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May 27, 2014

JMP Is 20 Years Old

Today is the 20th anniversary of JMP's first release, and I want to thank everyone who has helped to make JMP a success.

JMP Version 1 shipped on October 5, 1989 -- or as we claimed at the time September 35 -- so that we could say we shipped in the third quarter of 1989, our goal.

JMP started as a research project in the late '80s. In the earlier part of that decade, we had spent several years rewriting SAS completely (but compatibly) to fit on personal computers.

But by 1988, we felt three big forces, which can be characterized by:

  • the Vehicle -- cars as well as trucks

  • the Roles -- detectives as well as lawyers
  • the Technology -- pointing as well as writing

  • As for the Vehicle, SAS was becoming a large enterprise-scale product -- a larger investment than some users, like engineers and scientists, were willing to handle. We were producing analytical trucks, but there was a market for analytical cars, i.e., something with low investment and ease of driving. We needed a more personal-scale tool, one for the desktop project rather than for the enterprise system.

    As for the Roles, statistics itself was seeing the opportunities in exploratory techniques, and the value of graphics and interactivity. The statistics profession had been molded as a testing discipline, a role like a lawyer whose job is to prove things that we already knew. What was missing was the exploratory role, like a detective, whose job is to discover things we didn't already know. Especially since John Tukey's Exploratory Data Analysis and the improvement of statistical graphics, statistics needed to serve in the detective role as well as the lawyer role. Graphics was the key enabler of seeing patterns, and points that don't fit patterns.

    As for the Technology, the graphical user interface arrived with the Macintosh, and later, Windows. It is a huge difference to just point and click rather than look up and type. Applications written for batch computing through languages were not suited for graphical interactivity. It was time for some fresh design.

    In response to these three forces, we formed a small group to put something together. In a year and a half, we released Version 1 of JMP. This was a very small product compared to the JMP of today, but it had all the basics of statistics and graphics, with many innovative features. We thought "jump" was a name to suggest a big step into a new future, a product that jumps in responsiveness to the mouse, and a tool that enables our customers to do the experiments and make the discoveries to take huge strides in their products and processes.

    In the early years, we learned important lessons. We learned that engineers and scientists were our most important customer segment. These people were smart, motivated and in a hurry -- too impatient to spend time learning languages, and eager to just point and click on their data. We had a product that was nearly as easy as walk-up-and-use with enough delights to hold their loyalty.

    We learned that engineers need design of experiments (DOE), quality and productivity support (Six Sigma), and reliability modeling. We made sure we got better in these areas -- particularly DOE. We thought that engineers should be able to just ask the computer to custom-make a design that fits their needs rather than attempting to find a pre-built design that works.

    We learned how to port to Windows. We made JMP work on Windows with release 3.1, using the Altura library. This was a quick effort. Soon we were busy rewriting the whole product in a different implementation language with a portability host-interface layer, which led to a wait of more than three years before Version 4. Version 4 not only switched languages, but also introduced a new nervous system for the product, including the JMP Scripting Language.

    In the last few years, JMP has matured considerably. The big driving force has been in meeting the needs of those users we talk to, who correspond with us, who sometimes invite us into their sites. We have a very dedicated group of users who keep us directed, and help us serve more and more researchers every year. Recently, I heard the group of passionate JMP users termed the “JMPerati,” analogous to Stephen Baker’s term, the “numerati.”

    JMP has broadened to become more versatile. JMP now supports business visualization in partnership with SAS Business Intelligence, and this in turn has encouraged us to introduce more visualization platforms, like the drag-and-drop Graph Builder in JMP 8. JMP can now handle larger problems because of work we have done to multithread many of the bottleneck methods and to implement JMP on 64-bit systems. And we now work with various SAS teams on projects in several areas, collaborating and sharing efforts.

    JMP is 20 years old, but it seems like it is just getting started. We are growing fast. Last year, our business grew faster than ever, and we are set up to grow even faster in the future.

    Happy birthday, JMP, and thank you, everyone, for your contributions to JMP's success.

    Community Member

    Charlie Shipp wrote:

    What a great and insightful summation of JMP history .!. Congrats.

    Community Member

    Steven Muncy wrote:

    Congratulations and Happy Birthday.

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