Since my configure scripts determine the system's capabilities
automatically, with no interactive user intervention, I decided to call
the program that generates them Autoconfig. But with a version number
tacked on, that name would be too long for old Unix file systems,
so I shortened it to Autoconf.
In the fall of 1991 I called together a group of fellow questers after
the Holy Grail of portability (er, that is, alpha testers) to give me
feedback as I encapsulated pieces of my handwritten scripts in M4 macros
and continued to add features and improve the techniques used in the
checks. Prominent among the testers were Fran�ois Pinard, who came up
with the idea of making an Autoconf shell script to run M4
and check for unresolved macro calls; Richard Pixley, who suggested
running the compiler instead of searching the file system to find
include files and symbols, for more accurate results; Karl Berry, who
got Autoconf to configure TeX and added the macro index to the
documentation; and Ian Lance Taylor, who added support for creating a C
header file as an alternative to putting -D options in a
makefile, so he could use Autoconf for his UUCP package.
The alpha testers cheerfully adjusted their files again and again as the
names and calling conventions of the Autoconf macros changed from
release to release. They all contributed many specific checks, great
ideas, and bug fixes.