In Praise of SAS

I’ve been writing programs in SAS since 1985. Back then, it was SAS 5.15 on an IBM mainframe computer (remember JCL, TSO, ISPF?) at the Iowa Department of Transportation. Today, it is SAS 9.4 under Windows 10 at home and Linux at work.

I love this language. It is elegant. It is beautiful. I’ve become an expert. I’ve never had a computational problem to solve, a data manipulation to do, a process to automate, or a report to write that I couldn’t do with SAS.

New features are being added all the time, and I am constantly learning and improving to keep up with it all. And the legacy code still runs just fine. Peace of mind. The company behind this success story is SAS Institute, based in Cary, North Carolina. SAS Institute has the best technical support of any company I have ever dealt with, and that is as true today as it was in 1985, and all the years in between. Again, peace of mind.

I’ve heard from multiple sources that SAS Institute is a fabulous place to work, and it shows in their software, their customer service, and the passion their employees have for making SAS software the best it can be—and helping us solve just about any analytics problem. Inspiring. And you won’t find a more passionate user community anywhere. At least not with any company that has been around as long as SAS has (since 1976).

SAS Institute is the world’s largest private software company, and being privately owned has much to do with their success and consistency, I believe. No greedy shareholders to please. They need answer only to their customers, and to their employees. That’s the way it should be.

Computer languages have come in and out of vogue over the years: FORTRAN, PL/I, Pascal, C, C++, Perl, Java, R, Python, etc., and with each new language that comes along, SAS absorbs the best elements and moves forward to the next challenge.

Python is currently very popular, as is open source in general, and I have no doubt that SAS will incorporate the most valuable functionality of Python and open source (already in progress) and keep tooling along like a well-oiled machine. In another ten years, SAS will be incorporating another new language that will have supplanted Python as the programming language du jour.

You’ve got to admire a company like that. In an era when everyone wants — even expects — “stuff for free”, the old adage “you get what you pay for” still applies. Yes, SAS is expensive—and I’m hoping their mature “core” product will come down in price—but I can’t complain too loudly because quality, longevity, and dependability costs money. It always has.