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48 Years of Interactive Computing and Counting

The year 2017 marks the 48th anniversary of interactive versions of the MODLER™ Econometric Software, generally recognized as one of the very first (possibly even the first) generally used software packages ever created to support this type of computing. Since the later 1970s, with the ongoing development of the personal computer, interactive operation has become the dominant paradigm. Specific aspects of the history of econometric computing are considered in a recently published book Computational Econometrics. Its Impact on the Development of Quantiative Economics, published by the IOSPress, Amsterdam.

In 1969-70, however, this type of computing was just being introduced, in the US most prominently by the then upstart Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). Originally mounted on one of that company's PDP-10 time-sharing computers at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC in early 1970, MODLER's first interactive version was used only locally, just throughout the Brookings Institution and related organizations, but in certain respects in a somewhat similar way that the most recent version is now used throughout the world. A contrast exists in the scale of use, and today the most obvious evolutionary difference is MODLER's up-to-date graphical user interface and greater range of capabilities. But ignoring these aspects, the essential difference is fundamentally that it was then used on a single networked machine, not a network of machines. In addition, that mainframe machine was of course many times slower than the computer you are using to read this text.

Combining longevity, innovation, and modernity, not to mention being time-tested in a worldwide environment, MODLER™ has been continuously used and developed since 1968. The location and time of its original creation reflects that it was specifically developed in order to estimate the parameters of a version of the then path-breaking Brookings Quarterly Econometric Model of the United States. Later MODLER™ became the first full-fledged econometric modeling language to be ported to the microcomputer, supporting the first economic forecasting service based on the PC. More broadly, it has progressively evolved into the cornerstone of a family of software packages that individually perform a variety of operations, operating variously on single machines, Local and Wide Area Networks, and in conjunction with the Internet, another innovation that of course also began its evolution about 1970.

MODLER™ program capabilities today range from the comprehensive management of time series socio-economic data bases to parameter estimation to a complete set of facilities that permit the estimation, construction, use and display of econometric models ranging in size from a single equation to 1000 or more. These models can have a wide range of characteristics: linear or nonlinear, simultaneous or recursive, and static or dynamic. They can even incorporate Input-Output substructures and/or sophisticated objective functions.

 
 
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