Assistant Professor at Colorado State University Statistics

Reading: From S to R - 35 Years of AT&T Leadership in Statistical Computing

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As part of the course Stat 585X I am taking this semester, I will be posting a series of responses to assigned course readings. Mostly these will be my rambling thoughts as I skim papers.

This week we are reading “From S to R - 35 Years of AT&T Leadership in Statistical Computing” by AT&T Staff, with Rick Becker and Simon Urbanek, an article from October 2013. This article chronicles the history of both S and R and introduces a new addition to the R community, RCloud, an open source collaborative environment developed at AT&T.

A long long time ago…

…in a laboratory far far away…


R was born. At least this is how I imagine it happened.

In the article, the authors claim that first a language S was written from Fortran in an AT&T Lab in order to help data analysts avoid writing pesky subroutines. From there, S was improved upon and sold, becoming SPlus. Finally, an open source version R being written from scratch by two professors, Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman, in order to reach students.

I like my version better.

RCloud-y with a chance of collaboration

Since then, R has grown to have a much larger usership than SPlus. One of R’s biggest strengths is its extensibility. This is made possible by how easy it is to write packages for R and share your code with the world through code repositories like CRAN or github.

AT&T labs have again made a contribution to the language in the form of a collaborative notebook environment for R called RCloud. RCloud sounds to me like a cross between a github repository of code and a shiny application, acting on a server and allowing multiple users to contribute as well as see results. I look forward to trying it out.

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