We describe in detail the instrumentation and calibrations used in the Atmospheric Lifetime Experiment (ALE), the Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (GAGE), and the Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE) and present a history of the majority of the anthropogenic ozone-depleting and climate-forcing gases in air based on these experiments. Beginning in 1978, these three successive automated high-frequency in situ experiments have documented the long-term behavior of the measured concentrations of these gases over the past 20 years, and show both the evolution of latitudinal gradients and the high-frequency variability due to sources and circulation. We provide estimates of the long-term trends in total chlorine contained in long-lived halocarbons involved in ozone depletion. We summarize interpretations of these measurements using inverse methods to determine trace gas lifetimes and emissions. Finally, we provide a combined observational and modeled reconstruction of the evolution of chlorocarbons by latitude in the atmosphere over the past 60 years which can be used as boundary conditions for interpreting trapped air in glaciers and oceanic measurements of chlorocarbon tracers of the deep oceanic circulation. Some specific conclusions are as follows: (1) International compliance with the Montreal Protocol is so far resulting in chlorofluorocarbon and chlorocarbon mole fractions comparable to target levels; (2) mole fractions of total chlorine contained in long-lived halocarbons (CCl2F2, CCl3F, CH3CCl3, CCl4, CHClF2, CCl2FCClF2, CH3Cl, CH2Cl2, CHCl3, CCl2=CCl2) in the lower troposphere reached maximum values of about 3.6 ppb in 1993 and are beginning to slowly decrease in the global lower atmosphere; (3) the chlorofluorocarbons have atmospheric lifetimes consistent with destruction in the stratosphere being their principal removal mechanism; (4) multiannual variations in chlorofluorocarbon and chlorocarbon emissions deduced from ALE/GAGE/AGAGE data are consistent approximately with variations estimated independently from industrial production and sales data where available (CCl2F2 (CFC-12) and CCl2FCClF2 (CFC-113) show the greatest discrepancies); (5) the mole fractions of the hydrochlorofluorocarbons and hydrofluorocarbons, which are replacing the regulated halocarbons, are rising very rapidly in the atmosphere, but with the exception of the much longer manufactured CHClF2 (HCFC-22), they are not yet at levels sufficient to contribute significantly to atmospheric chlorine loading. These replacement species could in the future provide independent estimates of the global weighted-average OH concentration provided their industrial emissions are accurately documented; (6) in the future, analysis of pollution events measured using high-frequency in situ measurements of chlorofluorocarbons and their replacements may enable emission estimates at the regional level, which, together with industrial end-use data, are of sufficient accuracy to be capable of identifying regional noncompliance with the Montreal Protocol.