Phil Katz became a well known programmer, perhaps mainly because he included his initials in the name of his popular program so for years people kept typing his initials whenever they wished to uncompress a Zip file. Youngsters who admire computer coding and would happily detach from the society of people they know in order to pursue coding fame from acts of technological glory may be able to learn from the story of Phil Katz. The story of Phil Katz is somehow reminiscent of the story of Sir Alfred who was intelligent enough that he read economics magazines but was confined to an airport (and who was the inspiration of the movie "The Terminal".)
"Thom Henderson, the creator of the ARC program", "published the sources! The docs contained a copyright notice, and granted the recipient only the right to port the software to a non-DOS platform, and to distribute such port freely, without charge." "Phil Katz" "downloaded the sources", "recoded most of the central routines in non-portable assembly language to improve speed, and published the result commercially as PkARC in 1986." His resulting assembly-optimized code impressed even his rival Thom Henderson of SEA who made ARC, as in a derogatory article Thom says of PkARC that it "was basically my ARC program with the compression/decompression routines rewritten in assembler, which made it run a lot faster. I have to hand it to him, he had a real talent for assembly coding." (Elsewhere it is said "PKPAK, PKUNPAK, and PKSFX are written in C, with highly optimized assembly language routines".)
PKArc, Phil Katz's first marketplace success, is no longer able to be distributed by PKWare. The reason for this is described in a document about the early days of System Enhancement Associates, who made the Arc format. An "independent software expert appointed by the court" compared and "stated that PkARC was a derivative work, and pointed out that the embedded comments in both programs were often identical, even to the misspellings." Although that sounds condemning of theft, DonZeigler.com says "SEA used source code from the public domain when it developed the ARC compression program. This source code is discussed in the 1992 book "The Data Compression Book". Both Thom Henderson of SEA and Katz apparently incorporated this code into their own programs." Also, it's pointed out that SEA never sued the Japanese developer who introduced LHArc. The supposed "copyright infringement" was ignored until a founder of the International FidoNet Association(IFNA) "noticed an ad for PkARC in one of the national software developers' magazine. It was placed on the page opposite SEA's ad for ARC, and made reference to the other ARC program!" At this point, SEA sued. "Phillip W. Katz, better known as Phil Katz" "again rejected any suggestion of licensing and went for a cash-out settlement. He repaid us for most of our legal bills and promised to stop selling his program sometime in 1988."
Although "In an effort to attract clients from industry" ... ", Henderson promoted an image for SEA as a moderate sized, established software house", the reality was that "System Enhancement Associates (SEA) consisted of three people". Phil Katz, a frequenter of FidoNet (a sort of network of electronic bulliten board systems that gained some degree of popularity amongst online computer users before the Internet started becoming much more popular), may have done something of the same, for his former brother-in-law Brian Kiehnau said "The lawyer for System Enhancement showed up at Hildegard's house expecting a big company". "He had an address from the bulletin boards, so he thought there would be a big glass building or something. It was really funny." Between the two, SEA is the company that had the image work against them. "Katz deliberately promoted himself as an individual struggling against a corporate giant, even though PkWare had a larger staff than SEA!" Phil Katz managed to protray himself as "the young man who had fallen afoul of the big commercial software developer".
Phil Katz "fiddled with the file format a bit, renamed it from PKARC to PKZIP, and kept right on selling it." Actually, another site (more likely to be correct) reports that Phil Katz "quickly released PKPAK, which was similar in all but name.". PKPak 3.61, the descendant of PKArc 3.5, even referred to itself as PKArc in the MANUAL.DOC file showing how to use the software. PKZip was another format which had some better compression (if I recall correctly), and the combination of PKZip's compression, PKZip's speed (which is why the format became called "zip"), and the anti-SEA sentiment led to PKZip becoming quite popular. "SEA and its ARC program faded away, vanquished by PKZip."
With PKZip's success, Phil Katz had little to do with running the company, with a notable fax informing his mother "that her son planned a hostile buyout of her 25% equity stake. He had fired his own mother." The software "was his product, but it was her business. Brian Kiehnau reported that the two "squabbled when Katz tried to take money out of PKWare. He sometimes wanted as much as $25,000". "He thought it was ridiculous that a 30-year-old man would have to beg his mother for a check from his own company". So, damaging his relationship with his mother, he eliminated any question as to who controlled the company.
