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Quirky's Switch is the Ultimate Pocket Knife

Introducing the world's first modular pocket knife

1 min read
Quirky's Switch is the Ultimate Pocket Knife

quirky pocketknife

quirky inset photo

This is part of IEEE Spectrum's 2010 Holiday Gift Guide.

The 2008 movie Get Smart featured a Swiss Army knife with a crossbow, a flamethrower, and a dental floss detonator, but the true test of a pocketknife is its versatility—the best knife is one you can change from day to day and from task to task.

That's the idea behind the Switch, from the crowdsourcing design house Quirky. In February, a user suggested that Quirky design a "modular pocketknife." The self-selling idea quickly jumped to the top of the queue. Within three weeks, Quirky's New York City–based design team had a preliminary CAD mock-up as well as a name and logo.

Unscrew the Switch with a coin and install whichever blades, tools, or doodads you like. It comes with three interior axles: small (2 to 6 tools), medium (4 to 10), and large (up to 13). The pen, scissors, Phillips-head screwdriver, LED flashlight, and 1-gigabyte USB memory stick make a good combo for the office. But a camping weekend might call for the more traditional knife, saw, pliers, and...come on, that LED flashlight's going to get used sometime.

This article originally appeared in print as "Ultimate Pocketknife."

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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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