The 21st-Century Engineer

Our Dream Jobbers provide a glimpse into why it's an exciting time to work in engineering

3 min read

In the popular imagination, all engineers are Dilbert: socially stunted idiot savants who sit in cubicles all day, fiddling with numbers on a computer. Part of the problem is that the gulf between technologists and the general public has never been greater. As technologies have become sophisticated to the point of boggling the mind, mainstream press outlets, particularly in the West, have reacted mostly by marginalizing thoughtful technology coverage.

Five years ago we started the Dream Jobs series—back again in this issue—to challenge the stereotype of who engineers are and what their work worlds are like. Like many engineers, our Dream Jobbers have fun at work: They’ve found ways to live for their work and not just work for a living, often by combining their passions and interests with a paycheck.

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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
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Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush
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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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