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The open, patent-free, extensible Executable and Linkable Format (ELF) first appeared in UNIX System V around 1997; in that same year, the 86open project was convocated (that original document seems to have been lost, but I have archived it).

The DWARF specification for debugging data was developed alongside and in reference to ELF, but is independent of object file formats (subject to certain minimal requirements).

See also