David Mandl on Tue, 2 May 2000 20:15:45 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Phillip Katz dead


Phillip Katz

Jack Schofield
Tuesday May 2, 2000
The Guardian

Phillip Katz, who has died aged 37, in a Milwaukee motel room of
complications from alcholism, was the creator of one of the internet's
most popular programs, PK Zip. 

Almost all the programs on the internet have been compressed into zip
files, the format Katz developed and made popular though the Phil Katz Zip
program. PKZip allows software publishers to package many different
programs into one file, which is easier for users to download. It uses
sophisticated algorithms to compress the zip file and make it smaller,
saving users countless hours of telephone time. 

Katz studied computer science at the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin
(UMW), where he used many archiving programs that worked like PKZip. His
first version, released in 1986, was called PK Pak, a name that chimed
well with the local American football team, the Green Bay Packers.
However, a rival company objected to his use of their .arc extension, with
which Katz's program was compatible. 

In 1989, Katz produced a new version, using the .zip format, and the
program's popularity exploded. This was partly because other computer
users supported him (they were furious about the lawsuit), partly because
his program was faster, and partly because it was available free. Under
the shareware system, you only sent Katz a fee if you liked the program
and decided to keep using it. So many people liked Katz's programs that
his mother gave up her teaching post to help process orders. 

The kitchen-table operation grew into PKWare Inc, a privately-held
software publisher based in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, employing more than 20
people. In an interview in 1993, Katz said: "It was just a hobby. I didn't
expect it to turn into a business." 

According to Professor Leonard Levine, of the UWM computer science
department, Katz "would appear at local computer societies and talk about
his concepts. People understood that he was important, but he wasn't a
smooth talker. He just wasn't a chummy kind of guy." However, at some
point during the 1990s, Levine said, Katz "just disappeared." 

In 1997, the Milwaukee Sentinel reported that his neighbours had
"complained about odours, insects and mice" at his luxury condominium,
where the city authorities later found knee- deep garbage and decaying
food. Katz's lawyers paid the city of Mequon about $8,000 for the cost of
cleanup and legal fees. 

Katz's death, surrounded by empty liquor bottles, was a sad end for the
man Levine summed up as "a quiet hero". He is survived by his mother and
sister. 

Phillip Katz, computer programmer, born November 3 1962; died April 14
2000

                 Copyright Guardian Media Group plc. 2000


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