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Phillip Katz, Inventor of ZIP File Format, Dies

By rcade in News
Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 06:18:40 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

Phillip W. Katz, the inventor of the ZIP file archival format and a shareware pioneer with his company PKWare, has died at age 37, according to Dr. Dobb's Journal and a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel obit.


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Phillip Katz, Inventor of ZIP File Format, Dies | 29 comments (29 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
I'm not interested in such morbid s... (1.00 / 2) (#3)
by bmetzler on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 03:33:21 PM EST

bmetzler voted -1 on this story.

I'm not interested in such morbid stories...
www.bmetzler.org - it's not just a personal weblog, it's so much more.

Too bad. Anyone know why he died?... (2.00 / 1) (#6)
by Strider on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 03:52:03 PM EST

Strider voted 1 on this story.

Too bad. Anyone know why he died?
"it's like having gravity suddenly replaced by cheez-whiz" - rusty

Wow... 37 is young. This is too bad... (2.50 / 2) (#4)
by Emacs on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 04:11:13 PM EST

Emacs voted 1 on this story.

Wow... 37 is young. This is too bad, It always saddens me when someone passes away who has made a big contribution to the industry. How many millions of people have used a zip file? This reminded me of when Richard Stevens passed away last fall at only 49. I had just purchsed and fallen in love with one of his books and was shocked to hear that he had passed away.

Okay, I'm in shock. I still remembe... (4.00 / 1) (#7)
by analog on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 04:22:30 PM EST

analog voted 1 on this story.

Okay, I'm in shock. I still remember the whole fight that resulted in the zip file format; perhaps we should formally recognize Phil Katz as someone who Did The Right Thing. We'd all be a lot better off if more people/companies followed his lead (*cough*Unisys*cough*).

Umm. ... (2.00 / 1) (#10)
by Paradox on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 04:28:30 PM EST

Paradox voted -1 on this story.

Umm. Sorry he died. But who cares? He shall live on through zip :) He has become far more powerful than we can possibly imagine.
Dave "Paradox" Fayram

print print join q( ), split(q,q,,reverse qq;#qsti
qq)\;qlre;.q.pqevolqiqdog.);#1 reason to grin at Perl
print "\n";

37-- that's a damn shame. No one sh... (3.00 / 1) (#1)
by rusty on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 04:42:12 PM EST

rusty voted 0 on this story.

37-- that's a damn shame. No one should die that young. Does anyone else have any info about what happened?

Not the real rusty

Re: 37-- that's a damn shame. No one sh... (none / 0) (#27)
by soulhuntre on Mon Apr 24, 2000 at 12:12:27 AM EST

What happened was he drank himself to death. He had been having trouble for years... alchoholism and an apparent inability to care for himself.

I have no idea why he was the way he was, but the cause of death is no mystery.


[ Parent ]
Re: 37-- that's a damn shame. No one sh... (none / 0) (#28)
by rusty on Mon Apr 24, 2000 at 01:03:21 AM EST

At the time we ran this story, the sleazy details hadn't come out yet (see my other comment about the rest of the media's handling of this story). Now that the facts are known, it's even more of a shame. I just pray that Jon Katz doesn't write an article about this (and subsequent book, media tour etc etc etc). That might drive *me* to alcoholism too.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Again I like the title and topic of... (2.00 / 1) (#11)
by ishbak on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 05:32:59 PM EST

ishbak voted -1 on this story.

Again I like the title and topic of the article... but it's not in a format to start discussion... I would like to see it reposted in a more discussion worthy format.

It was posted anyway, so you'd better discuss it. (2.00 / 1) (#12)
by fluffy grue on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 11:42:59 PM EST

I am so sick of seeing all this whining in the voting stage about how [insert story here] isn't as implicitly discussable as it could be, and then when it does get posted, nobody discusses! What is WRONG with you people? Do you really need a single-minded specific direction to discuss in? WHY CAN'T YOU JUST DISCUSS BASED ON THE STORY?!

I am not singling you out personally. It's just that yours is the most readily-available comment on this regard to me at the moment, and is the straw which broke the grue's back. I have seen quite a bit of bitching the last few days/weeks about how such-and-such article doesn't lend itself to discussion.

Phil Katz died. I won't say he was a pioneer in compression technology or shareware because he wasn't. I will say, however, that PKZip was probably the killer app for modems for many people, because it enabled them to efficiently download more content in less time on the same connections, as well as being able to store entire directory structures and making a VERY good backup medium for floppies and the like. It was also incredible how he never made it mandatory for people to register PKZip, and as far as I can tell he never enforced his patents (given how infozip is still around and all that). PKZip was the first program to challenge the general notion that people only programmed on the PC for the sake of getting money. It is very sad to hear of his passing, and I feel for his family.

"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

now now... (none / 0) (#16)
by rusty on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 03:17:29 PM EST

Serenity Haiku:

"I am like teflon:
tilt slightly; icky bits of
fried egg slide right off."

