Zip Compression Inventor Dies

FRAMINGHAM (05/02/2000) - Computer compression software inventor Phillip W.

Katz, 37, has died from complications of an illness.

In 1986, Katz invented the popular PKZip file compression program, which compresses a file into a zipped file. Its companion program, PKUNZip, decompresses the file.

The program made transmitting files over networks easier, because the compressed file requires less storage space and time to transfer.

Katz was president of PKWare Inc. in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, which he founded in 1989. The company continues to make PKZip, in addition to other compression tools and utilities for a number of operating systems, including DOS, Windows, OS/2 and VMS/VAX.

Bob Gorman, director of sales and marketing for PKWare, said Katz was "actively involved" in the day-to-day business of the firm of 20 employees. Gorman added that PKWare has not yet named another president and that a group of managers would continue to manage the firm for the time being.

Katz is also credited with pioneering shareware marketing. The company sold its compression tools to developers, but offered downloadable and shareable software to consumers. Users may use the software for free on a limited basis, but to continue using the program, they must register and pay for the program.

According to the Milwaukee medical examiner, Katz died from chronic alcoholism on April 14.

Steve Burg, president of NeoWorx Inc., a developer of Internet-tracing software, worked with Katz at PKWare from 1989 to 1997. Burg described Katz, who he said struggled with alcoholism in the latter years of his life, as a friend and mentor.

"Phil Katz was quite a loner and not very open to very many people. He kept most of his personal thoughts to himself. He was a very quiet, very smart guy (who) loved to program," Burg said.

"PKWare did well when Phil was actively involved with the company because of his programming talent and abilities, but I don't think he stepped into the building in the last five years," he said. "He ran the company through e-mail, which is not a very efficient way to run a business.

"I think he would like to be remembered as creating the PKZip archiving format and as a master in efficient programming techniques in the assembler language, who designed software."

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