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Phillip W. Katz, Creator Of PKZIP, Dead At 37

Roblimo posted more than 13 years ago | from the another-tragedy dept.

News 263

Danborg writes "ABCNEWS has the story. Evidently Mr. Katz died of complications from chronic alcoholism. A sad end to a true pioneer in the field of data compression. Who doesn't remember converting all their files to .zip format back in the BBS days?" The fact of his death has been out for awhile, but its circumstances only came to our attention yesterday (through *many* submissions). Genius and tragedy are too often linked.

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Wrong Katz! (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1116020)

I just read "Katz" and "dead" and got all excited.

Then it turned out it was somebody cool.


1st post (1)

nadim (83776) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116021)

I still use pkzip and pkunzip over winzip, his death is very tragic :(

Sad (1)

RyanAXP (60761) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116022)

I have based many open source projects on libraries implementing his format.

Rest In Peace, Man (1)

Blue Lang (13117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116023)

It always sucks to lose a true hacker.



My condolences... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1116024)

To his family and those close to him,.. untimely death is always terribly unfortunate whether is someone we all know or someone you have never heard of....


Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1116025)

Subject says it all.

Would like to know the rest of the story (3)

FullaDumbAnswers (172686) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116026)

Judging by success of ZIP clones like WinZip, seemed like PKWare fell behind and was no longer profiting from its algorithm. I'm sadly curious to know the rest of the story ... was the company failing, did that drive him to drink? :(


PK vs. SEA controversy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1116027)

I seem to recall there was a bit of a row over control the ARC and PAK file formats that led to the creation of PKZIP.

A sad end and condolences (2)

Saxifrage (111109) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116028)

That's truly saddening, to know that someone so ... hmm, important, really, should die at such a tragic end. And so YOUNG! 37 is hardly old enough to even say that he lived a good life. No one's ever old enough to die, but some are simply younger than others.

My condolences go out to his family, his friends, everyone that ever used the wonderful software, and in fact the world in general. It's sad to mourn the passing of anyone who pioneers anything, but sadder still when that very pioneer dies young.

We each give up something in exchange for fame, if we want it, and that's something that he, clearly, gave up: A long life. We'll be the lesser without him.

"I may disagree vehemently with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it."

Thanks, Phillip. (2)

Pinball Wizard (161942) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116029)

The first two application programs I ever used were pkunzip and doom. I had just bought my first computer and someone in school gave me both on floppy.

Since I used pkunzip to extract doom, that makes it the first program I ever used. It was a regular partner back in the days of DOS games.

Thanks, Phillip.

Ahh the good ole days! (3)

TunaPhish (81577) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116030)

Is anyone else with me when I say that I STILL USE command line pkzip?? I am so used to typing pkunzip -d!

I am proud to say that I have NEVER EVER installed WinZIP on my computer! I tried using it on someone else's computer a while ago, and all those buttons got in the way. I still have my original PK204GRG.EXE file from five years ago. It is ALWAYS extracted in my \windows\command directory. Unfortunately, tho, it couldn't handle long file names... PKZIP 2.5 COMMAND LINE to the rescue!!! But, since I am so used to pkunzip.exe, I made myself a pkunzip.bat file that says: "pkzip25 -extract -dir %1 %2 %3 %4 %5 %6 %7 %8 %9"

PKware will never die! :) :)

Re:bummer (3)

Pxtl (151020) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116031)

Amen. Its quite tragic that someone who gave something that became so integral to the industry is still going to be a relatively obscure death. I mean, I can think of a lot of actors who's deaths have made more waves then this, and yet what importance were they, really? I mean, I know pkzip isn't like the holy grail of technology or anything, but still, even windozers know what zip is.

If Lord Linus died tomorrow, who would care but us? Meanwhile, David Hasselhoff would make front page. What a media-obsessed culture.

Katz dead :( (1)

craigske (106369) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116032)

Reminds me of the story of Alan Turing's life. Strange how grreat thinkers often have so much trouble managing their lives. I wonder sometimes if ignorance really is bliss. Either way, hats off to a true trailblazer.
Ps. Wonder if we could get the reply form to function like vi?

Gone are the days... (5)

zpengo (99887) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116033)

Oh, the memories...

I used to go down to the local computer store, which had bins and bins of the latest shareware, all on precious 5 1/4 disks. Each one held some sort of magic that would transform my XT with Hercules graphics into a completely absorbing experience.

Video games, clones of major applications, dinky little Pascal compilers, my first version of Spacewar....

But there was a key to all of that magic. Back then, there were no auto-installing CDs. There was no "setup.exe" There would just be a single file, with that ever-familiar extension: ".ZIP"

I had been on the scene long enough to know what was up, so I not only had PKZIP/PKUNZIP installed on my 4 meg harddrive, but I even had it in the PATH.

A few keystrokes later, the magic was unlocked.

We don't know how much we owe to this great man. I genuinely mourn his passing.

How was the algorithm licensed? (1)

Booker (6173) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116034)

Did WinZip have to pay a license for the "zip" algorithm? Or was it open, or reverse engineered? How did PKWare lose out after creating such a ubiquitous algorithm?


37 (4)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116035)

So many celebrities, poets, actors, revolutionaries, wariers, politicians etc have died on 33 and 37, I tell you, if you pass 37 you'll probably live a long life.

(to those of us who remember Vladimir Visotskiy) Na zifre 37, kovaren bog, rebrom vopros postavil: ili, ili
Na etom rubeje legli i Bairon i Rembo a nineshnie kak-to proskochili...

