Computer Data Conversion
by Hans Hannula, Ph.D., C.T.A.
Computers talk to each other all the time — except when you get involved. A familiar feeling? Ever have
data you'd love to have on your system, except the data aren't compatible with your setup and you end up
having to input everything all by hand? Well, you're not alone. Fear not, for Hans Hannula explains the
whys and wherefores and how to convert that data to your needs.
Not long ago, one of the major problems a technical analyst had was getting data. This usually meant
hours at the library, scrolling through microfiche of back newspapers. Thanks to the computer age, that
problem has disappeared. Stock and commodities data of all sorts are now readily available. The shortage
problem has now been replaced by another problem — data in abundance that cannot be used by your
analysis programs. Back to square one.
The advent of the personal computer has given individuals the freedom to choose. But when it comes to
data formats, that freedom has resulted in a Tower of Babel. There are dozens of data vendors and
software suppliers that use different data formats. For all the hype, there is no standard data format. If you
buy software from CompuTrac, it uses that company's format and cannot necessarily use your CSI data,
for example. So your ability to profit from your own technical analysis will be restricted by your ability to
convert your data from one format to another. If you can convert the data effectively, you can take
advantage of any newly available technical analysis programs.
Let's start with some computer basics. First, I'll assume that you are using an IBM-PC clone and MS-DOS
5.0. I'll assume you know the bare minimum about using your computer. You probably know that data
are somehow stored in files on your hard or floppy disk. And you probably know that you can locate the
files with the MS-DOS directory command, DIR. I also assume that you know that there are two kinds of
files, some that contain data and some that contain programs. The program files are those with a .EXE
extension. Data files can be named anything. They are read and processed by a particular program, which
must assume that the data are formatted in a certain way in the data file. For example, a charting program
might assume that the data are in a format of YYMMDD H L C, for year_month_day, high, low, close.