According to Peter Mattis and Spencer Kimball, the original creators of
GIMP, in their announcement of GIMP
The GIMP arose from the ashes of a hideously
crafted CS164 (compilers)
class project. The setting: early morning. We were both weary from lack
of sleep and the terrible strain of programming a compiler in
LISP. The limits of our patience had long been
exceeded, and yet still the dam held.
And then it happened. Common LISP
messily dumped core when it could not allocate the 17 MB it needed to
generate a parser for a simple grammar using yacc.
An unbelieving moment passed, there was one shared look of disgust,
and then our project was vapor. We had to write something...
ANYTHING ... useful. Something in
C. Something that did not rely on nested lists to
represent a bitmap. Thus, the GIMP was born.
Like the phoenix, glorious, new life sprung out of the burnt remnants of
LISP and yacc. Ideas went
flying, decisions were made, the
GIMP began to take form.
An image manipulation program was the consensus. A program that would at
the very least lessen the necessity of using commercial software under
“Windoze” or on the “Macintoy”. A program
that would provide the features missing from the other
X painting and imaging tools. A program
that would help maintain the long tradition of excellent and free
Six months later, we've reached an early beta stage. We want to release
now to start working on compatibility issues and cross-platform
stability. Also, we feel now that the program is actually usable and
would like to see other interested programmers developing plug-ins and
various file format support.