Did Phillip Katz -really- invent ZIP? (1)

Yu Suzuki (170586) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116036)

According to this page [] , the creator died back in 1999. It sounds like the credit could be in dispute here. Can anyone from the Slashdot staff comment on this development? I'd like to get some facts here before we have another misattribution like the GNU / Linux fiasco, where Richard Stallman actually wrote Linux.

Yu Suzuki

So does anyone know anything more about him (3)

Phallus (54388) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116037)

I had a quick search, and couldn't find anything on the net about Katz. I was wondering if there's anything to indicate why. Did he have a wife? Did he get along with his family. He was a reasonably successful man, reading the article, and one would think there'd be some reason for him to drink himself to death.

And hooray for PKZip. One assumes compression for the masses would have arrived soon, but I don't think computing would have been quite the same without PKZip.

tangent - art and creation are a higher purpose

Winzip (1)

laptop006 (37721) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116038)

When I do use zip (I usually use RAR) I use winzip, but it's still important to note that whatever unzipper or zipper you use it still has that great man's code in it, and you can bet that when Linus dies (hopefully not for many many years), or even Bill Gates (Don't flame me) there will be a much larger mourning amoung the worlwide community, but most peoples work is most often not appriciated until a few (sometimes hundreds of) years after they have died.

Phillip W. Katz,
From the open source community.
Laptop006 (RHCE: That means I know what I'm talking about!)
Melbourne, Australia

Sad day.... (1)

maelstrom (638) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116039)


Brings back fond memories of my youth, wasting away in front of the DOS command prompt. I still remember my first BBS download, From the moment my eyes spotted the games file board, I was an addict. Took me awhile to figure out the differences between X, Y and Z modem, but I got the damn thing downloaded. Of course it took me another couple of hours before I figured out what a ZIP file was and how to deal with it. Luckily, the old hands were kind enough to show a punk kid the ropes. I felt so indebted that eventually I had to give something back in return. I started my own BBS. :)

I must say PKZIP was one of the most reliable programs I've ever used. I don't recall it ever segfaulting, or losing any of my compressed data. It even ran quickly on my 386.

PKZIP 2.04G will probably always have a reserved place on my hard drives, even now that I've moved to Linux.

As an aside, anyone out there from Fidonet 4:920? I was the SysOP of the Razor's Edge BBS back in the day (4:920/35).

*sigh* (5)

Seumas (6865) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116040)

This is the first I've heard of his death and I have to say that it really makes me feel sad. I'm not aware of much that he's done outside of PKZIP, but I sure remember using ZIP for everything online (especially when a 2400 baud modem was considered fast and a zipped file could half your online time).

Huffman, Postel, Stevens . . . Now P.W. Katz. I feel guilty for not ever considering any of these people beyond what their program does or does not do for me -- or how I benefitted from their books, until after their death. To think that while we're all out there unzipping our latest copy of the Jargon file or stashing a bunch of porn in a password protected ZIP file, this guy was suffering a serious problem which eventually took his life at the age of *thirty-seven*.

I'm only 22. I spend all my time working at a desk. I haven't been in-shape for almost six years. I could be next. I could be next and I haven't offered a damn thing to the computer or internet community. These people -- and many others, have.

I hope that we'll remember these things in subsequent posts in reply to this article. The last thing we need is another disgustingly barbaric replay of the posts we saw when W. Richard Stevens died.

I hope you have peace, Phillip.

W. Richard Stevens Slashdot Article []
W. Richard Stevens Home Page []
David Huffman Slashdot Article []
Jon Postel Slashdot Article []
Jon Postel's Home Page []


Absent-minded professors (1)

MeowChow (161763) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116041)

From the ABC News article:

"In early days, compression was all done with software because there was no hardware to do this stuff," said computer science professor Leonard Levine at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. "So Katz put together a program called PKZip, the Phil Katz zip program."

"Early days" is of course in contrast to modern times, now that we all have Winzip PCI cards doing "hardware" compression. Or did the esteemed professor perhaps mean that PKZip was actually hardware? Either way...

Fame, Fortune and Obscurity (3)

zombiechick (160889) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116042)

Every hear the song "Closet Chronicles" by Kansas? Our society values us by what we "contribute", how attractive we are... Many things which are meaningless in the end. If we live long enough to decay, if we cease to "contribute" then we are forgotten.

We all come into this world precious, priceless.

We leave it the same way. None of us has any more value, no one has any less.

I have used the fruit of Phil's labor for many years, and I am greatful for his hard work.

My symapthies to his family and friends.


Re:How was the algorithm licensed? (2)

Pathwalker (103) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116043)

Well, from this [] link, it looks like PKware was competing against winzip.

Reading the documentation for WinZip, I come across this line:
WinZip incorporates compression code by the Info-ZIP group, which is used with their permission.

This seems to indicate to me that WinZip didn't licence anything from PKware.

JKZip (3)

PovRayMan (31900) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116044)

JKZip, AKA Jon Katz Zip


- Compression methods to suppress massive ammounts of text and binaries of anti Jon Katz propaganda.

- Can create self extractable exe's that include past articles written by Jon Katz as the data is decompressed.

JKZip is available online as shareware. Everytime you run JKZip, an notice will appear that you have no registered and will be forced to read a Jon Katz article. If you wish to register JKZip, the cost is easily done by 4 easy payments of $19.95. If you order now, you'll get a free copy of Voices from the Hellmouth.

