A Brief History of EDI

1960s – The Early Days of EDI

Computer systems first developed the ability to exchange data in the 1960’s when Ed Guilbert, the father of EDI, developed an electronic message format for sending cargo information. The first EDI messages were Telex messages exchanged in 1965 between shipping companies. At the time, a full page of information could be sent in roughly 2 minutes. After loading them to tape, these messages could be accessed by computers.

1975 – First EDI Standards Released

In 1968, electronic messages in varied formats were being exchanged by various companies in the transportation industry, which necessitated the formation of the Transportation Data Coordination Committee (TDCC), which released the first EDI standards in 1975. Also, in this year, Telenet, the first commercial packet-switching network, was established. Telenet was also the first Value Added Network as it did more than just link computer systems.

1977 – Financial EDI and SWIFT

EDI became the fulcrum of the global financial system in 1977 when the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) established the SWIFT messaging system, which defined a large number of standard messages covering most aspects of interbank communications.

1977 – ANSIX12 Committee Formed

In the same year, the TDCC was renamed the Electronic Data Interchange Association (EDIA), and was later chartered by the American National Standards Institute to become the ANSIX12 committee.

1981 – ANSIX12 Standards Published

In 1981, the ANSIX12 standards were published, which included the transportation, food, drug, warehouse and banking industries.

1982 – Automotive and Retail Industries Adopt EDI

In 1982, the automotive and retail industries began adopting EDI.

1985 – EDIFACT Standard Published

In 1985, the United Nations created the EDIFACT EDI standard, which was later adopted by the automotive industry in the U.S.

1990’s – EDI Gains Popularity in U.S.

In the 1990’s, EDI was being used in a VAN setting by almost 12,000 companies in the Unites States. Value-added networks (VANs)—operated by providers such as IBM, GEIS, and AT&T—were the key players in the industry at the time.

1996 – 2001 – AS/2 and Internet EDI

In 1996, the Uniform Code Council (UCC) embarked on an initiative to standardize EDI communications over the Internet. In 2001, the AS/2 standard was published by the UCC, which used the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to enable encrypted data transmission over the Internet. AS/2 has been gaining in popularity because it eliminates the middle man. Large retail chains, such as Walmart, Target and Lowe utilize AS/2 and mandate their suppliers to do the same.

Today – EDI is Everywhere

Today, 90% of Fortune-500 companies are EDI-capable, and over one hundred thousand businesses in the United States use an EDI solution of some sort to communicate with their customers, suppliers, or financial service providers.