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Upcyling a 40-year-old Tandy Mannequin 100 Moveable Laptop

The world of magic had Houdini, who pioneered methods which might be nonetheless carried out immediately. And knowledge compression has Jacob Ziv.

In 1977, Ziv, working with Abraham Lempel, revealed the equal of
Houdini on Magic: a paper within the IEEE Transactions on Info Concept titled “A Common Algorithm for Sequential Knowledge Compression.” The algorithm described within the paper got here to be referred to as LZ77—from the authors’ names, in alphabetical order, and the yr. LZ77 wasn’t the primary lossless compression algorithm, however it was the primary that might work its magic in a single step.

The next yr, the 2 researchers issued a refinement, LZ78. That algorithm grew to become the premise for the Unix compress program used within the early ’80s; WinZip and Gzip, born within the early ’90s; and the GIF and TIFF picture codecs. With out these algorithms, we would seemingly be mailing massive knowledge recordsdata on discs as an alternative of sending them throughout the Web with a click on, shopping for our music on CDs as an alternative of streaming it, and Fb feeds that do not have bouncing animated photos.

Ziv went on to associate with different researchers on different improvements in compression. It’s his full physique of labor, spanning greater than half a century, that earned him the
2021 IEEE Medal of Honor “for elementary contributions to data concept and knowledge compression expertise, and for distinguished analysis management.”

Ziv was born in 1931 to Russian immigrants in Tiberias, a metropolis then in British-ruled Palestine and now a part of Israel. Electrical energy and devices—and little else—fascinated him as a baby. Whereas training violin, for instance, he got here up with a scheme to show his music stand right into a lamp. He additionally tried to construct a Marconi transmitter from metallic player-piano elements. When he plugged the contraption in, the complete home went darkish. He by no means did get that transmitter to work.

When the Arab-Israeli Battle started in 1948, Ziv was in highschool. Drafted into the Israel Protection Forces, he served briefly on the entrance strains till a gaggle of moms held organized protests, demanding that the youngest troopers be despatched elsewhere. Ziv’s reassignment took him to the Israeli Air Drive, the place he skilled as a radar technician. When the struggle ended, he entered Technion—Israel Institute of Know-how to review electrical engineering.

After finishing his grasp’s diploma in 1955, Ziv returned to the protection world, this time becoming a member of Israel’s Nationwide Protection Analysis Laboratory (now
Rafael Superior Protection Methods) to develop digital elements to be used in missiles and different navy methods. The difficulty was, Ziv remembers, that not one of the engineers within the group, together with himself, had greater than a primary understanding of electronics. Their electrical engineering training had targeted extra on energy methods.

“We had about six folks, and we needed to train ourselves,” he says. “We’d decide a ebook after which research collectively, like non secular Jews learning the Hebrew Bible. It wasn’t sufficient.”

The group’s aim was to construct a telemetry system utilizing transistors as an alternative of vacuum tubes. They wanted not solely data, however elements. Ziv contacted Bell Phone Laboratories and requested a free pattern of its transistor; the corporate despatched 100.

“That coated our wants for just a few months,” he says. “I give myself credit score for being the primary one in Israel to do one thing severe with the transistor.”

In 1959, Ziv was chosen as one in all a handful of researchers from Israel’s protection lab to review overseas. That program, he says, reworked the evolution of science in Israel. Its organizers did not steer the chosen younger engineers and scientists into specific fields. As a substitute, they allow them to pursue any sort of graduate research in any Western nation.

“In an effort to run a pc program on the time, you had to make use of punch playing cards and I hated them. That’s the reason I did not go into actual pc science.”

Ziv deliberate to proceed working in communications, however he was now not all in favour of simply the {hardware}. He had just lately learn
Info Concept (Prentice-Corridor, 1953), one of many earliest books on the topic, by Stanford Goldman, and he determined to make data concept his focus. And the place else would one research data concept however MIT, the place Claude Shannon, the sphere’s pioneer, had began out?

Ziv arrived in Cambridge, Mass., in 1960. His Ph.D. analysis concerned a way of figuring out easy methods to encode and decode messages despatched by means of a loud channel, minimizing the likelihood and error whereas on the similar time holding the decoding easy.

“Info concept is gorgeous,” he says. “It tells you what’s the finest you could ever obtain, and [it] tells you easy methods to approximate the end result. So should you make investments the computational effort, you’ll be able to know you’re approaching the perfect final result attainable.”

Ziv contrasts that certainty with the uncertainty of a deep-learning algorithm. It could be clear that the algorithm is working, however no one actually is aware of whether or not it’s the finest end result attainable.

Whereas at MIT, Ziv held a part-time job at U.S. protection contractor
Melpar, the place he labored on error-correcting software program. He discovered this work much less stunning. “In an effort to run a pc program on the time, you had to make use of punch playing cards,” he remembers. “And I hated them. That’s the reason I did not go into actual pc science.”