My Number (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116045)


Re:Wrong Katz! (3)

Nessak (9218) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116046)

That is really tasteless. You may not like the Jon Katz who writes/posts for slashdot, but to get excited over his possible death is horrible. Regardless of what you think of this writing, he is still another human. I don't understand why this comment was moderated up. Death is not funny, it's sad. To enjoy the death of another is simply wrong.

Re:Did Phillip Katz -really- invent ZIP? (1)

Vishal (29839) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116047)

Why is this obvious troll moderated to "interesting"?

Re:Sad day.... (1)

Greyice (55174) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116048)

Razor's Edge BBS!!!

I'm greyice, still have my handle and yes I remember you!

[bad joke] You do know I heard they buried him in a coffin 0.45 percent smaller..... [end bad joke]

A sad day for the old schoolers....

Re:How many people here registered pkzip? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1116049)

i didn't either.

do you think it would be appropriate to register
now, and contribute the check to his estate?

Re:Wrong Katz! (2)

AndyL (89715) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116050)

It's possible to make a joke about death without actualy wishing death on the but of the joke.

You have to rely on the reader's sense of humor to pick up on this.

Mention in Dr. Dobb's Journal (2)

Pathwalker (103) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116051)

There's a quick mention on the Dr. Dobb's Journal webpage here [] .
That's where I first heard about it.

I remember well the first time I encountered pkzip.
I was so amazed at how much smaller it could make things than arc.
I remember feeling vaguly disappointed when, being over optimistic in the power of that mighty software I tried re-zipping a file over and over trying to get it down to fit on a 360 k disk :-)
I was still impressed even after I failed.

It was rather shocking to hear of his death.

What a waste.. (4)

Bowie J. Poag (16898) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116052)

According to the article, this guy lived in a luxury condo filled waist-high with rotting food and garbage, infested with insects and mice..Found dead in a hotel room with 5 empty bottles of booze at the age of 37.

An absolute and total waste. It just makes me wonder why he was trying to drown his sorrows.. For a guy with that much success in life, and for someone who actually managed to do something halfway important, why he'd slowly kill himself.

Genius isnt linked with tragedy. Genius is linked with madness.

Bowie J. Poag
Project Founder, PROPAGANDA For Linux ( [] )

Re:Winzip (1)

atam (115117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116053)

FYI, Winzip actually does not use PK's code for compression or decompression. Instead, it uses the open source Info-Zip [] implementation of the inflat and deflat algorithm. As a matter, most of the freeware/shareware/commercial Zipper or Unzipper (other than the real PKZIP) uses or bases on the Info-Zip codes. I think it is remarkable that Phillip W. Katz was that he had never tried to enforce his patent(s) on the compression algorithm behide zip file formats.

Re:PK vs. SEA controversy (4)

farrellj (563) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116054)

O.K., here is the story as I remember it.

Phil wrote a better compression program that was compatible with System Enhancements Associates (SEA) program called ARC. So they litigated. And so Phil went off and found a better algorithem for compression, and brought out PKZIP.Many people in the BBS community thought that SEA was a little heavyhanded (Perception, I don't know the reality), and moved to PKZIP. Others moved over for the speed and the better compression. The rest is history.

See also "arc wars" [] MIT Jargon File ver 299. This story seems to have been dropped from the current Jargon File [] for some reason.

Farrell McGovern
Former Sysop, Data/SFnet (One of the first few hundred Fidonet BBSs!) and Solsbury Hill, founding member of PODSnet.

This is really sad! (5)

DeepDarkSky (111382) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116055)

I definitely remember Phil Katz and all the controversy surrounding him, and how grateful I was to have discovered his programs. I remember the first compression program which was SEA's ARC program. It was very slow. Then my friend and I discovered PKARC and PKXARC, which were much faster than ARC. As PKARC gained popularity because of its overall superiority, SEA sued Phil Katz, and he in turn created PKPAK/PKUNPAK (I think it was still paired like that). Tha PKPAK series didn't last long. The PKZIP series came out next, and that was the series that created the ubiquitous ZIP format that we see today. If I remember correctly, PKZ204G was the last official DOS version of the program, and there were plenty of trojans, etc. that were going around, and Phil created self-authenticating zip files, etc. Lots of neat little cool things. I also remember that other programs were giving PK a run for his money, such as ARJ and LHARC, but they never achieved the overall speed/performance/compression that PKZIP ever did (they were often better in one thing or another but not overall). Then WINZIP came out, and I kind lost sight of PK.

I still have thousands of ZIP files that were zipped with PKZIP. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have been as into computers as I am, it was because of those early days of playing around with PKARC and PKXARC that really got me started. I am terribly sad to see him go and in such (I think) indignant way.

Re:Katz dead :( (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1116056)

It's a shame that anyone would die so young from alcoholism but using the word "genius" is pressing it a little. You usually think of folks in math or physics or art as a genius... but PKZip? Only folks focused on computers think you have to be smart to program them, create software, or devise new technologies but it's really more like being an engineer, and few people ever call an engineer a "genius!"

Re:bummer (1)

British (51765) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116057)

If Lord Linus died tomorrow, who would care but us? Meanwhile, David Hasselhoff would make front page. What a media-obsessed culture.

Oh come on. I could say the opposite for all the linux hype on slashdot.

"If Lord David Hasselhoff died tomorrow, who would care but us?. Meanwhile, Linus Torvalds would make one HUGE Slashdot article. What an http obsessed geek culture."

