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Although comedian Bob Saget came off as squeaky-clean on his television show ”Full House,” his turns in the 2005 cult film The Aristocrats and on his HBO special showed him swearing like a sailor. What few know, however, is that he also swears by his computer.

”I'm a big Mac freak,” he says (if truth be told, he used a coarser word than freak). ”I've been using them since the Mac Plus and Mac SE--you know, the ones that look like diving helmets. I do everything on a Mac. I'm the tech support for my daughters--we're a Mac ­family--and my friends are always calling me to fix their computers. All the ”Full House” guys were Mac boys early on--Dave Coulier, John Stamos, and I would even do videoconferencing.” The jury's still out on whether he gets a little peace on the set of the TV game show ”1 vs. 100”: ”The folks who work there are split down the middle between Macs and PCs.”

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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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