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After the Fire: HP Archivist Pledges to Rebuild What She Can

Little was digitized, much was lost, but some copies of Hewlett-Packard’s key historical documents may remain in the wild

4 min read
The October fires that tore through California's wine country burned a trove of the Hewlett-Packard Co.'s historical documents, housed in modular buildings on the campus of Keysight Technologies in Santa Rosa
The October fires that tore through California's wine country burned a trove of the Hewlett-Packard Co.'s historical documents, housed in modular buildings on the campus of Keysight Technologies, in Santa Rosa.
Credit: Ben Margot/Associated Press

In October, some 100 boxes of correspondence and other documents that detailed the origins, evolution, and strategic thinking that turned a little garage startup into the grandfather of Silicon Valley were burned in the Sonoma County fires.

These documents—the papers of Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett that represented the records of the Hewlett-Packard Co. going as far back as 1937—were assembled before HP began the first of several splits starting in 1999.  In recent years, the collection was stored in a modular building on the campus of Keysight Technologies in Santa Rosa, Calif. (Keysight got custody of the documents when it spun out of Agilent, which had previously split off from HP.) The collection was hard to access by historians, had yet to be digitized, and was, as we now know, vulnerable to fire. 

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
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Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush
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Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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