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iCandy: July 2010

IEEE Spectrum's monthly slideshow proves that an image is worth a thousand bytes

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Photo: Kyodo/Landov
These models could easily be showing off a new type of energy-saving window at a home technology show. But the street scene they’re pointing at is provided by an array of 60-inch LCD screens installed on the wall. Sharp, the maker of the monitors, has arranged their electronics so that the panels’ edges are only 6.5 millimeters apart.
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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

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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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