Phil Katz (1962/11/03 - 2000/04/14) was a computer programmer best known from his widely used compression format, Zip, and the authoring of his
DOS compression programs PKZip and PKUnzip.
Phil graduated from Nicolet High School in Glendale, Wisconsin and received his bachelor's degree in computer science at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1984.
He was hired out of college at Allen-Bradley Co. writing logic controllers, but left in 1986 to work for Graysoft, which he left in 1987. With his mother he formed the
company PKWare, Inc.
The creation of the Zip format was made as a replacement for an older format called Arc created by System Enhancement Associates (SEA). The Arc program that created Arc
files was unreliable and slow, but was the only program available at the time. Phil wrote a program called PKArc which would create archives in Arc format, but faster and more
reliable. He released the program for free, but if you paid for it you would get updates and support. Many people paid for a copy of the program.
However, SEA noticed PKArc and offered to buy it from Phil. Phil refused and then SEA took Phil to court in 1988 claiming that he copied some of their source code in the
creation of PKArc. In 1989 Phil had to settle with SEA and discontinued selling PKArc because he could not afford the lawyer fees. However, he simply renamed the program to
PKPac and distributed it as before.
Not content with the Arc format, Phil created a new format called Zip and wrote two programs, PKZip to compress to Zip files and PKUnzip, to uncompress the Zip files. This
new compression was totally unique. Not only was it faster and more reliable than Arc, but it also had a higher compression rate. With out any legal issues to stop him, Phil
released his new format as an open format allowing others to create their own programs to use the Zip format. The source to his programs was still kept secret, but anyone could
write their own without fear of lawsuits.
Because of this, the Zip format quickly became the standard for compressing and archiving files, and Phil's programs were always the most widely used Zip manipulators. This
allowed Phil to create his own company PKWare, Inc.
When MS Windows started to become more popular, many software companies began to convert their programs over. Phil didn't like the new OS and didn't make a Windows version
of PKZip until 1996. This long delay allowed a company called Nico Mak Computing (now Winzip, Inc.) product WinZip to begin dominating the Windows based compression scene.
Phil's personal life was still very difficult and he was constantly battling with alcoholism and he eventually died of pancreatic bleeding at age 37.
Phil Katz's legacy lives on with PKWare. After his death a group of investors took over PKWare and revamped the company to target businesses instead of home users. The Zip
format is still the most commonly used archiving format in use.