Phil Katz

I have seen a couple blog posts about Phil Katz recently. This seems strange as he died eight years ago. However this is no reason to ignore this pioneer. So I thought I too would write about him. Perhaps his ghost is stirring up blog writers everywhere.

Phil produced a program named PKARC in the late 1980s. ARC was a compression utility. Phil apparently rewrote the compression algorithms in assembly language to speed it up. This was well received by the personal computer community. The authors of ARC were not happy. They ended up suing Phil. He paid them. Then he proceeded to release the famous PKZIP program. It was also a very fast compression utility that allegedly used a new algorithm and all original code written by Phil.

I have heard that PKZip stands for Phil Katz zip program. It ran under the MS-DOS operating system. Initially Phil released program PKXARC as freeware. When it became popular, he then released PKARC which was shareware.

Phil started working on the compression software as a hobby. It turned into a successful business. Phil’s family helped run PKWARE, the company Phil started to market his software. PKZIP was popular because it was faster, and some say better, than ARC. The makers of ARC worked for System Enhancement. This is the company that sued Phil.

The real tragedy about Phil Katz is what happened after his company became successful. He got into fights with his family over money issues. I think he even ended up firing his mother. Phil spent a lot of his time and money in strip clubs. He had an elegant condo. However he hardly ever went there because he was hiding from police trying to serve arrest warrants. Phil died at the age of 37 years old. His death was caused by complications related to his alcohol problem.

I remember downloading and using the PKZIP program. And I think I even registered the shareware. That says a lot. I was a poor college kid in the 1980’s. Back then I really did not know much about Phil Katz. Now I do. And so I share what I know with you here. You can draw your own conclusions about the moral in the Phil Katz story.