The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Million Dollar Baby

The Big Picture

1 min read

Like many students, Alex Tews, set to begin his first year at the University of Nottingham, in England, was looking ahead to an education that could leave him deep in debt. His solution was a million-pixel Web site that he would sell to advertisers for a dollar a pixel ( With a little seed money from family and a lot of media savvy, he succeeded, passing the million dollar mark in early January.

Naturally, all that money attracted some unsavory attention. By e-mail, extortionists threatened to bring the site down if they did not receive US $50 000. Tews wouldn't pay, and the extortionists proceeded with a distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, one in which thousands of PCs infected with a virus or worm attempt to access the site at the same time. The attack brought The Million Dollar Home Page down for six days in January, but work by Tews's Web host and some DDoS specialists saved the site.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

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.

Keep Reading ↓Show less