In time, "Katz's closest acquaintances were the dancers at the strip bars he frequented." He "showered" them "with gifts, often taking groups of them with him to Las Vegas. Several of them accompanied him to the 1998 Comdex computer show there." "Some of his stripper friends took advantage of his generosity, stealing his credit card numbers and buying things for themselves. It intensified his paranoia. Katz began to keep any receipt or piece of mail bearing his name or account numbers. He piled it all into the back of his 1991 Nissan Pathfinder", leading to the car later being described by one of the exotic dancers as "so disgusting".
The authorities of "the city of Mequon" "obtained a search warrant to enter" his condominium "in August 1997 after neighbors complained about a stench emanating from the home and mice and insects scurrying near the unit." They found, according to "Kenneth Metzger, former general sanitarian for the City of Mequon", "It was knee deep in garbage. There were bottles, cans and rotting fast-food", and he also reported "sex magazines, videos and sex toys like whips and chains". "Among all the rubbish, they found credit cards, money, a laptop computer and jewelry that had never been opened." "An "ABC News obituary" stated "Katzís lawyers paid the city of Mequon about $8,000 for the cost of the cleanup, pest exterminators and legal fees." Publicity about the discoveries hurt Katz deeply, friends say, and some say it marked the beginning oftheend." (Phil Katz, though, talked more about "his father's death" "in the spring of 1981", 5 years before PkARC 1.0's inception "on August 6, 1986".)
His abandoned condominium was just one place he didn't spend much time living at. "Katz hopscotched along a strip of hotels near Mitchell International Airport, staying at one for three or four days, then moving to the next, usually less than a few hundred yards away."
Phil Katz's biggest problem, though, was drinking. He was "convicted of drunken driving. Between 1994 and September 1999, Katz was arrested five times for operating after suspension or revocation of his license. Records show that courts issued six warrants related to his driving". "Once the authorities starting looking for him, Katz started showing up at work a lot less often." "He lived in a state of paranoia". More impacting, though, his drinking caused his death at the age of 37.
Phil Katz "drank at least a liter of Rumple minze and two bottles of Bacardi rum a day" and at the age of 37, on April 12, 2000, "had died of acute pancreatic bleeding caused by chronic alcoholism", found dead two days later "slumped against a nightstand in a south side hotel, cradling an empty bottle of peppermint schnapps." "An empty bottle of peppermint schnapps was still clutched in his hand, and five more empties were scattered about the room.". Because "Katz had been dead for two days before his body was found", the day of his passing is often quoted as being April 14, although that is actually the day he was found dead.
In the end, Phil Katz got no sympathy from Thom Henderson who created System Enhancement Associates's ARC program, who called the copyright-infringing Phil Katz "a man whose professional reputation is based entirely on a lie." Others have fond memories of him, though. He was described as having "buddies on the bulletin boards", generating "such a buzz online" with his products, and causing his company, upon his death, to be "flooded with hundreds of e-mails offering condolences from software junkies around the world." "Stories of his death were printed in such" [far reaching] " media as theLondon Times, the New York Times and abcnews.com.". His mother says "it is amazing how many people say that even though they never met him or talked to him they are ever grateful for what he did. One man said he saved my butt many times. Phil was concerned with helping people."
One of the most common memories of his life, though, may be from people reading how it ended. "It is a tragic waste of such a very vital person, and of his energy and abilities." "itís a shame that his success and good fortune couldnít provide him with true happiness or peace of mind." "the riches his genius produced were no balm for what had become a hellish life of paranoia, booze and strip clubs."
His greatest impact to computer users, though, was how he handled the Zip file format. "In a bold move, Phil made the ZIP file format an open one. While PKZipís source code was closely guarded, Katz encouraged competitors to create their own programs that embraced the ZIP standard. He even worked with the Infozip project," which created freeware programs that handled zip files. Info-Zip released the source code for their software. "The free code released by the Infozip project has spawned a horde of PKZip imitators: WinZip, Power Archiver, Turbozip, PowerZip and many more", not to mention programs that may not be focused on data archiving and compression but which still used Zip technology or it's spin-off zlib, such as IBM's OS/2, Sun's HotJava browser, Novell Netware 6, PGP, "Netscape Communicator, the Linux kernel, Windows, Java, and countless other products."
Note, I didn't take the time when making this bibliography to ensure page names are right.)