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The history of conceptual modeling

This is just an approach to give a short and incomplete overview about conceptual modeling in the last 30 years. Everyone who has ideas, important events or innovative papers about the history of conceptual modeling is welcome to add them by e-mail. The current approach is just a starting point and it should grow to a very extensive overview.

The conceptual modeling is divided into three decades: the 1970ies, the 1980ies and the 1990ies.

The 1970ies


In the 1970ies database design is very important. Especially Peter Chen’s paper “The Entity-Relationship Model: Toward a Unified View of Data” is a milestone in the area of data modeling and database design.


Abstraction and Generalization in database design are introduced by Smith and Smith.

There are also attempts to develop high level data definition languages for defining conceptual schemas to describe conceptual schemas. Such a language is the Conceptual Schema Language (CSL).

Information Systems and semantics of information systems become also very interesting.



The 1980ies



In the 1980ies there are several approaches to extend Chen’s Entity Relationship Model. We also focus on the Pingree Park Workshop in 1980. Also important in this decade is REMORA by Roland Colette. Actually information systems and the design of IS are interesting topics.

The 1990ies



At the beginning of the 1990ies there are several questions such as schema integration, schema transformation and quality measures for conceptual schemas in the area of database design. But this time is also influenced by object-oriented modeling methods and languages in software engineering. In the 1980ies object-oriented programming languages become more and more important. As a result of this evolution object-oriented programming leads to object-oriented modeling. Data Modeling in software engineering becomes more and more important.


At the beginning of the 1990ies more than fifty different modeling languages existed at the same time. Booch, Jacobson and Rumbaugh decided to work together and so they developed the Unified Modeling Language (UML) that became in 1997 a standard in the object-oriented modeling.