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[intro sounds]
Before we begin, I'd like to thank Jason Scott for his work on BBS the Documentary.
Released in 2005, it serves as a magnificent historical record of the Bulletin Board System
It's now released under creative commons, I'll be featuring various excerpts from his
documentary in this video.
I'm sure most of us used the programs PKZIP and PKUNZIP during the 90s to compress and
decompress our files.
Written by Phil Katz, the ZIP format quickly became the standard for IBM PC Compatibles.
But there's a bitter backstory to this and to explore it, we first have to start in 1952.
//Huffman Coding//
Yessss, in 1952 David A Huffman, whilst studying Information Theory at MIT, wrote a paper on
finding the most efficient binary code.
His paper sacrificed speed for size and gave us a standard method of data compression.
Explained very quickly, its a method of compression which cuts up all the usual bytes of data,
assigns them onto a binary tree in descending order of frequency used, and then, by providing
a means of unravelling the data, depending on which side of the tree it falls, allows
each character to take up less than the usual 8 bits, or one byte, that it normally would
Fast forward to the 80s, and with Bulletin Board systems becoming ever more popular,
it's abundantly clear that there needs to be a more efficient method of transporting
files over the tediously slow and expensive system of modem to modem communication.
Enter Thom Henderson and Andy Foray, who in the early 80s would setup a computing consultancy
they would later name Software Enhancement Associates, or SEA, operating out of New Jersey.
Thom had a background as a seaman and so this became an integral part of the logo.
Their work began really just helping out with the bulletin boards emerging at the time.
FidoNet; a worldwide computer network used for communication between Bulletin Boards,
was then in its infancy, and so Thom and Andy began making software to help it expand.
They worked on the software SEADOG, setup the KITTEN BBS and really enabled Fidonet
to expand exponentially through work on the mailer software and Echomail, enabling a store
and forward messaging system, similar to USENet.
But the real breakthrough for SEA was creaking a program called ARC in 1995.
A compression utility which leant heavily from Huffman's freely published work.
Distributed as shareware, this software quickly became the defacto standard for compression
and decompression not just on bulletin board systems, but also on MS-DOS and other business
related machines.
In line with the accepted procedure from his previous work on mainframes, Thom would also
make the source code for the software completely available.
There were rival products also in the marketplace, including ZOO, which was distributed freely
and developed by Rahul Dhesi.
This was another program developed from scratch and gained some traction, but, despite being
free, ARC was generally faster and offered better compression rates.
Of course ARC was also free, but as Shareware, requested that users pay for the software
if they continued to use it.
Given the Shareware model was relatively new at this point, in contrast to what you'd expect,
a fair few people in the BBS scene actually took a dislike to SEA.
Some people felt that these were the tactics of a "large company" coming in and commercialising
a scene that was mostly made up of volunteers.
The irony being that SEA was a family business, made up of Thom's wife, Irene, Andy and a
single employee they had brought on to help with development.
SEA essentially took the instigation flak for serving up a friendly model that vast
companies would soon be built upon.
Of course, not everyone felt like this, with many users paying their shareware fee and
even sending fan mail to SEA, thanking them for developing the software that was saving
them a bomb in telephone charges.
Enter PKWare, operated by Phil Katz, and seemingly out to take SEA's market share by offering
PKARC; an ARC compatible program which actually ran faster, and offered a slightly cheaper
Especially if you were a corporation, seeking a commercial licence.
In Jason Scott's BBS Documentary, various members of Fidonet were interviewed about
its appearance, and Thom Henderson's initial reaction...
-Directly opposite your ad, is an ad for PKARC. Quote, "the other ARC program", close quote. Dead silence on the line and he said, say that again.... I read it back to him again.... so we went and got a copy of the magazine and OH he was mad.
In 1980 Phil Katz had enrolled on the computer science program at the Univeristy of Wis-skon-sin
Millwalkie Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and immediately started writing programs, spending a lot of
free time on bulletin board systems.
His strength seemed to lay in creating highly optimised code.
Getting the job done with the fewest number of instructions and therefore, running time.
Shortly after, we went to work for Graysoft, a nearby software company, and in 1986, he
had decided to setup his own business, PKWARE, releasing PKARC shortly after.
Now, whereas SEA's ARC was written in C, PK was partially written in assembly language,
and the compression algorithms were implemented in a way to make them incredibly fast when
compared to anything previous.
This was important, especially for slower 80s PC hardware, which bulletin board operators
needed to be executing other activities, rather than just compression and decompression.
The decompression utility, PKXARC was released as a free utility, allowing end users to decompress
anything they had downloaded, meaning it was only people, or bulletin boards wanting to
compress software who needed to pay for the additional PK compression tool.
It's speed meant it would quickly spread among users, especially given it could operate with
exactly the same file format as SEA's ARC software.
The compression part, PKARC itself was released as shareware shortly after this success picked
With SEA, of course, having both taken the brunt and paved the way for this business
And we all switched, we all just kinda ran over to him. It never occurred to me that there might have been something going on there, and I'm not actually sure there was.
From Phil's perspective, he had done nothing wrong.
He had taken readily available code, improved upon it, and sent it out into the wild.
Doing so brought him a much higher income than his work at Graysoft, and so he quit,
operating PKWARE from his mum's kitchen table.
Another former Graysoft progammer, Steve Burg, was quickly brought on board to help with
ongoing development
At the time I was just following accepted practices that this is what you do. You publish it, you declare copyright, if someone infringes you, you send a cease and desist letter. Suing wasn't our first choice.
