Calling a function only once


I am trying to write a function that will generate a random number b/w 1-10 but what I also want is that the function should return the random number only once (no matter how many times we call it) unless we force it to generate it using a flag or something…I am stuck here, so please can someone help me?

herez the code

var a = function(){
  	return Math.floor(Math.random() * (10 - 1) + 1);


var b = a();




Hi there,

Do you mean that the first time it is called it should generate the random number and return it.
Then every time it is called after that, it should return the same number?

Yes, and apart from that if i pass a flag to the function, it should generate a new random number.


You can use a closure to simulate the behavior of a static variable.

var a = (function () {
    var randomValue;

    return function (flagForceNewValue) {
        if (randomValue === undefined || flagForceNewValue) {
            randomValue = Math.floor(Math.random() * (10 - 1) + 1);

        return randomValue;

That being said, I think it would be better software architecture if this function didn’t try to remember its state. It should just return a ranged random value, every time. Then whatever part of your application that uses that number should decide whether it wants to reuse the result it already has or whether it should get a new number.

Also, you may have noticed that 10 is never one of the random numbers returned. The function is actually returning numbers in the range 1-9. Change (10 - 1) to just 10, and you should be all set.

The term “closure” u mentioned is new to me, i tried reading it on wikipedia but what they explained didnt make any sense to me, may be because its too complicated. Could you please explain the meaning of closure in layman’s terms?


Notice in the code I posted that there are two nested functions. The outer function is invoked and returns the inner function. Normally in languages such as Java or C/C++, when a function is done executing, its local variables are destroyed. But that’s not always the case in JavaScript. The inner function can continue to reference the outer function’s variables even after the outer function has finished executing. The outer function’s variables are said to be in a closure.

More info:

I’d call that a brilliant explanation…



There’s not really much to add to what Jeff already said.
Saying that, I just read this, which seems to answer the question you posed above.

And since I like the way you explain things, may I request you to explain me another concept in JS, which is Prototypes in JS ( I could not out much from that wiki article.

Many thanks in advance :slight_smile:

Prototypal inheritance is a big subject. He can explain the basics to you but there’s a lot to be learned.

I’d appreciate even if he can explain me the basics :slight_smile:


There was a good discussion of this subject here, recently.

The others are right that it’ll take more than the few sentences I spent on closures, but I’ll give it a go and do my best to make the complexity seem simple. :slight_smile:

I’ll be back with that in a day or two. Depends on how busy I’ll be at work today.

@phantom007 ; I was at a conference in Columbus in May, and one of the topics was “Understand Prototypal Inheritance”, you can download the slides at

They may help you out.


I haven’t downloaded these so I’m not sure how much detail they include.

The first thing to be aware of is that there are two things in JavaScript called “prototype.” The first is a run-of-the-mill property that every function has.

function f() {}


(More on that later.) The second is an under-the-hood reference between objects. In the spec, this under-the-hood reference is typically written as [[Prototype]], and I’ll continue that convention to distinguish between the two meanings of “prototype.”

The internal [[Prototype]] property is how JavaScript implements inheritance. Let’s say there’s an object A, and A’s [[Prototype]] property points to an object B. When we access A.someProperty, then JavaScript first checks if that property exists in A. If it does, then it returns its value. Otherwise, JavaScript follows the [[Prototype]] property to B. JavaScript then checks if that property exists in B. If it does, then it returns its value. Otherwise, JavaScript once again follows the [[Prototype]] to the next object. It will continue doing this until either it finds the property or until it reaches an object whose [[Prototype]] is null. (The [[Prototype]] linkage from one object to another to another is called a “prototype chain.”)

There have been some non-standard ways to manipulate the [[Prototype]] property, such as Mozilla’s proto property, but today the standard is to use Object.create.

// A plain object's [[Prototype]] is implicitly set to Object.prototype
var base = {};
/* Psuedo code: base.[[Prototype]] === Object.prototype */
base.plugin = 'Lorem ipsum';

// Object.create will give us a new object that has its [[Prototype]] set to the object we passed in
var widget = Object.create(base);
/* Pseudo code: widget.[[Prototype]] === base */
widget.render = 'Exire est';

var myWidget = Object.create(widget);
/* Pseudo code: myWidget.[[Prototype]] === widget */ = 'Cupis hominem';

// When we access,
// JavaScript checks the object "myWidget" for the property "app",
// finds it, and returns its value

// When we access myWidget.render,
// JavaScript checks the object "myWidget" for the property "render",
// but doesn't find it, so follows myWidget's [[Prorotype]] to the object "widget",
// JavaScript then checks the object "widget" for the property "render",
// finds it, and returns its value

