Holland Numerics Limited celebrated its 30th Anniversary in September 2022


Way back in September 1992 I was working at CentreFile, a software subsidiary of NatWest Bank. Unfortunately, the financial environment at that time required NatWest Bank to bring much of the outsourcing done within CentreFile back inside the bank, so I was one of the 17% of the IT staff made redundant.

Undeterred I decided to become a freelance SAS programmer and landed a 3-month SAS contract at Janssen Pharmaceutica in Belgium in October 1992, where the financial environment was better. This contract was a fixed price contract for 9 weeks, but I finished all of the expected work in 7 weeks (which didn’t please the client!), so it was agreed that I “work” a further week in Belgium before completing my stay there!

There followed a 14-month contract at Euroclear, a securities bank in Brussels, where I was living in an apartment belonging to a hotel. This is where I really developed my love of finding new beers! I was not the only English-speaking SAS programmer there, as English, Australian and New Zealand programmers were also part of the various teams in Euroclear (and I am still in contact with them), and we would meet on Wednesday evenings for “Contractors Night Out”, starting the evening by watching Star Trek in my apartment (with a Belgian beer from my well-stocked fridge!), and then exploring the vibrant beer and food culture in the centre of Brussels. I will always be grateful for the beers in the supermarket GB Inno that I walked past on my way back to my apartment.

Returning to the UK I then worked on a wide variety of SAS programming contracts between 1994 and 2002, including pharmaceutical development for Glaxo and Praxis, HR systems for Asda and Zurich Insurance, marketing and risk databases for Barclaycard, Pearl Assurance and Ford Credit Bank, and fraud operations for Barclaycard.

My final contract before 9/11 was at Ford Credit Bank, where CNN was shown on screens next to the lifts. We watched in horror as 9/11 evolve in real-time on those screens. The effect on the finance sector was almost immediate, and SAS contracts in banking and insurance became extremely scarce. Fortunately Ford Credit Bank honoured my contract which ended in March 2002. Holland Numerics Limited then spent the rest of 2002 without any significant income, and I was temporarily employed by Bayer Vital in Leverkusen for 3 months later that year.

In 2003 the SAS contract market improved a little and I was able to work on an online campaign manager application for Proximity, before joining the Epidemiology team at GSK until 2005, when I started a 10-year spell at Amgen, where I was mostly involved in observational studies. It was during this period that I discovered the benefit of publishing SAS papers. I had written a paper on how to improve mainframe SAS and DB/2 performance back in 1997, which had been read by someone at the European Patent Office in 2004. They contacted me and I spent several days investigating on-site in The Hague, and then writing and presenting a paper explaining how to fix their problems for their senior management. This included adding a simple sort, which improved the elapsed time of a single step from 7 hours to 3 minutes! The fundamental truth I demonstrated was that developing on a Windows platform was OK, until you involved sorting, which is built into the mainframe operating system.

Following 10 years at Amgen I spent a year at Syne Qua Non, a brief SAS ODS Graphics remote contract with Astellas in Chicago, and then 5 years at Roche, before my current SAS contract with Veramed. This contract actually takes me back to 2002, where I shared an office with the now CEO of Veramed. The take-home from this contract is that you should keep good contacts with all of your business friends, because you never know whether they could help you in the future!

Now why would I be telling you this story about my company? Well, I am approaching retirement (I’m already beyond the statuary retirement age in the UK), but I have a lot of SAS-related knowledge that I am very keen to pass on to younger SAS programmers. My entire collection of SAS conference papers can be freely downloaded from this blog site. Registered members of my blog site can have free access to all the issues of VIEWS News since 1998, as they are stored on my blog site. My SAS licensing depends on earning enough in SAS contract fees to pay for it, so future SAS contracts will be helpful to maintain this site. Finally, if you would like to learn about how to be a good SAS programmer, performance analyst, or graphics designer, then I’ll be happy to spend time helping you (and your colleagues) using my appointment calendar.

I have spent 30 years working for Holland Numerics Limited. How long I continue to work will ultimately depend on you!

I haven’t been seen presenting for ages, but I’ll definitely be presenting in April and May 2021!


