The History and Characteristics of R

R is a programming language and software environment that is used for the development of graphic data products and the computation of many forms of mathematics. The history of R goes back about 20-30 years ago. This post will look at the history of R as well as the Characteristics of this software.

The History

Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman are the developers of R. R is actually based on an older programming language known as S which goes back to the 1970″s. Ihaka and Gentleman develop their own programming language while working together in New Zealand. With the release of R in the early 1990’s, several people joined the project to help to improve it. By 1995, the software had become “open-sourced” which means that anyone can use and modify it for themselves without cost. By 2000, the first version of R (1.0) was released to the public.

Characteristics of R

In many peoples opinion, the best feature of R is the price. Being free, R is by far one of the best softwares for statistical analysis is price is the most important criterion. SPSS and SAS are also great and user-friendlier, however, their price is completely outlandish for most individual researchers. R removes this problem completely

R also has an active community around it that supports its development. For example, people are able to develop packages that provide assistance in running various task in the R software. Naturally, most packages are free as well. The focus on community has enabled R to be run on almost any operating system as well, such as Windows, OSX, or Linux.

R also allows people to make graphs and data products. The graphs are actually very well made. The drawback is understanding the coding necessary to develop these various products. This is discussed more below.

One major drawback that affects the typical computer user is learning the programming language of R. This can be challenging for those who are not techie or able to think abstractly in computer codes. I have never seen a satisfactory way to get around this problem but to crack open a book and practice, practice, practice. With time, the code will start to make sense but it is not a five-minute process for someone who has not studied programming.


Despite the challenges of learning computer programming R is becoming the software of choice for many. The benefits far outweigh the problems for many individuals. Personally, I am looking forward to continuing to develop skills in understanding this dynamic software.

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