Re:Did Phillip Katz -really- invent ZIP? (1)

rlkoppenhaver (101366) | more than 14 years ago | (#1116058)

Because, sadly, nobody bothers to actually follow the links when they moderate.

Re:So does anyone know anything more about him (2)

Admiral Burrito (11807) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116059)

He was a reasonably successful man, reading the article, and one would think there'd be some reason for him to drink himself to death.

He may not have had any reason to kill himself. It may simply be that he didn't have a reason to live.

Sometimes people just don't care whether they live or die.

I registered . . . (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1116060)

I signed up at a COMDEX. Katz's mom, who helped run the pkware booth, ran my card.

I still have the bound manual they mailed me. In fact, it's on the shelf not two feet from me.

Damn. Poor bastard.

Remember folks; money and success aren't everything. They can give security and pretty distractions, but they can't fill an empty void in your soul. You've got to be connected with people, and find some meaning in your life.

Take are of yourselves!

ZIP (2)

salthous (158541) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116061)

My first programming job was working on a windows based zip application. For those that asked about paying royalties for the use of the format, the answer is no the other companies do not. Katz developed ZIP files as a published standard. A beautiful standard that he revised with new versions of his compression software. As I worked on my project the 2.04g standard was my guideline. It continues to be my standard for quality technical documentation.
One of my assignments was writing the self extraction engine. I never did figure out how
he made his so small. The rumour at my company was that he hand tweaked the assembler code with every trick in the book.

Re:Would like to know the rest of the story (3)

Trepidity (597) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116062)

Well, PKZip seems to have stopped development around 1993, well before WinZip became popular. PKZIp v2.04g was pretty much the last version I know of, and it came out february 1, 1993. Up until then there had been fairly frequent updates, but throughout 1993, 1994, and 1995, PKZIp v2.04g for DOS remained the standard compression tool. Only then, after 2-3 years of no updates, did other tools like WinZip become popular. PKZIp finally made a Windows product in 1997 or 1998, but they were long gone by then. I'm not sure what led to the development halt, but the original stuff is fine coding...

Re:So does anyone know anything more about him (2)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116063)

You don't understand alcoholism. It's sub-rational. It doesn't work at the level of 'reasons.'

Philip Katz Dead? (1)

os2mac (135525) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116064)

I posted this last night and it got rejected? hmmmmm

Re:What a waste.. (1)

jbarnett (127033) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116065)

Genius is linked with madness.

and madness is linked with tragedy...

and tragedy is linked with sadness and sorrow.

ZIP, not Zipper (1)

unitron (5733) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116066)

The link in the above post leads to -- 02299obit.htm--

which yields this--

Friday, October 22, 1999 ...
...Deaths Elsewhere

Stanley Dritz, 88, zipper inventor

NEW YORK -- Stanley L. Dritz, who popularized the zipper and other sewing products as part of his family's business, died Saturday in White Plains, N.Y. He was 88.

As president of John Dritz & Sons, Dritz raised the consumer appeal of a hookless fastener he had first seen in England. He made the fastener, commonly known as the zipper, out of plastic and rustproof metals.

It was one of the hundreds of sewing aids found in his company's catalog, which also included the seam ripper and the electric scissors.

Dritz was born in New York City and joined his father's business after graduating from college. He was president in the 1950s and 1960s, and the company was sold upon his retirement.

taken from

Citrus County Chronicle
1624 N. Meadowcrest Blvd.
Crystal River, FL 34429

I don't know if the poster of the above is clueless or trying to be funny, but I've used both gentlemen's products and in both cases would have been at a serious disadvantge without them.

Re:Would like to know the rest of the story (5)

Harinath (26296) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116067)

IIRC, the ZIP file format was made public domain, thus allowing the Info-ZIP people to write a program that reads ZIP archives, which in turn allowed WinZip to not have to license software from PKware.

Unlike LZW, the ZIP "deflate" algorithms (LZ77 + Shannon Fano encoding) are unemcumbered. These compression algorithms are used in GNU Zip (gzip) partly for that reason. I think gzip can even read .zip archives with only one file inside. The zip algorithm is also in the zlib library, which is used in the PNG format, for one. The "deflate" algorithm is also described in RFC 1951.

So, thanks PK, for providing one of the tools that enable us to thumb our noses at Unisys :-)

nitpick - zip isn't the only compression out there (1)

imac.usr (58845) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116068)

Nearly all program files downloaded from the Internet have the suffix .zip, meaning they are compressed in the format Katz developed.

Um, yeah, if you use Windows...most of the files I download end in .sit, .sea, .bin, .hqx, and occasionally .cpt, thanks to Raymond Lau and Bill Goodman (who wrote the original Stuffit and Compactor/Compact Pro, respectively). I bet most /.ers' downloads end in .z, .bz, or .tar, and not .zip.

Still, it sucks that he is dead. More evidence of the damage alcohol abuse can inflict on a person. What a shame.

Some more links... (2)

Megane (129182) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116069)

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
The original obituary notice []
A more complete article []

One interesting quote:
"It was just a hobby," he said. "I didn't expect it to turn into a business."

I had a moderately successful shareware program myself during the '80s, and it sure didn't help my life much. Fortunately I have no interest in booze or drugs -- they just get in the way of hacking. And also fortunately, I let it go when it wasn't successful any more. Maybe a little later than I should have, but I did move on.

Reason to live? Reason to die? (4)

mosch (204) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116070)

Alcoholism is not as simple as it would appear to be... Alcoholism is a depressant and logically goes hand in hand with depression. When abused, alcohol can lead to a downward spiral which is hard to comprehend.

