How to put the R programming language to work

We're at the beginning of a new wave of numeric data -- and the new R language provides a powerful array of tools to make sense of it all

programming language

We tend to think of programming languages as general purpose, able to deliver any kind of application given enough time and enough code. But sometimes you want a language focused on solving one class of problem as efficiently as possible -- think SQL for database programming.

Numeric analysis is ripe for domain-specific languages, mainly because we’re about to encounter a major disconnect in the way we get and use data.

Soon, more data will be generated by machines than by people, as the Internet of things begins filling our databases with an ocean of data. That ocean is going to need trawlers if we’re going to fish anything useful from it -- tools that can work with large amounts of data quickly and deliver the analysis we need to make sense of it all.

Power tools for numeric data

That’s where R comes in. More than a language, it’s a complete numeric analysis toolkit, with tools for working with matrices and for analyzing and displaying data.

Based on the Bell Labs S language, R does a lot more than handle statistics. While you’re likely to build libraries of R functions, you’re not likely to keep much code around. R programs tend to focus on the current piece of analysis, itself often part of an interactive exploration of a data set.

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