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The PC corner: statistical software for economists: Macintosh.

The PC Corner: Statistical Software for Economists: Macintosh

MOST BUSINESS economists who use microcomputers are undoubtedly IBM or IBM-compatible users. The majority of statistical packages have been written for these machines and most major mainframe packages as well have been "ported" to the DOS environment. Recently, however, several major statistical packages have announced Macintosh versions because of the increasing popularity of that machine in the business community. SPSS, Minitab and SORITEC have all announced Macintosh products that will be available in the near future.

But what about the availability of Macintosh packages that exist now? Are there any Macintosh statistical packages that deserve the attention of business economists? Yes, at least four currently available packages deserve some attention from economists in particular; each of these pieces of software has some feature that could make it the software you might choose to do your work.

The four packages you may find of interest include two that have been available in one form or another for quite a few years and two that are quite new. Both StatView and SYSTAT have been available for quite some time; StatView is unique to the Macintosh but SYSTAT is also available on the IBM. The two newer programs are RATS (which has been available on the IBM for some time) and FASTAT (from the same company that produces SYSTAT). Each of these programs has some advantages over its competitors but they can be ranked easily in two different dimensions:
 Ranked by Breadth of
Ranked by Ease of Use Coverage for Economists
 1. StatView 1. RATS
 4. RATS 4. StatView

Not surprisingly, the rankings are exact opposites. The most complete package is also the most difficult to use; with statistical complexity comes operational complexity. StatView is the easiest of the programs to use but FASTAT and SYSTAT are very close in terms of their ease of use. SYSTAT and FASTAT, on the other hand, are far ahead of StatView in terms of their usefulness to economists; the routines they include are those that business economists would use more often, especially if forecasting is a priority.

RATS is the outlier of the group. It is a software package created especially for economists, and its breadth of coverage is impressive. It contains many sophisticated routines (e.g., two-stage least squares, polynomial distributed lags, vector autoregression) not available in any of the other three packages. But RATS is also an outlier in terms of ease of use; it is not as menu driven as the other three packages, makes less use of the Macintosh interface, and has a manual that is written in the UNIX style of presenting technical information.

At first glance the RATS manual is a bit confusing, probably because the style is so foreign to most nonprogrammers. The manual does not lend itself to sequential reading. It is more like a telephone book than a novel, but it is complete and does contain numerous examples of each of the many commands. For users requiring very sophisticated processing techniques, this is definitely the Macintosh package they will choose.

For tasks that must be done routinely (every week or month) batch processing is available. A separate RATSDATA utility program (included) imports data to and from other major packages (e.g., Excel, 1-2-3, MicroTSP and dBASE III) and almost any type of time series data (including daily and weekly) can be handled. RATS will use a coprocessor to speed things up if one is available (as it is in the Macintosh SE/030 or Macintosh II). For larger tasks, the use of a machine with large memory is recommended for RATS because the size of the dataset it can handle is memory dependent.

SYSTAT and FASTAT are similar because they are produced by the same company. FASTAT is a bit easier to use but SYSTAT is the more complete flagship program for the company (Systat, Inc.). Both programs make full use of the Macintosh interface, and those familiar with the Mac will have little trouble navigating around in the programs. Both programs are also capable of producing impressive display graphics that may be used without enhancement in presentations. Each includes on-line help and FASTAT even includes on-line descriptions of the statistical techniques. Surprisingly, SYSTAT does not have one of the more attractive features of the less expensive FASTAT program - exponential smoothing. This feature of the FASTAT program is implemented in a way that makes selection of smoothing methods quite simple. It covers simple, Holt's and Winter's smoothing and fifteen other less common options (but does not optimize the parameters as RATS does).

SYSTAT can also use extra modules (available at extra cost) to cover such items as Probit and Tobit. Batch processing is available in SYSTAT but not in FASTAT. Most procedures in SYSTAT and FASTAT are accessed from a dialog box, but the experienced user also may use a command line to access procedures directly as in most DOS programs (including the DOS version of SYSTAT).

For SYSTAT an entirely separate manual comes with the program for the graphics portion of the package (included) called SYSGRAPH. The graphics manual alone contains over 900 pages with almost every conceivable type of graphic demonstrated. It is probably a bit of overkill for many economists, but it is helpful as a reference when you are looking for a way to present a particular piece of information graphically.

FASTAT probably would be the choice of someone who needs less power (and less complexity) or needs to employ striking graphics for 35mm or overhead transparency presentation. The program is able to produce full-color (on a Macintosh II) two- and three-dimensional plots and employs brushing tools to allow isolation and extraction of cases or adaptation for presentations. A "movie" command in FASTAT allows a user to view a series of graphs one after another in "flickerbox" fashion in order to see the changes taking place over time. A built-in text and data editor permits easy cutting, pasting, font changes and the addition of comments to aid in explanations. Every procedure is menu driven, and this feature will appeal to many neophytes (but you may also use the command line interface). A faster version of both FASTAT and SYSTAT is available for those with a Macintosh II and at least 2 megabytes of RAM.