One of my best friends is a recently recovered alcoholic. He used to down a bottle of hard liquor every night, often chased with some other nastiness. Finally, I got him to slow down, and just drink socially and he got out of a three year depression and thanks me far far far too much for helping him quit the alcohol abuse.

The trouble is that you drink to stop feeling like shit, but the drink causes you to feel like shit later... so you drink more and.... well, it's just sad.

(now some wannabe troll will just post a rude folowup that isn't even funny)

Phillip Katz's patents (2)

ContinuousPark (92960) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116071)

Couldn't find much so far about him but I came across this page where several patents on data compression algorithms are mentioned and this led me to one of his patents [] , a so-called string searcher and compressor.

It would be interesting to know if what the patent decribes is the technology behind PKZIP.

I first found out about this on CNET's front page; there was this little message in memoriam of PK but I don't think it was mentioned on; that was strange. This is a sad event and I think it would be more convenient and respectful if we didn't get to know the details of his death just because it turned out to be a morbid and attention-attracting story for the media.

Re:LOOKS LIKE... (1)

waddgodd (34934) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116072)

I find that remark in extremely bad taste, so watch out when *I* meet *you*, because you now have a lesson in manners coming.

Old 286 (2)

Atlas (96843) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116073)

I recently helped a family member pick out a new computer and promptly reclaimed my old 286 that I had loaned to them. I of course had to hook it up and tinker around. Qmodem is still installed and all my old BBS files are on there. I can vividly remember the excitement of unzipping the latest dl's from various BBS's. I hope that Katz had some idea as to the enjoyment and usefulness that his software provided to a geek such as myself. -Atlas

Still on his county's 'most wanted' list though (1)

orpheus (14534) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116074)

Someone ought to tell his county sheriff [] that he's an easy catch now. Alternatively, maybe residents of Ozaukee County, Wisconsin should be worried.

Seriously though, I'm the same age, and I've seen so many of my 1962 cohort die over the years that I don't even have the words anymore. Med students driving home after a long night on-call; a 16-year-old early admission BA/JD student in a 'freak' amusement park accident, enjoying her final weeks before she left for college; more than one suicide...

A lot of talent and promise gone. A lot of suffering we couldn't heal.

I hope I don't sound hokey if I urge you... if you have a friend who drinks too much, or who seems depressed... please find out what you can do to help. There may not be much you can do, and it may not add to your /. karma but often a small effort is all it takes.

On his his DWI rap sheet alone, The warning signs were clear. I hope someone at least tried to help.

Requiescat In Pace, Phillip Walter Katz

Re:JKZip (5)

Darchmare (5387) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116075)

Yes, I've heard of that format as well. I believe that no matter how large the content, it can be compressed into the following sentence:

"Geeks are oppressed. Down with corporate America! Hey, what about those Sex Bots?"

Very tight algorhythm, indeed.

- Jeff A. Campbell
- VelociNews ( [] )

Re:This is really sad! (2)

DeepDarkSky (111382) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116076)

Ah, yes, back in the days of the BBS, those offline mail readers, all that downloading, with the piddling of bandwidth. I'd say Phil Katz was one of the most significant figures in computing and the early development of the Internet.

I also remember all those programs that were written as utilities that use ZIP in one way or another, such as converters that converted all ARC files to ZIP files, with the extra compression. PKZIP was so useful for me with my 32MB HD...

Re:Would like to know the rest of the story (2)

leiz (35205) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116077)

actually, there is a 2.06 version of pkzip for dos, it's licensed to ibm and pkware confirmed it's existence when i emailed them about it:

PKZIP (R) FAST! Create/Update Utility Version 2.06 01-24-94
Copr. 1989-1994 PKWARE Inc. All Rights Reserved. IBM LICENSED VERSION
PKZIP Reg. U.S. Pat. and Tm. Off. Patent No. 5,051,745

PKZIP /h[1] for basic help PKZIP /h[2|3|4] for other help screens.

Usage: PKZIP [options] zipfile [@list] [files...]

Simple Usage: PKZIP zipfile file(s)...
| | |
Program ----------------- | |
| |
New zipfile to create ---------- |
File(s) you wish to compress ----------

The above usage is only a very basic example of PKZIP's capability.

Press 2 for more options (including spanning & formatting), press 3 for
advanced options, 4 for trouble shooting options, any other key to quit help.

then pkware came out with "pkzip command line" (last year?) which is a 32 bit windoze program (along with long file name support and stuff...) but it keeps the command line interface from the dos version of pkzip.

Television is called a medium because it is neither rare or well-done.

Re:Katz dead :( (2)

Darchmare (5387) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116078)

I tend to agree that 'genius' may be stretching it a bit, but that still doesn't mean that the guy didn't do some cool stuff.

Plus, I imagine the ZIP compression algorhythm has some interesting mathemetics to it.

There are a few people I would classify as genius, though. Woz comes to mind.

- Jeff A. Campbell
- VelociNews ( [] )

Thanks PK (1)

xeer0 (42098) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116079)

PKZip is truly a meaningful contribution.

Think of this, did you ever see it crash?

Truly a sad tale.

