PMean: History of SAS

I’m helping to put together three separate classes, Basic data management and analysis with R [SAS / SPSS]. As part of these classes, I need to discuss the history of these programs, because understanding that history will help you better understand the strengths and weaknesses of each statistical package. Here’s a brief history of SAS.

SAS, an acronym for Statistical Analysis System, was developed by in the 1960′s by Anthony Barr, James Goodnight, Jane Helwig, and John Sall at North Carolina State University. The original program development was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. In 1976, a privately held software company, SAS Institute was formed to further develop the SAS program. Today, SAS Institute is the largest privately held software corporation. It employs over 13,000 people across six continents and has revenues of 3 billion U.S. dollars. SAS spends a huge fraction of its revenues (25% in 2013) on research and development. SAS Institute is noted for having a family friendly workplace and is frequently cited as one of the best places to work.

SAS was originally available only on IBM mainframe computers. In 1985, the millions of lines of SAS code (mostly Pl/1, FORTRAN, and IBM Assembler) were translated into C so that SAS could be ported to other computers, but especially to personal computers running Microsoft Windows.

SAS Institute also sells several other products. JMP, an acronym for John’s Macintosh Product, was developed by John Sall in 1989 for the Macintosh platform, and was eventually ported to the Windows operating system as well. JMP is noted for its extensive use of dynamic graphics. SAS also sells several products for data mining and analysis of genetic data.

SAS uses a programming language oriented around the DATA step and various procedures (PROCs) for data analysis. A menu driven version (SAS Enterprise Manager) is also available.

SAS has a licensing model where you pay a set fee every year for the ability to use SAS software. It is priced aggressively for large organizations to encourage its use by many employees, but for individual independent consultants, the price of SAS is often prohibitive. SAS also offers a free product on the cloud, SAS OnDemand for Academics. This product is restricted to teaching uses in an academic environment.

SAS has an extensive set of users manuals which are freely available on the Internet, and many lavishly supported SAS User Groups and SAS conferences. SAS also has a publishing arm, SAS Books, with hundreds of high quality books available. SAS also has a certification program, described at

There aren’t that many good resources on the history of the SAS programming language. Here are a few.

Anonymous. SAS corporate timeline. WRAL television, posted March 3, 2011. Available at:

 SAS (software). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2014. Available at:

SAS Institute. About SAS. Available at: