SAS -- in this context -- is prob. a large set of statistical routines that are
generally available on mainframe computers (though there are likely to be
versions for PC's that may not run as large data sets). Equivalents are
SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) and BMDP. EAch of these
offers a remarkably full range of descriptive statistical routines, parametric
& non-parametric statistical analyses, multivariate analyses, time series,
LISREL, etc etc etc. Each has its own "language," data formatting requirements
and so on. I personally prefer SPSSX (because that was the one I learned first
and because I find SAS command structure more obscure). SAS offers--in addition
to the "standard," supported programs--a very large library of goodies that
they mount but do not support. These are documented in various obscure [8-)]
manuals; some are of great interest for certain rare applications. Each
package has its own fans. Each will run on various platforms, though perhaps
not be available in the same version, as the upgrades are developed and
distributed. Each has an extensive set of published manuals for novices, power
users, etc. Many social scientists of my acquaintance are SAS-freaks; many
biologists prefer BMDP. I have found that the same "functional procedure"
(e.g. principal components analysis) may be implemented differently in the
different packages -- in terms of defaults, bells & whistles, options, etc.
BMDP got a bad rap in the 1970's for poor programming & some statistical
problems. SAS for a long time would only run on IBM's (I understand) --I
believe one can actually still enter fortran code; I think they are more alike
than different now. That was NOT the case in 1983 when I was doing a
dissertation and needed procedures & features from all three. Very confusing.
There are also some nice standalone statistical packages formicros-- like
SYSTAT -- and dynamic system modelling software -- like Dynamo/StellaII.
Kate McCain "bibliometrics R us"
College of Information Studies
Drexel University mccainkw at duvm.ocs.drexel.edu