Akimbo in Limbo

They built the technology, but will the content come?

4 min read

Video on demand over the Internet—its time may be here. Or at least, the technology may have finally caught up to the concept. With advances in compression technology that allow DVD-quality video to be speedily transported over a typical broadband Internet connection, and the rapidly growing penetration of broadband into homes, Internet video is finally doable at a reasonable price for a mainstream audience. And Akimbo Systems Inc., in San Mateo, Calif., is the first of what is likely to be a wave of companies attempting to make it into a business.

Akimbo's implementation of an Internet video service is based on a dedicated player it supplies, a low subscription fee (US $9.99 a month with the first three months free or $169.99 for the life of the player), a limited catalog of free content, and incidental fees. These include subscription fees to premium channels of $0.49 to $3 a month and à la carte fees, ranging from $0.49 for a 1-minute golf lesson, to $1.99 for a 25-minute educational video on volcanoes, to $3 to $4 for a 30-day feature film rental.

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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
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

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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