R Series: 1 – What, why and how – An Introduction to the R Language

Hey everyone,
If you have not been enjoying long vacations or living under a rock, you do know that SQL Server now supports running R Scripts, the same goes for the Power BI tool. But what the hell is R? And why should I care?

What?

The R language is an open source framework for statistical analysis and data science. It was first implemented in the early 1990’s and modeled based on the S Language for Statistical Computing that was used on the Bell Labs in the 70’s. Why R and not T if this was based and evolved from S? I have no clue, but this was the first question that came to mind when I’ve read about R’s history. If there’s a reason and you know it, please be kind enough to comment below and let me know, and I’ll gladly update this article with the proper kudos.

Why?

You all know that Data Science / Data Analysis is the new trend. If you want to be the cool and popular guy (or gal) in the office and get all the perks that we know you do deserve, then you have to learn data science and statistics. But we all hate to waste time reinventing the wheel, so why not use a framework that contains thousands of packages ready to be used to analyze all your data quickly? And better yet, doing this for free! We do like free, right?
But you don’t have to listen to me, let’s see the opinion of someone more important and richer than me:
“The great beauty of R is that you can modify it to do all sorts of things,  and you have a lot of prepackaged stuff that’s already available, so you’re standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Hal Varian, chief economist at Google
See? Don’t you want to tell your friends that you use the same product/language than the chief economist at Google to do your data analysis? Hell yeah, you do, so let’s learn how to get started with it and trust me, you will not regret.

How

Today is your lucky day because you just found a site that is going to teach you how to be cool with R. And the first step on our road to awesomeness is to install and configure an R environment on your machine so we can go ahead with our efforts to conquer the world with data.
In our blog series, we will use RStudio to do this.
RStudio is the most popular R environment, and before you ask, yes, it does have a free version.
But before you leave this blog and go download RStudio, we have to install R itself. RStudio is just the IDE for the R framework.
You can download the latest version of R on the following link: https://cran.rstudio.com/
At the time of the writing of this article, the latest version is 3.3.3. And yes, I know, the site looks awful and it’s confusing. I also do not know why the open source folks are so bad in website design, maybe they really liked 1995 and wanted to live the dream every day.
But if you’re installing this on Windows like myself, you just have to choose R for Windows and then choose the “base” subdirectory; you can safely ignore the others.
When you’re done installing R, you can go to https://www.rstudio.com/products/rstudio/download/ and if you’re cheap like me chose RStudio Desktop free license and install it.
If you’re done these very complicated steps correctly you now have RStudio installed, and it should look something like this:
Now we are ready to start our journey. But just like in a TV Show, I’ll stop here so we can build that expectation and make you come back to this blog often to check for the next episode.
So stay tuned for the next post and see you all soon.

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