It was first created in 1999 under the name TIP (TIP isn't Pico) by Chris Allegretta. His motivation was to create a free software replacement for Pico, since neither it nor Pine were distributed under a free software license. The name was officially changed to Nano on January 10, 2000 because of a name conflict with another Unix program. In February, 2001, Nano became an official part of the GNU project.
See also:The GNU Nano Homepage