Almost all manufacturers of video terminals added vendor-specific escape sequences to perform operations such as placing the cursor at arbitrary positions on the screen. One example is the VT52 terminal, which allowed the cursor to be placed at an x,y location on the screen by sending the ESC character, a y character, and then two characters representing with numerical values equal to the x,y location plus 32 (thus starting at the ASCII space character and avoiding the control characters).
As these sequences were different for different platforms, elaborate libraries such as termcap had to be created so programs could use the same API to work with any terminal. Most of these systems required sending numbers (such as row and column) as the binary values of the characters; for some programming languages, and for systems that did not use ASCII internally, it was often difficult or impossible to turn a number into the correct character.
The ANSI standard attempted to address these problems by making a command set that all terminals would use and requiring all numeric information to be transmitted as ASCII numbers. The first standard in the series was ECMA-48, adopted in 1976. It was a continuation of a series of character coding standards, the first one being ECMA-6 from 1965, a 7-bit standard from which ISO 646 originates. The name “ANSI escape sequence” dates from 1979 when ANSI adopted ANSI X3.64. The ANSI X3L2 committee collaborated with the ECMA committee TC 1 to produce nearly identical standards. These two standards were merged into an international standard, ISO 6429. In 1994, ANSI withdrew its standard in favor of the international standard.
The first popular video terminal to support these sequences was the Digital VT100, introduced in 1978. This model was very successful in the market, which sparked a variety of VT100 clones, among the earliest and most popular of which was the much more affordable Zenith Z-19 in 1979. Others included the Qume QVT-108, Televideo TVI-970, Wyse WY-99GT as well as optional “VT100” or “VT103” or “ANSI” modes with varying degrees of compatibility on many other brands. The popularity of these gradually led to more and more software (especially bulletin board systems) assuming the escape sequences worked, leading to almost all new terminals and emulator programs supporting them.
In 1981, ANSI X3.64 was adopted for use in the US government by FIPS publication 86. Later, the US government stopped duplicating industry standards, so FIPS pub. 86 was withdrawn.
ECMA-48 has been updated several times and is currently at its 5th edition, from 1991. It is also adopted by ISO and IEC as standard ISO/IEC 6429. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ANSI_escape_code