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).
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.