I agree with you about too many "not discussable" comments, but you'll notice that they haven't yet stopped a good story from getting posted. Ignore the noise, and pay attention to the action. :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: now now... (none / 0) (#17)
by fluffy grue on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 04:14:43 PM EST

Nice haiku. However, I think that a lot more people would be discussing if they spent more time thinking of stuff to discuss and less time whining about they mythical "link propagation" as an excuse to not discuss it.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: now now... (none / 0) (#18)
by rusty on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 04:44:41 PM EST

"Lead by example.
When everyone's eating bugs,
be the first not to."

I don't know what's wrong with me today... :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: now now... (none / 0) (#19)
by fluffy grue on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 05:24:59 PM EST

Rusty thinks that
People won't pay attention to
Fluffy Grue's bitching

Whatever the people do,
they will not think
"She is not bitching, I won't!"

Rusty, get a grip
Japanese haiku sonnet
in English won't work.

Incidentally, the Japanese do use haiku (or, when necessary, a sonnet as above - haiku-tanaka-haiku) to convey ordinances and the like, because in Japanese, the 5-7-5 (or 5-7-5/7-5-7/5-7-5) pattern has a very strong effect because of the very rhythmic and melodic nature of the language. English, however, is neither rhythmic nor melodic, and so,

Silly rabbit-chan,
English haiku doesn't work!
They are just for kids.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: now now... (none / 0) (#20)
by fluffy grue on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 05:27:42 PM EST

Wow, I dunno what I was thinking with the first haiku in the sonnet. It still works out to 12 syllables between the first two lines, though. Maybe what I meant was:

Rusty does think that
They won't pay attention to
Fluffy Grue's bitching

My point, such as it is, still stands though. :)
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: now now... (none / 0) (#21)
by rongen on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 05:32:08 PM EST

Wow, all hail the haiku master! :)

Despite your jedi-like eloquence today I have to take issue with this: "Lead by example"...

The problem is if one reads a story, decides there is nothing (for you) worth discussing, and moves on, there is no example to lead with (well there is in that the story receives fewer comments). By throwing in "there is nothing to discuss here" the posters are voicing their _lack of opinion_. Most people could get through the day without this, I think!

Also, despite my forgiving nature, I am going to throw in with grue here and say that the "no opinion" posts bug me too (I am only saying this because there's a thread going on it now---it's not targeted at the original poster).

Having said that, I also believe that forums like this are here for all and there is no restriction imposed by the forum's creator and sometime moderator, Rusty, against saying "I have no opinion". Okay, I would like it if people stopped posting this sort of non-comment, but I am not willing to stop coming here because of it.

Just wanted to say my piece...
read/write http://www.prosebush.com
[ Parent ]

At age 37? What of?... (3.00 / 1) (#9)
by Velian on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 05:56:11 PM EST

Velian voted 1 on this story.

At age 37? What of?

Sad, but not much meat for discussi... (1.00 / 2) (#5)
by henrik on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 06:11:39 PM EST

henrik voted -1 on this story.

Sad, but not much meat for discussion.

Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!

big deal!... (1.00 / 1) (#2)
by JDogg on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 06:13:44 PM EST

JDogg voted -1 on this story.

big deal!

***It's like I'm Han Solo, you're Chewie, he's Ben Kenobi and we're in that FUCKED-UP BAR!!!***
-- Jay from Dogma

While I'd like it if the article wa... (1.00 / 1) (#8)
by mike on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 06:13:53 PM EST

mike voted 1 on this story.

While I'd like it if the article was a bit longer, that's something that I found interesting
. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Important historical figure.. (4.50 / 2) (#13)
by Inoshiro on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 05:20:57 AM EST

This man.. was important. He was one of the first software writers from the PC and DOS camp to really change things in a big way.

The background: it is the late 1980s. Fidonet (tm)(r)(c) is slowly growning into the good thing it would become before in-fighting, turf wars, and the final Policy rang the death knell for the fine system. A company, System Enchancement Associates (SEA), had a new product in the form of the ARC compression program. Phil Katz of PKWARE made one that worked faster.. then he modified it so you could compress further, at the expense of compatibility. SEA, not liking how he was out engineering them, sued.

Dumb copyright lawsuit, hell yes. And Phil fought them every step of the way. For more details, read archived fidonews (look for the string "Will ZIP Replace ARC?").

For those of you bitching about the lack of write up, etc, etc.. Would you also complain so strongly if "Linus Torvalds died today" was posted? So there's no write up .. it is something that matters to the culture. Something some of you post-BBS people miss. :-/

[ イノシロ ]
www.pkware.com says nothing about it (3.00 / 1) (#14)
by Xnormal on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 05:32:25 AM EST

Don't you find it strange?

Some company web sites have worderful memorial pages for employees that died. I find it very sad that this is often the only part of the entire website that sounds like it was written by a human being rather than a marketing droid.