I still use it too (1)

Spiff28 (147865) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116080)

\windows\command? what? come on, if you were true to the roots, you'd have it in c:\dos ;)

Seriously though, the powers of command-line vs. GUI still apply with pkzip vs. winzip. If I want to extract 100 zip files to the same directory.. one simple command. Same for vice-versa... what's all this drag-n-drop crap? ;)

One thing that kinda gets me.. how exactly is WinZip related to this? That is.. is it just a wrapper to pkunzip or is it actually a modified compression algorithm or what? If you'll recall, there actually was an 'official' PKZip for windows (though I do not know what the actual name of it was). Terrible interface though.. shame..

Katz will be missed, as many have said here before, his programs most likely changed the way we do computing today.

Re:Katz dead :( (1)

pen (7191) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116081)

Ignorance and bliss. Wisdom and endless worry. Pick one. -Me


Memories (1)

Blackwulf (34848) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116082)

I remember back when I refused to go away from my PKPAK/PKUNPAK ARC compression to this new fangled ZIP format...For some reason I was an ARC loyalist...Heh.

I wizened up, obviously.

When I make ZIP files, I STILL go to the command line and use PKZIP...And if there are no long filenames, I still use PKUNZIP today to unzip things. Yeah, it doesn't save the case, but who cares. :>

Rest in peace, PK.

So sad (2)

MrP- (45616) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116083)

PKZip was a major app... One of the most popular zip apps today (for windows) Is WinZip, the older versions of WinZip were nothing more than a GUI to pkzip, he started it all... very sad

$mrp=~s/mrp/elite god/g;

I dont remember... (1)

rodgerd (402) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116084)

Converting all my files to .zip format, because back when pkzip was da bomb on PCs, I had an Amiga (hell, I still have all my old Amigas). What I do remember, is racing compression programs and benchmarking compression rations between the iterations of LHA and PKZIP in order to get bragging rights in the teenage geek arguments of "my computer is better than yours". So I may not have used PKZIP, but it gave me hours of fun, anyway.

That's kind of sad 8)

But not as sad as someone talented drinking themselves to death at 37. Condolences to Katzs' family and friends.

Re:I dont remember... (1)

rodgerd (402) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116085)

Danger, Will Robinson! Improper use of an apostrophe! That shoud, of course, have been Katz's.

Re:Absent-minded professors (1)

jbarnett (127033) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116086)

I don't think the really old modems contained hardware compression nor did the old tape drives (IIRC that is, I was really young then (plus I used a Commadore64 when all my freinds had ultra fast 386's with massive storage units, so I wasn't famalair with x86 hardware at the time)).

Most analog modems and tape drives now days have some form of hardware compression.

Also "back in the day" downloading a 1 meg text file over a 2400 baud modem could take awhile. Also storing a 1 meg text file on a 360K (340K?) floppy disk posed some problems. Pkzip helped A LOT.

On a side note, when I first started working on PC's for the fun of it, I always carried around a DOS boot disk and I always made sure PKzip was on it. I have no idea why I carried around a DOS boot disk EVERYWHERE I went. I guess "just in case" a PC has to be restored, in hidesight though, I don't think there was many PC's at baseball games or on hiking trips. But just in case a PC crashed in middle of no where without power, I had PKzip in my "toolkit" and knew it would come in useful.

By far PKzip is one of most stable programs out there, and it is extremely fast, it can scream on a 486 w/4 megs of ram. It is a well put together program.

This really makes me sad, I never hear of Phil Katz before this article, but I always wondered what the PK stood for in PKzip. Phil Katz made a dam good program, I am still wondering how such a gifted person could leave life so early.

Re:37 (1)

pen (7191) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116087)

*sigh* :(

I still have some of his tapes...


Genius and tragedy... (1)

whatnotever (116284) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116088)

"Genius and tragedy are too often linked."


*Anything* and tragedy are too often linked.

Re:PK vs. SEA controversy (3)

Oloryn (3236) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116089)

Phil wrote a better compression program that was compatible with System Enhancements Associates (SEA) program called ARC

IIRC, Phil essentially wrote an assembler workalike of ARC, called PKArc. Naturally, it was faster.

So they litigated.

And they settled. My memory of the settlement is that Phil agreed to immediately change the name of his product to PKPAK, and to within a few months create a different product(which ended up being PKZIP). The rest of the settlement was secret(speculation in the BBS community seemed to be that it was SEA that wanted the secrecy. I later found a transcript of a thread on this subject on Bix where Thom Henderson(one of the founders of SEA) indicated it was PKWare that asked for it).

Many people in the BBS community thought that SEA was a little heavyhanded (Perception, I don't know the reality) and moved to PKZIP.

The suit basically had 3 claims:

  1. Copyright infringement. There may have been something to this, as there were indications that there were comment typos in the SEA source that also showed up in the PKware source.
  2. Usage of SEA's proprietary ARC file format.
  3. Usage of SEA's proprietary .ARC extension

The latter two claims stuck in the craw of many in the BBS community(particularly the last one), and added a lot to the perception of SEA as a legal bully. As a result, many in the BBS community were quite eager to switch over as soon as PKZip became stable, and plenty of BBSs converted en mass shortly thereafter.

I've since come to regard this situation as a good example of the danger of pursuing a lawsuit with "legal blinders'(seeing things only from the perspective of the law) on, particularly when your market has access to large-scale communications. Ignoring the likely perceptions of your market may very well result in you winning the lawsuit, but losing the market. ARC very quickly went from the defacto standard archiving utility for the BBS and online service community to an also ran, largely as a result of the BBS community's perceptions of the suit.

