Computational Linguistics is the journal of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL). Its development reflects the evolution of its parent organization in form as well as substance. In 1965, the Association for Machine Translation and Computational Linguistics (AMTCL), which was to become the ACL in 1968, began its journal sponsorship by taking over a journal founded by Vic Yngve in 1954, MT: Mechanical Translation, and renaming it Mechanical Translation and Computational Linguistics. The last issue of AMTCL (dated 1968) was published in 1970, due to lack of sufficient subscriptions. In 1974 David Hays created a successor to AMTCL, the American Journal of Computational Linguistics (AJCL), with the goal of producing a print journal of extended abstracts supplemented by microfiches containing more detailed information about topics of interest. However, the National Science Foundation granted financial support to this project under the stipulation that the journal be published only in microfiche format, which constraint obtained until 1978, when it became clear that microfiche as a medium was not to become as ubiquitous and inexpensive as earlier predicted.
To expand potential readership, George Heidorn established the AJCL as a print journal, with the first issue appearing in 1980 and including microfiche as well. Since 1980, the journal has been published on a quarterly basis. AJCL was renamed Computational Linguistics in 1984 to reflect the ACL's desire to emphasize its international character. As James Allen, who succeeded Heidorn as editor in 1982, wrote in the January-March 1984 issue "...it was felt that a name change was long overdue. The ACL is an international organization, yet the journal retained a name that reflected its origins but was misleading." AJCL and CL were published by the ACL itself until 1988, when MIT Press took over the publication process. In 1991 the journal moved to a new format, discontinued publishing abstracts, and replaced its Technical Correspondence section with a "Squibs and Discussions" section to begin in 1992, to disseminate practical results of interest to the field. Julia Hirschberg succeeded Allen as editor-in-chief in 1993.
In addition to its editor-in-chief, AJCL/CL has benefited from the contributions of a number of editors: Don Walker served as Managing Editor of the journal from 1980 through 1993. Mike McCord (1980-88) and Bob Berwick (1989-97) served as Associate Editors. Lyn Bates was CL's first Books editor (1983-84), followed by Graeme Hirst, who remains in this position. The first Squibs and Discussions editors were James Pustejovsky and Bob Ingria (1992-95), succeeded by Pierre Isabelle, the current editor. The ACL's newsletter, The Finite String, was published in various formats but distributed with the journal until 1998, when it became available only on the ACL website. Subsequently the String was subsumed by the posting of information on that website and on the ACL Universe website. The String was edited by Ralph Weischedel from 1983 through 1995, and by Richard Sproat from 1995 to its demise. CL has also relied heavily upon an active editorial board, one-third of which rotates every year, to review papers and suggest outside reviewers.
CL currently publishes a mix of long and short papers, squibs, book reviews and book notices. Special issues appear on average once a year, and generally signal some newer topic area to the field. Special issues have appeared on "Ill-formed Input" (1983), "Mathematical properties of Grammatical Formalisms" (edited by Ray Perrault, 1984), "Machine Translation" (edited by Jonathan Slocum, 1985), "Tense and Aspect" (Bonnie Webber, 1988), "User Modeling" (Alfred Kobsa and Wolfgang Wahlster, 1988), "Inheritance" (Gerald Gazdar and Walter Daelemans, 1992), "Using Large Corpora" (Ken Church and Bob Mercer, 1993), "Computational Phonology" (Steven Bird, 1994), "Empirical Studies in Discourse" (Marilyn Walker and Johanna Moore, 1997), "Natural Language Generation" (Robert Dale, Barbara Di Eurgenio and Donia Scott, 1998), "Word Sense Disambiguation (Nancy Ide and Jean Veronis, 1998), "Finite State Methods in NLP" (Lauri Karttunen and Kemal Oflazer, 2000), "Computational Anaphora Resolution" (Ruslan Mitkov, Bran Boguraev, and Shalom Lappin, 2001), and "Summarization" (Dragomir Radev, Kathy McKeown, and Ed Hovy, 2002).
(Sources for this information include the journal itself as well as the written version of Don Walker's panel discussion from the ACL 1982 proceedings, "Reflections on Twenty Years of the ACL: An Introduction" (pp.89-91), available through this online anthology.)