PGP was developed by Phillip Zimmermann in 1991 to provide cryptographic privacy and authentication. After it’s initial release, it was enormously pouplar, spawning a government investigation when it spread beyond U.S. borders on the internet. Since it’s inception there have been several versions and it is by far one of the most popular cryptography tools.
The name “Pretty Good Privacy” was inspired by the name of the grocery store featured in radio host Garrison Keillor’s fictional town, Lake Wobegon. The grocery was “Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery”.
Zimmerman wanted people to be able to securely store files and communicate over BBS systems. The program originally wound up on UseNet before spreading to the internet, prompting a federal investigation of him in 1993 due to laws against exporting anything that used more than 40bit cryptography. He even wound up testifying before Congress. Eventually the case was closed and no charges were ever filed. PGP’s life has been one of controversy, having gone through a string of patent and liscencing issues as well as several acquisitions of the company Zimmerman started in 1996. Today the program is still in use, especially in the areas of email and file encryption.