SEA had tried to smooth things out with Katz beforehand; in December 1987, Thom had contacted
Phil Katz and simply asked him to pay licencing fees for PKARC and PKXARC, but Katz simply refused.
Phil Katz, pretty much told us to get lost. Said his was a completely original work, it had absolutely nothing to do with anything we had ever done. Just he and his mum came up with it sitting around the kitchen table
no resemblance. Purely coincidental.
So, with this going nowhere...SEA went down the only route which was left open to them.
In a bid to protect both their intellectual property and their income, during May 1988,
they would sue Katz for trademark and copyright infringement.
Now, when you're writing code, you tend to leave comments in the source code, so that
when you or someone else takes a look at it.
They can quickly identify which parts are responsible for what.
It was these comments which offered, perhaps the most damming evidence was that Katz had
simply stolen the source code from SEA.
fundamentally, when you looked at the code. It was exact, including the spelling errors. Because my brother wrote some of that code too, and he can't spell to save his life. I mean the
spelling mistakes were exactly the same
He had made no effort to remove them whatsoever, and Thom and Andy's comments, including spelling
mistakes remained, littered through the PKARC code.
Given that Shareware can generally be copied, but can't be used or resold in other Shareware
offerings, this should have been a cut and shut case, but it quickly emerged that this
wasn't a war of right or wrong.
It was now a war of perception, of propaganda, and the BBS community quickly turned against
SEA, with PKWARE perceived to be "the little guy"...
Everybody was behind Phil Katz at the time, because he was the little guy, and SEA was the big brother corporation that no-one wanted to deal with.
But it was like a David and Goliath thing, is how it struck me.
-On all the systems out there, everyone was pushing to not purchase SEA software and stand behind Phil Katz.
this was despite both companies being very family based business models, of a very similar size, and
if anything, Phil making more money than SEA were.
In an interview with PC Week, Katz stated "We're a small company.
Any kind of litigation is a drain"
But the anger wasn't solely from the perception of attacking the little guy.
There was anger that SEA was trying to retroactively declare ARC a closed and proprietary format.
Of course, it was, but the means to which it felt like a community asset, worked very
much against then.
A newsgroup message from Keith B. Petersen, sent on the 14th June 1988, seemed to both
rally and vocalise people's feelings;
"This is really incredible!
SEA is suing Phil Katz, the author of PK(X)ARC.
I am so angry about this that I am deleting all copies of
SEA's ARC program.
It's time to send in your support to Phil for his
vastly superior archiving program.
I am sending my check today - in an amount greater than the donation he suggests
(his program is free for non-commercial use).
Keith Petersen Maintainer of the CP/M and MSDOS archives
It's clear that SEA weren't looking to destroy PKWare here, in fact . Going forward they
just wanted to draw a distinct line in the sand between right and wrong, they wanted
the facts to be made clear, but in doing so, they had made the PR blunder of coming across
as the aggressive party and shot themselves in the foot, and so on the 2nd August 1988,
they agreed a settlement with Katz.
Katz would have to pay $22,500 for past royalty payments and $40,000 for expense reimbursements.
Going forward, he would also pay a 6.5% royalty fee of all revenue received for ARC compatible
After this PKWARE would release one final version of PKARC and PKXARC, renamed to PKPAK
and PKUNPAK before abandoning them and concentrating on a different compression format.
This format would be the .ZIP format, with the programs PKZIP and PKUNZIP released to
support it.
Shortly after creating PKZIP, Katz published the APPNOTE.TXT specification, which documented
the ZIP file format and declared that it would always be free for competing software to implement.
The support Katz already had, combined with this, meant ZIP quickly became the defacto
compression standard.
for both Bulletin Boards and MS-DOS based PCs.
This led PKWARE to become a multi-million dollar company.
Although, Phil's adamant opposition to Microsoft Windows meant that PKWARE itself, would miss
out on being the first company to bring compression to the platform.
-what else does it do? couple more tricks I think.
Well we have several compression related products. One of our newer products is a data compression library, that allows any programmer to integrate our compression technology into their appication program.
SEA never did recover from the bad PR they received during this process and SEA would
be sold to a Japanese firm in 1992, drawing a line under the whole endeavour for Thom and Andy.
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isn't a happy tale for any involved.
Phil Katz had always been troubled through his life, but during the mid-90s would descend
further into alcoholism and ended up dying on the 14th April 2000, in a Milwaukee hotel
room, at the age of just 37.
**Sadly, Andy Foray would also pass away in 2014 after a long battle with Melanoma.
As for Thom.
He and his wife would setup ESVAnet, a local internet services provider for the Eastern
shore, providing a much less complicated occupation than what the world of Bulletin Board Systems 0:16:00.920,1193:02:47.295 had brought.
**PKWare was originally sold in 2001 to investment bank Grace Matthews, and continued to run
lead by George Haddix before being sold to Ascent Solutions.
Still specialising in data compression, they moved into data protection and encryption
in 2009, which they continue to specialise in today.
Of course, most of us use ZIP files on a daily basis.
In email, downloads, even just compressing files on our desktop, where as the ARC format
is mostly a distant memory.
I suggest you go and watch the BBS Documentary to get a deeper understanding of the whole
world of Bulletin Boards.
As usual, the links are below.
Thanks for watching.
Have a great evening.