The S1000D concept originated in the early 1980s and was initially developed by the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD) for military use. At the time there were various national military specifications for documentation. As computers were becoming more prevalent there was a drive to develop computer-based methods of document management. To avoid having too many different, complex and expensive systems, it was apparent there was a need to standardise the documentation methodology.

At the time most civil aviation projects were documented using the ATA 100 specification, developed by the Air Transport Association of America (now known as Airlines for America) in the United States and first published in 1956. Originally this specification was just a document numbering system but has developed over time into the current ATA iSpec 2200 specification which also covers content, structure and exchange of engineering and maintenance information from manufacturer to operator [[3]]

ASD decided to set up the Documentation Working Group (DWG) to try to harmonise civil and military documentation and to use ATA 100 as a base. The group realised that creating a harmonised specification would have many advantages including[[2]]:

Early versions of S1000D provided a set of Document Type Definitions (DTDs) for producing Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) but gradually it became and remains an Extensible Markup Language (XML) specification defined in XML Schemas.

Since 2003 ASD has been working with the Aerospace Industries Association of America (AIA) and, since 2005, with the ATA e-Business Program as well, to harmonise US and European technical publication guidance. These three organisations are now working together to develop, maintain and promote S1000D internationally.