Back in 1996, Daniel Stenberg was writing an IRC bot in his spare time, an automated program that would offer services for the participants in a chatroom dedicated to the Amiga computer (#amiga on the IRC network EFnet). He came to think that it would be fun to get some updated currency rates and have his bot offer a service online for the chat room users to get current exchange rates, to ask the bot "please exchange 200 USD into SEK" or similar.
In order to have the provided exchange rates as accurate as possible, the bot would download the rates daily from a web site that was hosting them. A small tool to download data over HTTP was needed for this task. A quick look-around at the time had Daniel find a tiny tool named httpget (written by the Brazilian developer Rafael Sagula). It did the job, almost, just needed a few little tweaks here and there.
Rafael released HttpGet 0.1 on November 11, 1996 and already in the next release, called 0.2 released in December that year, Daniel had his first changes included. Soon after that, Daniel had taken over maintenance of the few hundred lines of code it was.
HttpGet 1.0 was subsequently released on April 8th 1997 with brand new HTTP proxy support.
We soon found and fixed support for getting currencies over GOPHER. Once FTP download support was added, the name of the project was changed and urlget 2.0 was released in August 1997. The http-only days were already passed.
The project slowly grew bigger. When upload capabilities were added and the name once again was misleading, a second name change was made and on March 20, 1998 curl 4 was released. (The version numbering from the previous names was kept.)
We consider March 20 1998 to be curl's birthday.