// When we access myWidget.plugin,
// JavaScript checks the object "myWidget" for the property "plugin",
// but doesn't find it, so follows myWidget's [[Prorotype]] to the object "widget",
// JavaScript then checks the object "widget" for the property "plugin",
// but doesn't find it, so follows widget's [[Prorotype]] to the object "base",
// JavaScript then checks the object "base" for the property "plugin",
// finds it, and returns its value

The mileage we get out of this [[Prototype]] behavior is all we really need to make useful and complex inheritance hierarchies. However, the powers that be wanted to make JavaScript more palettable to Java programmers. This is where constructor functions, their prototype property, and the “new” keyword come into play. These three things are used to make JavaScript look more like Java, even though it ultimately uses [[Prototype]] to make things work.

We start with a constructor function. Technically, any function could be a constructor. It only depends on whether we choose to treat a function as such by invoking it with “new”.

function Widget() {
    this.constructed = true;

var instance = new Widget();

When we invoke a function with “new”, the first thing that happens is a new object is created (what we think of as the instance object). That instance object has its [[Prototype]] set… but set to what? This is where the function’s prototype property becomes important. The instance object’s [[Prototype]] property will be set to the constructor function’s prototype property. Finally, the constructor function is executed, using the instance object as the value for “this”.

If we were to simiulate the behavior of “new”, here’s how that would look.

function simulateNew(constructorFunction) {
    // Create a new object who's [[Prototype]] is the constructor function's prototype
    var instance = Object.create(constructorFunction.prototype);

    // Execute the constructor function using our new instance as "this";

    // Finally, return the new instance
    return instance;

// Now these two lines will do the same thing
var instance = new Widget();
var instance = simulateNew(Widget);

Since every instance’s [[Prototype]] will point to Widget.prototype, that means whatever functions or properties we assign to Widget.prototype will be available to every instance via the prototype chain.

@Jeff Mott Ultimate explanation,

Two questions for you now:

  1. How did you grab this in-depth knowledge of prototypes? Books? videos?? Pls share.

  2. Consider the following example:

Instead of doing this:

myobj = function(fname){
 this.fname = fname;

myobj.prototype.age = function (age) {
   this.age = age;

var x = new myobj('joe');
x.age = 32;
alert (x.age);

I can do this:

myobj = function(fname, age){
 this.fname = fname;
  this.age = age;

var x = new myobj('joe', 32);
alert (x.age);

So what do we need prototype for?

Any explanations will be appreciated.


The two best sources that stick out in my mind are Crockford’s Advanced JavaScript presentation and the [URL=“”]ECMAScript spec.

So, the difference I see is whether to set a value through the constructor or through a setter method. Is that what you’re trying to ask? If so, then this is a fairly general design question (not specific to JavaScript or prototypes), and there isn’t an inherent right or wrong answer. If the age is considered to be a required value, then accepting it in the constructor will probably make the most sense most of the time. Or if the age is considered to be an optional value, then using a setter may make the most sense.

Actually, you are way into error here. You seem to not distinguish between properties and method properties, i.e. myobj.prototype.age() and obj.age.

The problem with the first example, is that you add a method to prototype, and later, when you do this x.age = 32, age is now a simple property, it’s not a method anymore.

Here is how the x object looks like before x.age = 32: Object { fname=“joe”, age=function()}, and how it looks after: Object { fname=“joe”, age=32}.

The prototype chain is game only if the object doesn’t have a property with the same name that is found first.

You’ve “transformed” age from a method property into a simple property.

Your first example should look like this:

myobj = function(fname, birthday){
 this.fname = fname;
 this.birthday = birthday;

myobj.prototype.age = function() {
  return years(this.birthday);

myApi.prototype.years = function(startDate) {
  var today = new Date();

As you can see age is a method that returns the age, is not a fixed property.

As per you point, why use prototype.

If we put the age method in the constructor, then every x built from myobj will have its own set of methods, i.e. how many x’s that many age methods.

Whereas if we put it in prototype, there will be but one age method shared by all of your x’s.

The most clear analogy I can think of when it comes to properties in the constructor or properties in the prototype is the same difference between passing by value or passing by reference.

Since JavaScript is the only mainstream language that uses prototype inheritance, this is not a general design question.

Putting a method in the constructor in JavaScript means that every object based on this object will have its own set of those methods. On the one hand this mean more occupied memory, on the other hand, when later you want to alter one property these objects have in common, you have to go through all these objects and modify it, unless you’ve put it in the prototype. If it’s in the prototype, and when you modify it there, all the objects will get the modification at once.