Read the Cluetrain Manifesto

Re: Phillip Katz, Inventor of ZIP File Format, Die (4.00 / 2) (#15)
by rcade on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 01:51:24 PM EST

The main reason I submitted this news item is because Phillip Katz was a well-known pioneer in the '80s, when shareware was getting started and bulletin board systems were popular.

When Katz introduced ZIP, he made the file format public domain to encourage others to adopt the file compression and archival format. There was a lucrative proprietary advantage to keeping the rights to the format, but Katz gave that up for the mutual benefit of all developers and users. His decision turned out to be one of his legacies, because the ZIP format is enormously popular today.

I could have put more of this in the article submission, but the discussion possibilities of this news seemed self-evident to me -- an important contributor to software development has died.

One thing that I'd like to see debated: Why isn't ZIP archival built into Windows by now? It's a lot closer to an OS feature than 90 percent of what Microsoft has added over the years.

SEA, ARC, and P.K.'s ZIP (none / 0) (#22)
by kmself on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 11:00:22 PM EST

Phil Katz in his own quiet way fomented a revolution back when "web" was spelled "BBS" by most folks.

The leading archival/compression utility at the time -- and compressing the hell out of data when 9600 - 1400 baud modems were the DSL/ISDN equivalents of the day, and really big sites had dedicated 56k leased lines -- was SEA's ARC software, which produced a file with the extension ".ARC" (good ole' DOS 8.3 filenames). When Phil released his first compression program, PKArc (Phil Katz's ARC), he borrowed both the name and extension from SEA. SEA retaliated with, IIRC, a trademark suit.

Undeterred, Phil renamed his utility first PKPack, then PKZIP, and changed the extension name to ".ZIP". Then something interesting happend.

Remember SEA? They continued asserting their trademarks. SYSOPS -- the guys who lived and died on compressability -- started converting their ARC files to ZIPs. One by one, individual initiative. No big organized ruckus. But in the space of about six months, ZIP had completely supplanted ARC. SEA sold its ARC product to a Japanese firm in 1992. A current search for SEA at its last known address, Clifton Ave., Clifton, NJ, comes up empty.

Phil showed early how freer was better, though PKZIP was shareware, and was neither strictly free of charge nor open source. However, it was a more open, less restrictive standard, and it clobbered the (initally) much bigger competition.

Thank you, Phil, and God bless your family.

Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Re: Phillip Katz, Inventor of ZIP File Format, Die (none / 0) (#30)
by lmarsden on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 11:40:44 AM EST

Bite your tongue, don't give those bozos at Microsloth any ideas. They are just liable to do that, and then in typical 'Dark Side' fashion, introduce some subtle 'enhancement' to make it only usable on one of their OS's......(Just look at the little kerberos- Win2k mess they are creating). Besides then Winzip and friends would be out of business...

[ Parent ]
Re: Phillip Katz, Inventor of ZIP File Format, Die (none / 0) (#23)
by shinybeast on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 11:35:11 PM EST

I was sorry to hear of Mr. Katz's death. He was the pioneer who made freeware compression available to the masses. Without him, my 1200 baud modem days would have been weeks... The sad truth is that Phillip Katz died in a motel room with a liquor bottle in his hand. I snooped around on the web and discovered that he had at least seven warrants out for his arrest, all of them DUI-related. You can read the warrants here: http://www.co.ozaukee.wi.us/Sheriff/MostWanted.htm RIP, Phillip Katz.

DDJ article mistake (none / 0) (#26)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 08:31:10 PM EST

The DDJ article says he's a graduate of UW-Madison, but the Milwaukee paper
lists him as a graduate of UWM, which is actually UW-Milwaukee.

Re: Phillip Katz, Inventor of ZIP File Format, Die (none / 0) (#29)
by rusty on Mon Apr 24, 2000 at 06:42:11 PM EST

Sure is nice to see the heartwarming coverage of this in the rest of the media.
Story: "Freeware pioneer dies at 37"? Naah, who cares about that?
Story: "Freeware pioneer dead of alcoholism and waist deep in garbage and arrest warrants"? Hey! Now *that's* a story! Once again reaffirming my faith in the media.

References: ABC News, Everybod y's pal Roblimo.

Sorry about the high bitterness content of this comment. It's just disturbing to see this suddenly become "news" when there's a sleazy story involved. Blech.

Not the real rusty

Re: Nice to see... (none / 0) (#25)
by rcade on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 05:02:05 PM EST

No kidding. I submitted this Kuro5hin item to Slashdot in largely the same form on Friday and it was declined. I even sent an e-mail to Rob Malda to make sure he was aware of the news. Katz didn't become "news for nerds" until details about his alcoholism were reported, and that's a sad statement on how far /. has sunk.
[ Parent ]
Phillip Katz, Inventor of ZIP File Format, Dies | 29 comments (29 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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