After Rational Software Corporation hired James Rumbaugh from General Electric in 1994, the company became the source for the two most popular object-oriented modeling approaches of the day: Rumbaugh's OMT, which was better for object-oriented analysis (OOA), and Grady Booch's Booch method, which was better for object-oriented design (OOD). Together Rumbaugh and Booch attempted to reconcile their two approaches and started work on a Unified Method.
They were soon assisted in their efforts by Ivar Jacobson, the creator of the OOSE method. Jacobson joined Rational in 1995, after his company, Objectory, was acquired by Rational. The three methodologists were collectively referred to as the Three Amigos, since they were well known to argue frequently with each other regarding methodological preferences.
In 1996 Rational concluded that the abundance of modeling languages was slowing the adoption of object technology, so repositioning the work on a Unified Method, they tasked the Three Amigos with the development of a non-proprietary Unified Modeling Language. Representatives of competing Object Technology companies were consulted during OOPSLA '96, and were won over by Rumbaugh's a cappella rendition of his version of Joni Mitchell's "Clouds". (Indicating the victory of his OMT notation of using boxes for representing classes over Grady Booch's Booch method's notation which used cloud symbols).
Under the technical leadership of the Three Amigos, an international consortium called the UML Partners was organized in 1996 to complete the Unified Modeling Language (UML) specification, and propose it as a response to the OMG RFP. The UML Partners' UML 1.0 specification draft was proposed to the OMG in January 1997. During the same month the UML Partners formed a Semantics Task Force, chaired by Cris Kobryn and administered by Ed Eykholt, to finalize the semantics of the specification and integrate it with other standardization efforts. The result of this work, UML 1.1, was submitted to the OMG in August 1997 and adopted by the OMG in November 1997.
As a modeling notation, the influence of the OMT notation dominates (e.g., using rectangles for classes and objects). Though the Booch "cloud" notation was dropped, the Booch capability to specify lower-level design detail was embraced. The use case notation from Objectory and the component notation from Booch were integrated with the rest of the notation, but the semantic integration was relatively weak in UML 1.1, and was not really fixed until the UML 2.0 major revision.
Concepts from many other OO methods were also loosely integrated with UML with the intent that UML would support all OO methods. For example CRC Cards (circa 1989 from Kent Beck and Ward Cunningham), and OORam were retained. Many others contributed too with their approaches flavoring the many models of the day including: Tony Wasserman and Peter Pircher with the "Object-Oriented Structured Design (OOSD)" notation (not a method), Ray Buhr's "Systems Design with Ada", Archie Bowen's use case and timing analysis, Paul Ward's data analysis and David Harel's "Statecharts". as the group tried to ensure broad coverage in the real-time systems domain. As a result, UML is useful in a variety of engineering problems, from single process, single user applications to concurrent, distributed systems, making UML rich but large.
The Unified Modeling Language is an international standard:
ISO/IEC 19501:2005 Information technology -- Open Distributed Processing -- Unified Modeling Language (UML) Version 1.4.2.
UML has matured significantly since UML 1.1. Several minor revisions (UML 1.3, 1.4, and 1.5) fixed shortcomings and bugs with the first version of UML, followed by the UML 2.0 major revision, which is the current OMG standard.
The first part of UML 2.0, the Superstructure which describes the new diagrams and modeling elements available, was adopted by the OMG in October 2004. Other parts of UML 2, notably the infrastructure, the Object Constraint Language (OCL) and the diagram interchange were yet to be completed and ratified as of November 2005.
The final UML 2.0 specification has been declared available and has been added to OMG's formal specification library. The other parts of the UML specification, the UML 2.0 infrastructure, the UML 2.0 Diagram Interchange, and UML 2.0 OCL specifications have been adopted.
UML version 2.1 revision is being developed, and should be available in the form of an XMI 2.1 version of the UML 2.1 version. The corresponding XMI 2.1 file will be made available from the OMG ADTF group.
Most of the commercially successful UML tools now support most of UML 2.0, leaving only the rarely used features left to implement. Of course, it will take some time for the tools that are in the hands of the developers to reach this level of compliance.