When did the first data quality issue occur? Wikipedia says in the data quality article section titled history that it began with the mainframe computer in the United States of America.
Fellow data quality blogger Steve Sarsfield made a blog post a few years ago called A Brief History of Data Quality where it is said “Believe it or not, the concept of data quality has been touted as important since the beginning of the relational database”.
However, a predominant sentiment in the data quality realm is that data quality is not about technology. It is about people. People are the sinners of data quality flaws and as the main part of the problem people should also be the overwhelming part, if not the only part, of the solution.
So I guess data quality challenges were introduced when people showed up in the real world. How and when that happened is a matter of discussion as discussed in the blog post Out of Africa.
As explained in the post Movable Types the invention of movable types in printing some hundreds of years ago (the most important invention since someone invented the wheel for the first time) made a big boost in knowledge sharing among people – and also a big boost in data and information quality issues.
But I think the saying “To err is human, but to really foul things up you need a computer” is valid. Consequently I also think you may need a computer to help with cleaning up the mess and to prevent the mess from happening again. End of (hi)story.