R-beta: Re: S Compatibility

Bill Venables wvenable at attunga.stats.adelaide.edu.au
Thu May 1 01:38:17 CEST 1997

Kurt Hornik writes:
 > Or, and that's perhaps the right thing to do, one could ask Richard
 > Stallman.  [As an aside, perhaps not everyone is aware that one of the
 > issues on the GNU Task List is
 >    * An implementation of the S language (an interpreted language used
 >      for statistics).
 > ]  I am sure he'd be delighted to help ...
 > I think that roughly speaking, you cannot copyright a language, onlt its
 > implementation.  But I may be wrong ...

My casual remark that started all this was not intended to hint
at any legal or ethical dilemmas lying just around the corner.  I
do agree these are serious issues, though.  One small anecdote I
can contribute was that both John Chambers and Ross Ihaka were
present at the SISC conference in July last year and John, with
great generosity of spirit, I thought, (or perhaps very acute
foresight) was publicly very supportive of Ross & Ron's efforts.

It may well have been foresight, because my own feeling is that
the main effect of R will be to make available an S-like language
to people like students and enthusiasts who under normal
circumstances would not be MathSoft customers -- that is until
they graduate and go on to an honest job, of course.  S and R
will diverge, too.  That much is plain to anyone who has had a
glimpse of S version 4, as I have been priviledged to do.  So
ultimately if you want the genuine article you will have to pay
for it.  I suppose that also applies to the GUI (or gooey?) front
end to S-PLUS version 4, due out real soon now...

Bill Venables.
Bill Venables, Head, Dept of Statistics,    Tel.: +61 8 8303 5418
University of Adelaide,                     Fax.: +61 8 8303 3696
South AUSTRALIA.     5005.   Email: Bill.Venables at adelaide.edu.au
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