It was the realization that routine data analysis should not require Fortran programs that really got S going. Our initial goals were not lofty; we simply wanted an interactive interface to the algorithms in the SCS library.En 1991 à l'Université d'Auckland en Nouvelle Zélande, R. Gentleman et R. Ihaka commencent à développer, sur la même syntaxe que S, un logiciel open source basé sur Lisp. Le nom qu'ils lui donnent, rappelle à la fois S et leurs initiales : R. Le succès est quasi-immédiat11.
R was written as an alternative implementation of the S language, using some ideas from the world of Lisp and Scheme. The short history of R is a quite unbelievable success story. It has rapidly taken over the academic world of statistical computation and computational statistics, to an ever increasing extend the world of statistics teaching, publishing and real-world application. SAS and SPSS, which initially tended to ignore and in some cases belittle R, have been forced to include interfaces to R, or even complete R interpreters, in their main products.