Here is a summary of the early history of the GNU plotting utilities.
Several of the GNU plotting utilities were inspired by Unix plotting
utilities. A `graph' utility and various plot filters were present in the
first releases of Unix from Bell Laboratories, going at least as far back
as the Version 4 distribution (1973). Most of the work on tying them
together and breaking out device-dependent versions of `libplot' was
performed by Lorinda Cherry <email@example.com>. By the time of Version
7 Unix (1979) and the subsequent Berkeley releases, the package consisting
of `graph', `plot', `spline', and several device-dependent versions of
`libplot' was a standard Unix feature. The first display device supported
by the package was a Versatec storage scope. By the early 1980's,
supported devices included Tektronix storage scopes, 200 dpi electrostatic
printer/plotters from Versatec and Varian, pen plotters from
Hewlett-Packard, and early graphics terminals.
In 1989, Rich Murphey <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote the first GNU versions
of graph, plot, tek2plot, spline, double, and the documentation. Richard
Stallman <email@example.com> further directed development of the programs
and provided editorial support for the documentation. John Interrante
<firstname.lastname@example.org> generously provided the Postscript prologue
now included in `libplot', and helpful comments. The distribution, as it
stood in 1991, was distributed under the name `GNU graphics'.
In 1995 Robert Maier <email@example.com> took over development of the
package, and expanded it by about an order of magnitude by writing the
current, maximally device-independent, standalone version of `libplot'.
Robert also rewrote `graph' from scratch, turning it into a real-time
filter that would use the new libraries. The idea of including scalable
font support in `libplot' came from `axis', a much-hacked version of the
Unix `graph' program which is popular in the physics community. `axis'
uses the character set of the Unified Graphics System [UGS], a system that
was developed in the SLAC Computation Research Group by Robert C. Beach.
(See Computer Graphics, Fall 1974, pp. 22-23.) The UGS character set (see
ftp://ftp.slac.stanford.edu/software/ugs77/ ) includes many scalable
Hershey glyphs and marker symbols, so Robert added first the UGS marker
symbols to `libplot', and then the entire library of Hershey glyphs.
The Hershey glyphs (designed c. 1967 by Allen Hershey, who deserves a vote
of thanks!) were assembled mostly from Pete Holzmann's distribution to
Usenet (in vol. 4 of mod.sources). Additional `extended Hershey' vector
glyphs were taken from the freeware distribution of Thomas Wolff
<firstname.lastname@example.org>, which is incorporated in Ghostscript, and a set
of 13 Hershey fonts was constructed. After the Hershey fonts were added to
`libplot', support for the 35 standard Postscript fonts was added as well.
Work on this had begun with Rich Murphey's work on `libps' (the remote
ancestor of `libplot'). At that point, the support for drawing text
strings became completely device-independent.
Robert also rewrote `spline', adding support for periodicity and tension,
and added support for being a real-time filter (using cubic Bessel
ode was originally developed by Nick Tufillaro <email@example.com> on a sequence
of platforms that extended back to a PDP-11 running Version 4 Unix. In
1997 Robert modified Nick's 1994 version to agree with GNU conventions on
coding and command-line parsing, and extended it to support the full set of
special functions supported by gnuplot. Nick kindly agreed to the
inclusion of the modified version in the package.
After all the above work, version 1.1 of the plotutils package was released
in 7/97. For later changes to the package, see the file NEWS.