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Faces of Open Source: The Humans Behind the Movement

A techie turned photographer captures the heroes who launched a tech revolution

3 min read
Some photos in Peter Adams' online Faces of Open Source project.
Photos: Peter Adams

One thing we never forget at IEEE Spectrum is that technology doesn’t automatically condense out of the laws of physics, like dew on leaves. Every bit of tech that exists, exists because someone worked to make it so. But it’s a harsh irony of engineering that the better designed something is, the more inconspicuous its creator becomes. This is especially true for software “down the stack”—the protocols, servers, operating systems, and other infrastructure upon which every app depends.

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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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