In previous chapters, we have encountered a number of different computer languages for specific applications: HTML and CSS for web publishing, HTML Forms for electronic forms, XML for data storage, and SQL for working with relational databases. In this chapter, we will look at a general purpose computer language; it is not designed for one specific task, but has facilities for conquering many different sorts of tasks.
As we might expect, a general purpose language will let us do a lot more than the specific languages can do, but this will come at a cost; we will need to learn a few more complex concepts and the general purpose language will not always do a job as well as the specific-purpose languages.
Many general-purpose languages exist, such as Perl, Python, and Ruby. The R language is used as the primary general-purpose language in this chapter because it is particularly well-suited to working with data.
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