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The Associated Press
M I L W A U K E E, April 22 — A man who developed one of the world’s most popular pieces of computer software has died at age 37.
Phillip W. Katz died of complications from chronic alcoholism, according to the Milwaulkee medical examiner’s records.
Katz’s file-compression software is used around the world.
“In early days, compression was all done with software because there was no hardware to do this stuff,” said computer science professor Leonard Levine at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “So Katz put together a program called PKZip, the Phil Katz zip program.”
The compression software made communication between computers faster and less expensive.
“His program was instrumental in inexpensive, dependable communication,” Levine said. But, he added, “what I felt was most important about it is the fact that you can get it for free and not pay for it.”
Nearly all program files downloaded from the Internet have the suffix .zip, meaning they are compressed in the format Katz developed.
Found Dead With Liquor
Katz was found dead April 14 in a motel room holding a bottle of liquor, the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s report said. Five other empty liquor bottles were also found in the room, according to the report.
In a 1993 Milwaukee Journal interview, Katz said the concept behind PKZip was launched at his mother’s kitchen table in 1986. The product’s popularity exploded.
“It was just a hobby,” he said. “I didn’t expect it to turn into a business.”
Despite his success as a software engineer, Katz had troubles in his personal life. Authorities obtained a search warrant in 1997 after Katz’s Mequon neighbors complained about odors, insects and mice at his luxury condominium.
Authorities said they found knee-deep garbage and decaying food at the condo. Katz’s lawyers paid the city of Mequon about $8,000 for the cost of the cleanup, pest exterminators and legal fees
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