Internationalization concerns and algorithms have been informally
and casually discussed for years in GNU, sometimes around GNU
libc, maybe around the incoming
Hurd, or otherwise
(nobody clearly remembers). And even then, when the work started for
real, this was somewhat independently of these previous discussions.
This all began in July 1994, when Patrick D’Cruze had the idea and
initiative of internationalizing version 3.9.2 of GNU
He then asked Jim Meyering, the maintainer, how to get those changes
folded into an official release. That first draft was full of
#ifdefs and somewhat disconcerting, and Jim wanted to find
nicer ways. Patrick and Jim shared some tries and experimentations
in this area. Then, feeling that this might eventually have a deeper
impact on GNU, Jim wanted to know what standards were, and contacted
Richard Stallman, who very quickly and verbally described an overall
design for what was meant to become
glocale, at that time.
glocale and got a lot of exhausting feedback
from Patrick and Richard, of course, but also from Mitchum DSouza
(who wrote a
catgets-like package), Roland McGrath, maybe David
MacKenzie, François Pinard, and Paul Eggert, all pushing and
pulling in various directions, not always compatible, to the extent
that after a couple of test releases,
glocale was torn apart.
In particular, Paul Eggert – always keeping an eye on developments
in Solaris – advocated the use of the
gettext API over
While Jim took some distance and time and became dad for a second
time, Roland wanted to get GNU
libc internationalized, and
got Ulrich Drepper involved in that project. Instead of starting
glocale, Ulrich rewrote something from scratch, but
more conforming to the set of guidelines who emerged out of the
glocale effort. Then, Ulrich got people from the previous
forum to involve themselves into this new project, and the switch
glocale to what was first named
nlsutils, and later
gettext, became officially accepted
by Richard in May 1995 or so.
Let’s summarize by saying that Ulrich Drepper wrote GNU
in April 1995. The first official release of the package, including
PO mode, occurred in July 1995, and was numbered 0.7. Other people
contributed to the effort by providing a discussion forum around
Ulrich, writing little pieces of code, or testing. These are quoted
THANKS file which comes with the GNU
While this was being done, François adapted half a dozen of
GNU packages to
glocale first, then later to
putting them in pretest, so providing along the way an effective
user environment for fine tuning the evolving tools. He also took
the responsibility of organizing and coordinating the Translation
Project. After nearly a year of informal exchanges between people from
many countries, translator teams started to exist in May 1995, through
the creation and support by Patrick D’Cruze of twenty unmoderated
mailing lists for that many native languages, and two moderated
lists: one for reaching all teams at once, the other for reaching
all willing maintainers of internationalized free software packages.
François also wrote PO mode in June 1995 with the collaboration
of Greg McGary, as a kind of contribution to Ulrich’s package.
He also gave a hand with the GNU
gettext Texinfo manual.
In 1997, Ulrich Drepper released the GNU libc 2.0, which included the
In 2000, Ulrich Drepper added plural form handling (the
function) to GNU libc. Later, in 2001, he released GNU libc 2.2.x,
which is the first free C library with full internationalization support.
Ulrich being quite busy in his role of General Maintainer of GNU libc,
he handed over the GNU
gettext maintenance to Bruno Haible in
2000. Bruno added the plural form handling to the tools as well, added
support for UTF-8 and CJK locales, and wrote a few new tools for
manipulating PO files.