For those economists who have occasion to run teaching seminars, Systat, Inc. produces a small version of SYSTAT called Business MYSTAT. This very inexpensive version comes with a thirty-page manual with the disk bound as an insert. It is available in either Macintosh or IBM format, and it would actually be possible to teach a seminar with some people using DOS machines while others used the Macintosh operating system. The package contains many, but certainly not all, of the features found in the SYSTAT package. Of special interest to business users is that it does include multiple regression, transformations and exponential smoothing.

StatView is the easiest of the packages to use, but it is also the least capable (for economists) in terms of its coverage. It makes complete use of the Macintosh interface because it was designed just for the Macintosh and not ported from any other machine. Each procedure is called for from a dialog box where options are selected; results show up in separate windows for tabular and graphical material. Like FASTAT and SYSTAT, StatView uses a spreadsheet editor in which the rows are different cases and the columns are the different variables. This design makes for easy perusal of the data (especially if the dataset is small) and correction of any mistakes. The selection of variables for analysis takes place directly from the spreadsheet editor, and small notations are placed at the head of each column to indicate how that variable is now being used. All in all, the effect is quite visually pleasing and conveys a great deal of information in an intuitive manner. That's probably why the program is so popular with Macintosh users. For many economists, however, the program will be lacking routines you may need. StatView does come in two versions, with the larger version capable of using more memory and a math coprocessor.

For different economists, each of these software packages might fill a different need. RATS is the most comprehensive, StatView is the easiest to use, FASTAT can produce presentation quality materials with no adds ons, and SYSTAT is a more complete version of FASTAT.

FASTAT $195 Systat, Inc. 1800 Sherman Avenue Evanston, Illinois 60201 312-864-5670

RATS $300 VAR Econometrics P.O. Box 1818 Evanston, Illinois 60204-1818 312-864-8772

StatView Abacus Concepts, Inc. P.O. Box 3086 Berkley, California 94703 415-540-1949

SYSTAT $595 Systat, Inc. 1800 Sherman Avenue Evanston, Illinois 60201 312-864-5670

Table : Macintosh Statistical Program Comparison Chart

Technique/Procedure FASTAT RATS StatView SYSTAT

Data Handling
Compute variables YES YES YES YES
Free field formatting - YES YES YES
Handle missing values YES YES YES YES
Lag variables - YES YES YES
Read/write ASCII files YES YES YES YES
Select cases YES YES YES YES
Sort cases/variables YES YES YES YES

Automatically create dummies
 (time, trend and seasonal) - YES - -
Automatic differencing YES YES YES YES
Spreadsheet type data editor YES - YES YES

Dataset size limited by Maximum variables limited by DISK RAM RAM


Statistical Methods
Multiple Regression YES YES YES YES
Stepwise Regression - YES YES YES
Curvilinear/Polynomial YES YES YES YES
Non-linear Regression - YES - YES
Exponential Smoothing YES YES - -
Box-Jenkins and ARIMA - YES - YES

Autocorrelation and Partial
 Autocorrelation Plots YES YES - YES
Logit and Probit - YES - *
Two-stage Least Squares - YES - -
On-Line Interactive Help YES YES - YES
Number of pages 230 488 278 520

in manual
Suggested list $195 $300 $495(II) $595
price $395(SE)

P.S. from John H. Qualls:

Thanks to all of you who wrote me with words of encouragement and advice on my new consulting venture that I described in the last PC Corner column. Thanks also for the good suggestions as to ways to using the extra 384K that came with my PS/2. Based on these suggestions, and some research of my own, I have found a software program that does exactly what I need. It's called "SoftBytes", from Microtek. For $49.95, you get a program capable of defining the 384K of extended memory (or any portion of it) as expanded memory, which means that it can be accessed by Lotus-Intel-Microsoft Expanded Memory System standard. "SoftBytes" also allows you to use your hard disk as expanded memory, for up to eight megabytes of expanded memory. i tried it and could only get it to define a four-megabyte partition, but who's counting? One word of warning - your spreadsheet runs a lot slower when disk is used instead of RAM. However, for those extra-large spreadsheets, it could be just what the doctor ordered. Finally, "SoftBytes" has a dandy program that allows you to set up a print buffer in extended memory. All in all, it's a great piece of software. For more information, contact: Microtek, 10951 Sorrento Valley Road (Suite D), San Diego, CA 92121, (619) 535-0900.

*Barry Keating is Professor of Business Economics, Department of Finance and Business Economics, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN.
COPYRIGHT 1989 The National Association for Business Economists
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Title Annotation:personal computer
Author:Keating, Barry
Publication:Business Economics
Date:Jul 1, 1989
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