The evolution of the ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) from its inception in early trials through to the current developments is reviewed. Strong emphasis is placed on the role of standards development in the development of the technology, as it is the opinion of the author that ATM could never have reached the status that it has today without the development effort put into the standards over the period between 1986 and 1992. The standards development process has also been a learning process. Technical differences seem to get resolved more quickly with more interaction at informal workshops. The creation of the ATM Forum has taken ATM one step closer to the end user. However, the standards community is aware of a need to improve its process, to develop standards that are less ambiguous and less subject to error, and to ensure interoperability of different networks and different vendor products. The author notes that over the next few years one will see major changes in these areas to improve the product of standards development.