Re:Mention in Dr. Dobb's Journal (1)

jbarnett (127033) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116090)

I remeber trying that, (it was a 200 meg file ziped, but had to fit onto a harddrive with 150 megs free). I tried re-compressing it about 30-40 times in a row and IIRC it took it's size down like 200 bytes every 10 passes or so. I was amazed that it could compress a compressed file (even if just by a little bit). I still had to delete stuff off that hard drive, but uncompressed all the files where about 350 megs total before it was ran though PKzip.

Re:bummer (1)

DreamerDude (65407) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116091)

Linus Torvalds is big enought that the computer magazines would say something, too.

Re:What a waste.. (1)

Malcontent (40834) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116092)

I don't know if you have ver been around any alchololics or not but success or failure does not matter to an alcoholic. In fact success=alcohol anything else=failure. Maybe it was some sort of deep seated childhood trauma or some brain chemical deficiency or some genetic tendency to addiction. It's sad and unfortunately we still don't know enough about it to say for sure.
All I know is that money and success and love can not cure alcoholism nothing can. All you can hope for is to keep it under control and keep it from destroying your life.

Re:Sad day.... (1)

unitron (5733) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116093)

As long as the tasteless jokes have started I'll tuck this one away down here (I was going to say bury, but under the circumstances...)

[begin tasteless joke] I seem to recall hearing somewhere that The Bible says we get threescore and ten. That's 70, so at 37 that's 47.1% compression [end tasteless joke]

It's a shame that he probably didn't squeeze 70 years worth into 37.

Re:I still use it too (1)

BitwizeGHC (145393) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116094)

IIRC, WinZip started off as a wrapper to PKZIP. Because the algo was readily available, though, WinZip eventually folded ZIP compression into its main binary. Some other formats still require wrappers, such as LZH.

I've a strange connection to WinZip: Nico Mak computing, who makes WinZip, is located in my hometown, Bristol, CT!

Re:He was a drunk... so what? (1)

Pxtl (151020) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116095)

Abusing your body or not, death still sucks. Show a little respect, sure it was his own fault, but that doesn't mean that his death doesn't matter.

I still use it too (1)

Pxtl (151020) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116096)

Heheh, it has its own cushy little directory in C:\Dos\PKWare on my computer, which is (of course) on the path. But yeah, I also use Winzip. Funny story: I'm not a good programmer, I make crappy Visual Basic games, and I run windoze. I couldn't find code I could understand for a compressions system, and a game I was working on had 150+ .bmp files. So, I rigged a shell call of into the form.load so that it would decompress a .zip file before running, in DOS command line. Problem is that if I ran it hidden, I couldn't figure out how to close the process. So, I kept leaving these little "Pkunzjr - Finished" windows open every time I ran the game. It was so cool. Katz will be missed.

Re:Little older? (1)

dragonfly_blue (101697) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116097)

No, you just abuse other people. Umcompassionate dorks like you are the human equivalent of smegma.

Re:Did Phillip Katz -really- invent ZIP? (1)

rsidd (6328) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116098)

The comments above seem to show how much Slashdot has degenerated: typical readers can no longer distinguish trolls, genuine intended humour, and serious posts.

Philip's remains. (5)

zCyl (14362) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116099)

Does anybody else think it would be morbidly humorous if he were cremated, and then stuffed into a really tiny urn? says nothing about it. (3)

XNormal (8617) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116100)

Don't you find it strange? Could this have anything to do with the circumstances of his death?


Re:So does anyone know anything more about him (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1116101)

Go here In the search slot type in: PKzip hit go and you get it all including the local obituary and the story about the rat infested house he lived in that Mequon ordered cleaned up.

Re:Katz dead :( (1)

Dahan (130247) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116102)

Plus, I imagine the ZIP compression algorhythm has some interesting mathemetics to it.

He didn't invent the algorithms though... I believe the version 1.x algorithms (squeeze or squish or something starting with squ :) was LZW, and the current 2.x deflate algorithm is pretty much LZ77.

Brilliant and Dead (1)

Biggy (111470) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116103)

I guess if you're brilliant and accomplish something special, you better kill yourself or you will never be appreciated/understood.

how sad.

You sure about that? (2)

Zico (14255) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116104)

So many celebrities, poets, actors, revolutionaries, wariers, politicians etc have died on 33 and 37.

That'd be a pretty neat trick and all, but unless they've mastered reincarnation where you're from, I'd be pretty stunned to have heard of someone dying at 33 and 37. :)


Hey, don't forget about version 3.00b (2)

Zico (14255) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116105)

Yeah, okay, so it was just a trojan horse, so sue me. :P


Re:Wrong Katz! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1116106)

That is really tasteless. You may not like the Jon Katz who writes/posts for slashdot, but to get excited over his possible death is horrible. Regardless of what you think of this writing, he is still another human.

What makes you so certain that Jon Katz is a human? Judging by his essays, he couldn't pass for human in a Turing test.

I heard about this on 4/20/2000 & memories... (2)

antdude (79039) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116107)

It was posted on during that day. Shoot, I even submitted about it to /. but it got declined. Hmmph.

I remember the days when pkware came out of BBS' and I went crazy to download it! Remember with all the bugs, and then 2.04g (MS-DOS) finally came out? After many years until last year, v2.50 came out (wow).


Re:1st post (1)

King of Noth (106575) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116108)

Even though I'm fairly young, I remeber using Pkzip, back in the last days of the bbs. It was a brilliant peice of software, and the creator shall be missed. I wish the product had been continued and should kick winzip's ass.

