuples, one naturally wants to know whether there is a simple way to determine which kind is preferred over the other. Unfortunately, there is no simple way to do this as far as I can tell. In order to be certain, some kind of profiling is often needed. However, if we want to run code with no support of garbage collection (GC), then we should definitely avoid using boxed tuples.