The necessity of standards
Standards would offer the possibility to use data prepared for, or even by, a computer made by one manufacturer to be on a computer made by another with the minimum of alteration. Also it would avoid duplication of work in the preparation of, for example, programming languages by several manufacturers. Though certain National Bodies had, before 1960, started work on standards in this field, e.g. paper tape and codes, there did not appear to be collaboration between them, nor between the manufacturers themselves. Different countries may have different requirements, so that it may not be necessary to have the same standards everywhere, but the standards should at least be compatible.
A initiative driven by industry
With the object of coordinating such work, the Heads of the Companies of longest standing in Europe in the data processing field (Compagnie des Machines Bull, IBM World Trade Europe Corporation and International Computers and Tabulators Limited) sent a joint letter to all the known computer manufacturers within Europe, inviting these companies to send representatives to a meeting. This meeting was held on 27 April 1960 in Brussels; it was decided that an association of for short ECMA, and a Committee was nominated to prepare the formation of the Association and to draw up By-laws and Rules.
By December 1960 the form that the Association would take was fairly well defined and it had been decided that the headquarters should be in Geneva to be near the headquarters of other standards developing organizations such as the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). On 17 May 1961, the Association officially came into being and all those companies which attended the original meeting became members. The constituent assembly was held on 17 June 1961.
A new name
To reflect the global activities of the Europe-based Ecma organization, the name of the association was changed in 1994 to: Ecma International – European association for standardizing information and communication systems. Though before 1994, ECMA was known as “European Computer Manufacturers Association”, after 1994, when the organization became global, the “trademark” “Ecma” was kept for historical reasons.