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C# Language : Iterators


Curious Bot - December 1, 2018 - 0 comments

Simple Numeric Iterator Example

A common use-case for iterators is to perform some operation over a collection of numbers. The example below demonstrates how each element within an array of numbers can be individually printed out to the console.

This is possible because arrays implement the IEnumerable interface, allowing clients to obtain an iterator for the array using the GetEnumerator() method. This method returns an enumerator, which is a read-only, forward-only cursor over each number in the array.

int[] numbers = { 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 };

IEnumerator iterator = numbers.GetEnumerator();

while (iterator.MoveNext())
{
Console.WriteLine(iterator.Current);
}

Output

1
2
3
4
5

It’s also possible to achieve the same results using a foreach statement:

foreach (int number in numbers)
{
Console.WriteLine(number);
}

Creating Iterators Using Yield

Iterators produce enumerators. In C#, enumerators are produced by defining methods, properties or indexers that contain yield statements.

Most methods will return control to their caller through normal return statements, which disposes all state local to that method. In contrast, methods that use yield statements allow them to return multiple values to the caller on request while preserving local state in-between returning those values. These returned values constitute a sequence. There are two types of yield statements used within iterators:

  • yield return, which returns control to the caller but preserves state. The callee will continue execution from this line when control is passed back to it.

  • yield break, which functions similarly to a normal return statement – this signifies the end of the sequence. Normal return statements themselves are illegal within an iterator block.

This example below demonstrates an iterator method that can be used to generate the Fibonacci sequence:

IEnumerable<int> Fibonacci(int count)
{
int prev = 1;
int curr = 1;

for (int i = 0; i < count; i++)
{
yield return prev;
int temp = prev + curr;
prev = curr;
curr = temp;
}
}

This iterator can then be used to produce an enumerator of the Fibonacci sequence that can be consumed by a calling method. The code below demonstrates how the first ten terms within the Fibonacci sequence can be enumerated:

void Main()
{
foreach (int term in Fibonacci(10))
{
Console.WriteLine(term);
}
}

Output

1
1
2
3
5
8
13
21
34
55

Remarks

An iterator is a method, get accessor, or operator that performs a custom iteration over an array or collection class by using the yield keyword

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