In honor of this month's National Engineers Week (EWeek, 22 to 28 February), IEEE Spectrum decided to profile working technologists who have fun at work [see "Dream Jobs 2004"]. Some may think it blasphemous to put fun and work in the same sentence, but we believe that the people who are the best at what they do are those who have fun doing it.

Many of these EE dream jobs are held by people with nontraditional academic backgrounds. Gehry Technologies' Dennis Shelden, for example, has degrees in computation, information technology, and architecture. And Sun Microsystems' John Gage credits his attendance at IEEE and other industry conferences with giving him his real education. What was remarkable in all cases was the tenaciousness with which our profilees searched for the work they really wanted to do--they simply didn't take no for an answer, even when no was the only answer they were getting.

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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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