Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Frequent Regressor Club

My friend, Ken White, developed the SHAZAM econometrics package in 1977. Ken's a funny guy - that's to say, he has a great sense of humour.

On one of his many visits to Christchurch, New Zealand (when I was living there, many years ago) he gave me a wooden die that he'd had an artisan carve at the local Arts Centre in Chistchurch. On each of the six faces he'd had the guy put the name of an econometrics/statistics package - TSP, LIMDEP, GAUSS, RATS, and SHAZAM. Yes, I know that's only 5 names. The thing was, SHAZAM appeared on two of the faces! The idea was to roll the die to decide which package to use in your lab. class. I still have the die - much to the occasional bemusement of students who see it on my desk.


Ken also kindly gave me a very early edition of the Captain Marvel comic - the one where the meaning of the acronym, SHAZAM, is revealed to the readers. That comic is still in my office too. There's going to be a heck of a garage sale in the department when I retire!

Some of you will recall the manuals that went with earlier versions of SHAZAM. There was an "Appendix" at the back, titled Frequent Regressor Club. At that time, Ken travelled A LOT. He was an avid collector of frequent flyer points with United Airlines. He had so many that he hardly knew what to do with them. This was the inspiration for the Frequent Regressor Club.

Readers of the manual were told that they could collect points for every OLS regression that they ran. They just had to mail a copy of the printout to Ken. (This was pre-PC days.) Nonlinear regressions earned extra points; and step-wise regressions weren't allowed!

If you earned enough points you could apparently get a free upgrade of SHAZAM. It was just a spoof, but Ken was constantly stunned by the number of people who sent him their printouts!

Those were the days!



© 2013, David E. Giles

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