Techies Come to TV

Shows about engineers are finding an audience

3 min read
Techies Come to TV
Illustration: Greg Mably

A long, long time ago—back in the 1980s—there was a concern within the IEEE about how to raise the public esteem of engineers. In our opinion, they didn’t seem to be sufficiently appreciated. It was a time when doctor and lawyer shows were big on television, so an idea floated around some of our committee meetings: Could we get an engineer show on TV?

One distinguished colleague suggested, possibly in jest, a show entitled “L.A. Engineer,” riffing off the then-hit U.S. show “L.A. Law.” What a delightful fantasy that was! But I realized immediately that it would never happen, and even if it did, no one would watch it—not even us.

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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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