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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Jim Goodnight, July 22, 1999. Interview I-0073. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

SAS grows from an on-campus project to an independent company

In this excerpt, Goodnight describes the transition of SAS from a project at North Carolina State University to an independent company.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Jim Goodnight, July 22, 1999. Interview I-0073. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JM: As you began to see the market, so to speak, in that context at that time for this product--. You began to get people who were interested and wanted to use it. By '76, who was pushing the idea to incorporate? JG: I was pushing that idea. Let me work my way up to that. Back in 1968 Jim and I had finished what we'd call our first release of the SAS system and announced it to the university statisticians of the Southern Experiment Stations up at Mountain Lake, Virginia. That was when our first manual came out. We used a markup language and you could actually print the manual out on the computer itself. They all began using it after that. For the next three or four years everybody was quite pleased and continued to give us input and suggestions. In 1972, though, the university lost its NIH [National Institute of Health] grant. Almost all the university computing centers up until 1972 were funded by NIH. It was their way of trying to stimulate research at the universities. Nixon came in and made it very clear that NIH was not to give any money away to universities unless they had a medical program associated with them. That's where they drew the line. Suddenly we were out of money. We had never been on state money. We had always been on federal money. In '72 we went to our university Experiment Station people and said, “Look, how about each of y'all chipping in about $5000 a year out of your budget to help support us up here while we continue to support this software.” They said, “Fine.” They were willing to do that. At the same time, we began licensing SAS to other companies -- a number of the drug companies. Pharmaceutical companies wanted to get into to use SAS. Then we had a few insurance companies and banks [that] began to have some interest in it. This was with no advertising or anything. We had no advertising budget. By '76 we had hired several other people to work on the project with us: John Sall, who was a graduate student; Jane Helwig, a full-time documentation person. [She was] a writer to help to document the software. In January we had one of our users at Abbott Labs decide that it was time that SAS should have a user conference. He organized a user conference down in Florida that we went to and presented the latest version of that SAS system that we were working on. We had three hundred users show up. By the time we came back from that we all were feeling like we could actually make a living off of this if we got out from the university. At that same time at the university, we had filled up the space that we were in. They were not willing to let us expand anymore. I think some of the professors on the upper floors were having a little bit of a hard time with us continuing to grow downstairs. A lot of them didn't think a whole lot about computers. They liked the more theoretical stuff and didn’t think computers would ever amount to much. Anyway, there was some dissension within the stat department about whether or not we should be allowed to continue to grow, so we just suggested to them, “Why don't we just leave? We'll continue supporting the university. We'll just move across the street. We'll still do anything you need us to do.” What we finally agreed to, was to leave them about $100,000 that we'd collected in fees so far that year that had not been--. We basically would collect money all year long into a trust fund and use that as operational money the next year. We left the university that amount of money when we left. We went across the street and started out with nothing. We had about a hundred customers at that time. We informed them that we were leaving. They needed to send their money to us from that point on. That's how it got started.