This year, SPSS is celebrating its Golden Anniversary. Decades before the “data science” term was coined, SPSS provided the world with a user friendly, reliable, and trustworthy means to yield actionable insights from data. To commemorate this important milestone, we’ve highlighted the most important moments from the past 50 years and discuss our exciting future.
SPSS, or Statistical Package for the Social Sciences, started development in 1965 from a group of researchers who were frustrated in serving the teaching and research needs of the political science department at Stanford University. They had to use different programs to perform their data analysis and write time consuming code with minimal documentation. To streamline data analysis tasks, they began working on SPSS – an integrated system with statistical programs built in. The first release was in 1968 as a batch processor that ran on punch card systems. By the end of the ’60s, SPSS grew to over 60 universities.
In the ’70s, SPSS grew quickly as more users saw the value of a statistical software package. By 1975, nearly 600 organizations – everything from universities to NASA – used SPSS. By this time, SPSS versions were released which expanded the analysis techniques. In the ’70s, SPSS contained descriptive statistics, simple frequency distributions, correlation, ANOVA, multiple regression, and even scatter diagrams. SPSS also no longer required punch cards, but was used on mainframes with a client terminal.
The growth of SPSS continued into the ’80s. SPSS version 10 was dubbed SPSS-X for the mainframe and introduced a light version that, for the first time, ran on IBM-compatible PCs. It required MS-DOS 2.0 and at 3MB took nine floppy disks to install. The PC version set a new standard for statistical software on personal computers and became immediately popular. The age of analytics for everyone had begun.
In the ’90s, the success of SPSS on the PC naturally led to the first version of SPSS for Windows. Microsoft Windows and Macintosh versions were introduced. These releases really took advantage of the point and click interface and in doing so made the software approachable by more users. The release over the next few years introduced pivot tables, right click menus, and the general linear model procedure. In addition in 1998, Clementine joined the SPSS family and was later named SPSS Modeler. This brought data mining techniques into the SPSS company. Along with other acquisitions, this evolved the SPSS brand into a full featured descriptive and predictive solutions company.
In the 2000s, SPSS made some huge innovations:
- V10 introduced near unlimited file sizes, added Excel import, and a client-server version.
- V14 introduced Integration with Python. This led to a more open environment including .NET, Java, and compatibility with other apps for easy importing and exporting of data.
- V16 introduced a new UI based on Java, and with this technology came drag and drop, resizable windows, and the ability to simultaneously release across operating systems and user languages.
- V16 also introduced integration with the R programming language.
- v18 saw a temporary name change to PASW (Predictive Analytics Software) to reflect the growing product differentiation across the brand. SPSS also joined IBM around this time.
- V19 restored the SPSS brand, much to user delight.
The 2010s focused on addressing the needs of our users. Throughout this period, product betas became a requirement to ensure our end users had the ability to provide feedback based on each version. This user feedback led to the investments in Custom Tables, one click importing and exporting, and stronger ties to open source found in version 24. Then, version 25 introduced Bayesian Statistics, attractive charts, and popular enhancements to our MIXED procedures. User feedback also led to the creation of SPSS Statistics Subscription, the easiest SPSS software ever to buy, setup, and manage.
The innovation of SPSS continues to this day. Both SPSS Statistics and SPSS Modeler have announced major investments to make our software easier to use and more efficient. In addition, our commitment to user feedback continues with the largest open beta of SPSS software ever: all users can try the new user interface of SPSS Statistics today.
SPSS has come a long way. From punch cards to today’s advanced software, SPSS has made countless innovations in the past 50 years, and will continue to innovate for our users as we start our next 50.
Special thanks to our sponsored and beta users, our entire SPSS development team, and the countless users around the world that have entrusted us with their data analysis.
- Nie, N. H. (1975). SPSS: Statistical package for the social sciences. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- SPSS-X users guide. (1988). Chicago, Ill: SPSS.
- Norušis, M. J. (1993). SPSS: SPSS for windows base system users guide. Chicago, IL: SPSS.
- Fridlund, A. J. (1985, February 11). Taking the Numbers Bull By the Horns. InfoWorld, 7(6), 42-50.
- IBM Release History