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Phil Katz, the creator of the popular ZIP compression format and PKWARE, died at the age of 37 on April 14, 2000. He is the creator of the ZIP file format, the most popular compression format used today. So popular that even those of you who may be unfamiliar with it have used it without even knowing it. The programs that create and manage ZIP files, like WinZIP, perhaps the most popular program on the planet, would not be around if it was not for Phil Katz.

Back in the late 80's, there was a company called System Enhancement Associates (SEA) that developed a compression format called ARC and files that were compressed using this method had an extension of ARC. It was the popular compression format at the time.

Phil Katz found out a way to improve the ARC compression method and compress files faster and smaller. He created PKARC to compress files and PKXARC to uncompress them. Quickly, users started to adopt Phil's new programs. In a single year more sysops converted to Phil's program rather than SEA's. However, SEA claimed that Phil was using SEA's technology and that he could not use the ARC file extension, so they sued him. Phil realized that he could not support a major lawsuit against SEA and decided to change his code and work on his own compression scheme. He renamed his programs to PKPAK and PKUNPAK, also changing the compressed file extension to PAK.

A few months later, PKZIP was released and that was it. It was a huge success; the new format was faster and created smaller compressed files. Sysops dropped almost every other compression type and went with ZIP. The ARC wars were over, and Phil Katz was the clear winner. PKWARE, Inc. was formed and has been in business ever since, and although SEA is still around, they certainly are not as popular or as strong. You can still find SEA's ARC.EXE on some bulletin boards, but you'll have to look very hard.

PKWare
Info-zip
Azertech's Zip Files Page
Contains an expanded history and resource links

Other Compression

gzip