The pandemic has impacted us all in many ways, and my presenting has definitely been severely curtailed. However, even though the pandemic has not yet been defeated, I was determined to make my voice heard and my face seen, so I’ve accepted 2 presentation opportunities in the next 2 months:

  • 01Apr2021: SUGUKI have asked me to present “Writing Reusable Macros: Managing SAS Data Sets” at a lunchtime webinar from 1215-1245 (British Summer Time = GMT+1). More details can be found at https://www.meetup.com/SUGUKI, and the Zoom call is limited to 100, so early registration is recommended.
  • 20May2021: Virtual SAS Global Forum 2021 will be including a Premium Session video presentation of “How Many Shades of Guide: SAS Enterprise Guide to 8.3 and SAS Studio to 3.81 with SAS 9.4: Part 1 – SAS Enterprise Guide”. The paper includes the history of both EG and SAS Studio, but time limits necessitated the paper be split into 2 presentations, and this one will be Part 1 only. Look out for Peedy!
    I’m not certain when the video presentation will be made public yet, but I’ll be having a live Q&A chat on 20May2021. Keep an eye on the SAS Global Forum web site for more details about when and how to join me.
  • I’m hoping to publish the Part 2 video later this year, probably on my blog site, which will look at the history of SAS Studio and a comparison with EG.

SAS training for home-workers: Keeping your mind active and your skills current


I have been working from home on and off since 1996, so it now feels quite normal to start my work day by walking from my kitchen into my office. I know some of my colleagues have struggled with the many distractions that exist at home, so I suppose I’ve been lucky, but I still do not like doing nothing at all. To stop any boredom setting in I will look for ways to do something useful, and, over the years, I have taught myself many programming languages by reading books, running example code, and trying to write applications that will be useful day-to-day, for example:

  • Database applications for calculating hours left to work and printing invoices in Visual Basic.
  • Web applications to send me emails and SMS messages in Perl.
  • Smartphone apps for webOS (remember HP/Palm phones?) in Javascript and HTML5.
  • Smartphone apps for Android in Java.
  • Crossword puzzle word-finder scripts in LibreOffice Basic.
  • SAS Enterprise Guide custom tasks in VB.Net.
  • SAS Studio custom tasks in XML.

Each language presents a different set of problems and solutions, so each new solution will broaden your knowledge of the computer world. Not all language have been central to my day job, but my views on solving computer problems has been moulded by each new programming language I’ve used. In 1996 there was no significant online help, so you couldn’t easily ask anyone for help, but instead you had to rely on hints and tips in computer magazines. Later the online communities have become vital, but you will now have to ask your questions in the correct way, so that it will be understood by each community, as names are not necessarily consistent, otherwise your question is likely to be ignored. I’ve now found ways to improve the chances of my questions being answered, even if my problems are not always resolved:

  • Write a subject line that asks a question that could be answered, otherwise it probably won’t even be read.
  • Set the scene by describing the environment you are working in, such as operating system, and software language and version.
  • Describe in as much detail as you can what you are trying to do, what you have already tried, and any results/messages that you are getting, even if you don’t understand them.
  • Never assume that you’re problem can be solved, but work with anyone who offers you assistance.
  • Be humble and grateful, because there will be programmers out there who know more about this than you, and you might need to call on their skills again.

So what has all this got to do with SAS training? Well, thanks to COVID-19, there are now more home-workers than ever before, and in some cases the work available may not be filling your day, so what can you do to fill your spare time and improve your programming knowledge? I have gathered together some sources of SAS training and information which are either free or inexpensive, which you may find useful, and if you find out about any more, then post a comment and I’ll be happy to check them out:

  • Training courses:
    • My corporate SAS training courses are intended for large groups, but each course has an associated eBook that is much cheaper and available through the Training section on this site.
    • I have a low-cost forum with a monthly subscription called the SAS Programming Forum, which welcomes SAS programming questions, but also includes the SAS course with a growing number of SAS-related topics, such as Data Steps, SAS Macros and PROC SQL, either as individual posts or LMS courses.
    • If you prefer to learn from eBooks or Android apps, then the topics in the SAS course are also available as eBooks and Android apps (on Amazon Appstore and Google Play).
  • Papers and books:
    • The Conferences Paper section on this site is filled with papers covering a wide range of SAS-related topics, which can be downloaded for free.
    • Other SAS-related books can be bought through the Books section on this site.
    • The largest searchable collection of SAS-related conference papers is maintained by Lex Jansen, including papers from SUGI, SeUGI, regional SAS user groups and forums, VIEWS, PhUSE, PharmaSUG and SAS Global Forum.
  • Competitive learning:
    • Sasensei is a SAS-related quiz and learning site where the flashcards, questions and quizzes are contributed by the users, and you earn points and awards from contributions and correct answers, but you will always learn from your incorrect answers too.
  • SAS support:
  • SAS programming platforms for learning:
    • SAS University Edition is free for use as a learning platform, and can either be downloaded and installed on your laptop using VMware or VirtualBox, or accessed through the web on the AWS Cloud.
    • WPS Analytics Community Edition is a free version of WPS Analytics, which can be licensed from World Programming for 6 months at a time and installed on your PC, and can run SAS programs using quite a large subset of SAS programming features, and includes R and Python interfaces.

