The understanding, prediction and prevention of brake squeal is a difficult and challenging problem because of the large number of design variables involved in a complex brake system and many operational and environmental conditions under which squeal may occur. The design variables may have different optimal values and different contribution trends for different brake systems. Since the 1930's, much progress has been made in gaining physical insight into brake squeal mechanisms and causes, and brakes have become quieter. However, the recurring occurrence of disc brake squeal indicates that our understanding of the phenomenon is both insufficient and incomplete, and that brake squeal is still a quality issue in the automotive industry and its prevention is far from reality. Part I of this series of articles first reviews the various hypotheses put forth for brake squeal mechanisms and causes. Subsequently, it discusses some refined thoughts, and new results obtained from recently developed test/analysis methods by which the unified hypotheses are proposed.