Re:Still on his county's 'most wanted' list though (3)

skelly (38870) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116109)

Alcoholism is no laughing matter. It is sad that someone so young and who had contributed so much could have died in such a horrible manner. It is reminiscent of Leaving Las vegas, where the main charachter drinks himself to death. That movie scared me. It still scares me. I am an alcoholic in recovery and have been sober since September 1996. I wish Mr. Katz could have benefitted from being introduced to some recovery program like AA or if he was, that he could have stayed. Ten percent of all people are alcoholics and only 10% of them ever recover for any significant amount of time. There is hope for others though. My friend recently celebrated 25 years sober. May Mr. Katz finally find some peace.

A look at his personal life (4)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1116110)

Not a troll. Take a look over here: tm#K

Spare me (3)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116111)

I really don't think its possible to mourn the passing of a complete stranger and be respectful or sincere. Is this the princess Diana for the geek set? Really, give it up you're mourning software, not a real person. You're going to get teary eyed because he wrote a program that let you compress a password protected French Postcards onto one 5.25 disk?

I can't think of a worse legacy than having a bunch of people feel sorry for you not because of any of your personal qualities but because of some program you wrote in the 80s. Its a shame anyone has to die, but have some respect for yourself and dead and don't pretend that you're really sadened and feel a loss.

Re:So does anyone know anything more about him (1)

elbobo (28495) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116112)

what makes you an expert on alcoholism?

from personal experience, and from the experiences of friends and family, I'd conclude that alcoholics often have very valid reasons for being so. perhaps the loss of a family member or friend, a broken marriage or relationship, a career failure, mental illness of one kind or another.

yes there are people who are alcoholics without rational reasons, but they still have reasons.


Re:Wrong Katz! (1)

cperciva (102828) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116113)

What makes you so certain that Jon Katz is a human? Judging by his essays, he couldn't pass for human in a Turing test.

Of course, most people on /. probably couldn't pass a Turing test. I know I probably wouldn't.
Then again, I wouldn't fail as badly as Katz, as I can talk about things other than the oppression of geeks.

Attention Hackers (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1116114)

Attention Hackers If (((you are knee deep in trash) and (rotting food)) or (if you see three or more bottles of liquor on the floor))) { getHelp(); } Learn from this hacker, and be careful. We need all the good hackers we can get. PKZip was great. The reason it is so dominant today (even with self-installing exe) is that he made it OPEN. But, I regretfully note, the world didn't seem to reward him for his contribution.

Re:Philip's remains. (1)

Chris Johnson (580) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116115)

*LOL* dude! That is _so_ wrong! shame on you! :)

Re:Spare me (1)

fusiongyro (55524) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116116)

I agree with youur premise, that it is not possible to feel real grief over someone you don't personally know.


I also think that, because he had already contributed something meaningful and vastly useful, people stop and wonder: did he have anything else cranking around in his head that he just never got around to making?

I was very annoyed at the press when Princess Diana and JFK Jr died--in the case of Di, because it was the extreme interest of the press which had caused her death in the first place, and JFK Jr because he contributed even less to the world than Diana by simply being there and inheriting a name. The silliness of seeing my mother weep over JFK Jr, partly because he was young, and partly because he was son of her favorite president, sickened me. What did he ever do for her? Not a damn thing.

Say what you like about Katz, but he contributed something vital to the community, and then left. I have a lot more respect for a person who makes a contribution, and I just don't see what all these fucking celebrities are doing for the common man or the common interest, except for relieving us of the burden in our wallets and giving us something tangible to worship.

As for worship, I need none of that, and I completely agree with what you said. But respect out of awe at a creation, that I think has something more to it than simple fanaticism or feigned grief.


Version history of PKZIP (1)

Lansdowne (65763) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116117)

As antdude mentioned earlier, some versions of PKZip were indeed buggy, and some of these bugs lead to crashes or (being a DOS program) system lockups.

Here is the version history as I recall it.

v1.0 and v1.1 - Initial versions, stable, but didn't compress that much better than ARC.

Then nothing for a great while. BBS users were expecting PK to come up with a quantum leap, PKZIP version 2. They were waiting the way some people were waiting for DOOM version 1.

Flash forward to 1993.

v2.04c - truly dreadful, showstopping bugs. Mostly due to interactions with flaky extended/expanded memory access code.
v2.04e - most of these bugs fixed.
v2.04g - perfection!

Re:What a waste.. (2)

redhog (15207) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116118)

No, it is not linked to tragedy. Tragedy is an important component of being genious. I don't know any details of this special case - but study all the authors of good books, and they have lived misserable lifes, with very bad contacts to friends and persons of the right sex. Examples I can recall directly are Kafka and Karin Boye. You need to be misserable in order to have the energy to concentrate on some small detail of life and not on having a baby, going out with friends and so on...
--The knowledge that you are an idiot, is what distinguishes you from one.

Re:nitpick - zip isn't the only compression out th (1)

DeepPurple (148946) | more than 13 years ago | (#1116119)

Nearly all program files downloaded from the Internet have the suffix .zip, meaning they are compressed in the format Katz developed.

Hum. What about .bz ? Bzip makes use of the Burrows-Wheeler transform on blocks of data which are then are then compressed using more standard methods such as Huffman, Run Length Encoding and Arithmethic encoding.

The resulting alogrithm compresses much better than LZ77 + Shannon. It is so good that almost ever kernel image in the linux world is a bzImage.

Katz should be praised for his work but the world of compression has moved on and zip is no longer state of the art.


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