By Keith McCormick, Jesus Salcedo, Aaron Poh

SPSS is probably older than you are. In 2018, it will turn 50. That makes it older than Windows and older than the first Apple computer, so in the early days SPSS was run on mainframe computers using punch cards.

At Stanford University in the late 1960s, Norman H. Nie, C. Hadlai (Tex) Hull, and Dale H. Bent developed the original software system named Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). They needed to analyze a large volume of social science data, so they wrote software to do it. The software package caught on with other folks at universities, and, consistent with the open-source tradition of the day, the software spread through universities across the country.

The three men produced a manual in the 1970s, and the software’s popularity took off. A version of SPSS existed for each of the different kinds of mainframe computers in existence at the time. Its popularity spread from universities into the public sector, and it began to leak into the private sector as well.

In the 1980s, a version of the software was moved to the personal computer. In 2008, the name was briefly changed to Predictive Analytics Software (PASW). In 2009, SPSS, Inc., was acquired by IBM, and the name of the product was returned to the more familiar SPSS. The official name of the software today is IBM SPSS Statistics.

SPSS is available in several forms — single user, multiuser, client-server, student version, and so on. The software also has a number of special-purpose add-ons.