IDEF1 was developed under ICAM program priority 1102 by Dr. Robert R. Brown of the Hughes Aircraft Company, under contract to SofTech, Inc. Dr. Brown had previously been responsible for the development of IMS while working at Rockwell International (Rockwell chose not to pursue IMS as a marketable product; International Business Machines (IBM), which had served as a support contractor during development, subsequently took over the product and was successful in further developing it for market.) Dr. Brown credits his Hughes colleague Mr. Timothy Ramey as the inventor of IDEF1 as a viable formalism for modeling information structures. The two Hughes researchers built on ideas from and interactions with many luminaries in the field at the time. In particular, IDEF1 draws on the following techniques:
- the Evolving Natural Language Information Model (ENALIM) technique of Dr. G. M. Nijssen (Control Data Corporation) — this technique is now more widely known as NIAM or the Object-Role Model ORM;
- the network data structures technique, popularly called the CODASYL approach, of Dr. Charles Bachman (Honeywell Information Systems);
- the hierarchical data management technique, implemented in IBM's IMS data management system, developed by Dr. R. R. Brown (Rockwell International);
- the relational approach to data of Dr. E. F. Codd (IBM);
- The Entity-Relationship Approach (E-R) of Dr. Peter Chen (UCLA).
LDDT had been developed in 1982 by [node:1684] of The Database Design Group entirely outside the IDEF program and with no knowledge of IDEF1. LDDT combined elements of the relational data model, the E-R model, and generalization in a way specifically intended to support data modeling and the transformation of the data models into database designs. The graphic syntax of LDDT differed from that of IDEF1 and, more importantly, LDDT contained interrelated modeling concepts not present in IDEF1. Mary E. Loomis wrote a concise summary of the syntax and semantics of a substantial subset of LDDT, using terminology compatible with IDEF1 wherever possible. DACOM labeled the result IDEF1X and supplied it to the ICAM program.
The effort to develop IDEF1 resulted in both a new method for information modeling and an example of its use in the form of a "reference information model of manufacturing." This latter artifact was developed by D. S. Coleman of the D. Appleton & Company (DACOM) acting as a sub-contractor to Hughes and under the direction of Mr. Ramey. Personnel at DACOM became quite expert at IDEF1 modeling and subsequently produced a training course and accompanying materials for the IDEF1 modeling technique.
The initial approach to IDEF information modeling (IDEF1) was published by the ICAM program in 1981, based on current research and industry needs. The theoretical roots for this approach stemmed from the early work of Edgar F. Codd on relational theory and Peter Chen on the entity-relationship model. The initial IDEF1 technique was based on the work of Dr. R.R. Brown and Mr. T.L. Ramey of Hughes Aircraft and Mr. D.S. Coleman of D. Appleton & Company, with critical review and influence by Charles Bachman, Peter Chen, Dr. M.A. Melkanoff, and Dr. G.M. Nijssen.