Where'd it come from?
To combat its smog problem in the LA basin, the State of California started requiring emission control systems on 1966 model cars. The federal government extended these controls nationwide in 1968.
Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1970 and established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This started a series of graduated emission standards and requirements for maintenance of vehicles for extended periods of time. To meet these standards, manufacturers turned to electronically controlled fuel feed and ignition systems. Sensors measured engine performance and adjusted the systems to provide minimum pollution. These sensors were also accessed to provide early diagnostic assistance.
At first there were few standards and each manufacturer had their own systems and signals. In 1988, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) set a standard connector plug and set of diagnostic test signals. The EPA adapted most of their standards from the SAE on-board diagnostic programs and recommendations. OBD-II is an expanded set of standards and practices developed by SAE and adopted by the EPA and CARB (California Air Resources Board) for implementation by January 1, 1996.