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Searching for the Aakash

Yet another ultra-inexpensive computer project falls short of the mark

4 min read
Searching for the Aakash

This article was modified on 27 March 2012.

Early in January 2012, Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of DataWind, a small computer company based in Montreal, told The Economic Times of India that advance orders for its 2500 rupee (about US $50) tablet computer had reached 1.4 million units in just two weeks—besting the record of Apple and its iPad. The tablet, dubbed the Aakash (Hindi for “sky”), had been promoted by the Indian government through a contract to DataWind as an ultralow-cost computer for the country’s 1.2 billion citizens. We contacted IEEE Spectrum. Would it be interested in a review? Of course it would.

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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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