Phil Katz, RIP, born November 3, 1962

If you dialed for files on bbs’s (bulletin board systems) in the late 1980s, you may recall the war between System Enhancement Associates (“SEA”) and Phil Katz, born exactly 50 years ago and the creator of the PKArc program.

Phil Katz
Phil Katz

SEA published Arc, an MS-DOS program which compressed multiple files into one “arc” file. Phil’s subsequent PKArc program compressed files better than SEA’s Arc. Phil caved in to SEA’s infringement lawsuit, but emerged victorious in the marketplace when he created PKZip and released it as shareware. PKZip made Phil wealthy.

Arc was written in C. Phil wrote most of PKArc and PKZip in C also, but then analyzed the compiled code with debuggers and disassemblers, and then optimized critical routines by re-writing them in assembler.

Phil led an unhappy alcoholic life and his drinking killed him at age 37 on April 14, 2000. This article appeared shortly afterward: The short, tormented life of computer genius Phil Katz. The Wall Street Journal published this obit: The Rise and Fall of a Software Star; Phil Katz Loved Code — and Liquor.

Phil’s “zip” file format endures as the de facto standard compressed file format for PCs.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695


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