I think that should at least get you started on your SAS improvement projects!

Maybe my last report from a PhUSE event: Beerse Single Day Event 2017


Last month I talked about the presentation “The Art of Defensive Programming – Coping with Unseen Data” I was doing at the PhUSE Single Day Event (SDE) in Beerse, Belgium. The event was held yesterday on 28 November 2017 at the Janssen EMEA site, where I’d started my SAS contracting activities 25 years earlier. This was the 6th SDE I’d presented at in Belgium, and the 3rd on this site, so I was fairly familiar with the venue and knew many of the attendees too.

As at recent conference events I included a free draw for a copy of my latest book “SAS Programming and Data Visualization Techniques“. The attendance at the SDE was around 80 and not just coming from Belgium, with 21 of those entered the draw, and the winner was Lieke Gijsbers from OCS Consulting in the Netherlands (see me presenting her with my book in the photo).

You are probably now asking why this will be my last report from a PhUSE event? Over the last year or so I have reviewed the benefits I get from presenting at conferences and how much it costs me to attend them. Consultants spend a lot of time doing Cost-Benefit analyses and PhUSE events seemed to be moving lower down the list. The larger companies can easily afford to send multiple delegates, but a small percentage of their staff, to PhUSE events because of economies of scale. Unfortunately, Holland Numerics is not a large company, so we have to send 100% of our staff (me!). By presenting we get a 33% reduction on the full conference fee, but we lose 100% of our income during the conference and SDE days, and the same is true for every other independent consultant attending PhUSE. Next year I was hoping to combine some of my training courses with PhUSE SDE and PhUSE Connect (the new name for the annual conference!) events, but none had come to fruition.

I am extremely happy with the records I have created as a mere SAS programmer (and not a Statistical Programmer!) during my membership of PhUSE:

  1. I have attended 13 consecutive PhUSE annual conferences since the first was held in Heidelberg in 2005.
  2. I have presented at least 1 paper in every PhUSE annual conference I have attended, including several papers I had brought with me “just in case” to fill in for short-notice withdrawals.
  3. I have presented in 18 SDEs since they started in 2008, including 6 in Belgium, 4 in the UK, 3 in Germany, 2 in Switzerland and Denmark, and 1 in the Netherlands.
  4. Since the PhUSE annual conference was held in Basel in 2009, I have held a beer-tasting evening near to the conference. That is a total of 9 beer-tasting evenings! It started because I wanted to taste the local beers, I preferred to drink beer with friends, and it seemed to work out just fine, because I had no complaints, and I added many new beers to my beer-tasting database. In fact I had to stop Yvonne Moores, the 2011 Brighton conference chair, from putting a note in the daily conference news, and it was still over-subscribed using just word-of-mouth! The largest evening attendance was actually 24 in Budapest, when, unable to find a Hungarian beer establishment, I opted instead for the “Belgian Abbey Restaurant”!
  5. Last, but not least, no-one has enjoyed PhUSE events more than me!

I would like to thank PhUSE for allowing me to present my SAS-related papers at their conferences and SDEs, but I will not be renewing my membership of the PhUSE Society as usual in January.

Just a reminder that all of my SAS conference papers are FREE to download!


Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed potential customers for my SAS conference papers NEARLY download them from here, and then give up at the last moment. I want to assure you all that:

  1. You will be required to register on this site for free, if you are not already a registered member
  2. You will have to complete a form to say where you live
  3. You will also be sent to a Checkout page
  4. However, you will be charged nothing, as every conference paper download has a price of £0.00!

To quote “The Hitchhiker’s Guide” by Douglas Adams: DON’T PANIC. This is written in large friendly letters!

All of my conference papers are now available for free from the Store


I’ve just uploaded all of my SAS-related conference papers to my blog store, and will eventually be removing them from http://www.hollandnumerics.com/SASPAPER.HTM. This will mean that only those registered for the blog will be able to access and download them. They will, of course, be free to download for registered members.