Again on the Protection Analysis Laboratory after two years in the US, Ziv took cost of the Communications Division. Then in 1970, with a number of different coworkers, he joined the college of Technion.

There he met Abraham Lempel. The 2 mentioned attempting to enhance lossless knowledge compression.

The cutting-edge in lossless knowledge compression on the time was Huffman coding. This method begins by discovering sequences of bits in a knowledge file after which sorting them by the frequency with which they seem. Then the encoder builds a dictionary by which the most typical sequences are represented by the smallest variety of bits. This is identical concept behind Morse code: Probably the most frequent letter within the English language, e, is represented by a single dot, whereas rarer letters have extra advanced mixtures of dots and dashes.

Huffman coding, whereas nonetheless used immediately within the MPEG-2 compression format and a lossless type of JPEG, has its drawbacks. It requires two passes by means of a knowledge file: one to calculate the statistical options of the file, and the second to encode the info. And storing the dictionary together with the encoded knowledge provides to the dimensions of the compressed file.

Ziv and Lempel questioned if they might develop a lossless data-compression algorithm that will work on any sort of knowledge, didn’t require preprocessing, and would obtain the perfect compression for that knowledge, a goal outlined by one thing referred to as the Shannon entropy. It was unclear if their aim was even attainable. They determined to search out out.

Ziv says he and Lempel had been the “good match” to sort out this query. “I knew all about data concept and statistics, and Abraham was properly outfitted in Boolean algebra and pc science.”

The 2 got here up with the thought of getting the algorithm search for distinctive sequences of bits on the similar time that it is compressing the info, utilizing tips that could discuss with beforehand seen sequences. This method requires just one move by means of the file, so it is quicker than Huffman coding.

Ziv explains it this fashion: “You have a look at incoming bits to search out the longest stretch of bits for which there’s a match prior to now. As an instance that first incoming bit is a 1. Now, since you’ve just one bit, you’ve by no means seen it prior to now, so you don’t have any alternative however to transmit it as is.”

“However you then get one other bit,” he continues. “Say that is a 1 as properly. So that you enter into your dictionary 1-1. Say the following bit is a 0. So in your dictionary you now have 1-1 and in addition 1-0.”

Here is the place the pointer is available in. The subsequent time that the stream of bits features a 1-1 or a 1-0, the software program would not transmit these bits. As a substitute it sends a pointer to the placement the place that sequence first appeared, together with the size of the matched sequence. The variety of bits that you simply want for that pointer could be very small.

“Info concept is gorgeous. It tells you what’s the finest you could ever obtain, and (it) tells you easy methods to approximate the end result.”

“It is principally what they used to do in publishing
TV Information,” Ziv says. “They might run a synopsis of every program as soon as. If this system appeared greater than as soon as, they did not republish the synopsis. They simply mentioned, return to web page x.”

Decoding on this method is even less complicated, as a result of the decoder would not should establish distinctive sequences. As a substitute it finds the places of the sequences by following the pointers after which replaces every pointer with a duplicate of the related sequence.

The algorithm did the whole lot Ziv and Lempel had got down to do—it proved that universally optimum lossless compression with out preprocessing was attainable.

“On the time they revealed their work, the truth that the algorithm was crisp and chic and was simply implementable with low computational complexity was virtually inappropriate,” says Tsachy Weissman, {an electrical} engineering professor at Stanford College who focuses on data concept. “It was extra in regards to the theoretical end result.”

Ultimately, although, researchers acknowledged the algorithm’s sensible implications, Weissman says. “The algorithm itself grew to become actually helpful when our applied sciences began coping with bigger file sizes past 100,000 and even one million characters.”

“Their story is a narrative in regards to the energy of elementary theoretical analysis,” Weissman provides. “You possibly can set up theoretical outcomes about what must be achievable—and a long time later humanity advantages from the implementation of algorithms based mostly on these outcomes.”

Ziv and Lempel saved engaged on the expertise, attempting to get nearer to entropy for small knowledge recordsdata. That work led to LZ78. Ziv says LZ78 appears much like LZ77 however is definitely very completely different, as a result of it anticipates the following bit. “As an instance the primary bit is a 1, so that you enter within the dictionary two codes, 1-1 and 1-0,” he explains. You possibly can think about these two sequences as the primary branches of a tree.”

“When the second bit comes,” Ziv says, “if it is a 1, you ship the pointer to the primary code, the 1-1, and if it is 0, you level to the opposite code, 1-0. And you then prolong the dictionary by including two extra prospects to the chosen department of the tree. As you try this repeatedly, sequences that seem extra continuously will develop longer branches.”

“It seems,” he says, “that not solely was that the optimum [approach], however so easy that it grew to become helpful immediately.”

Photo of Jacob Ziv (left) and Abraham Lempel.Jacob Ziv (left) and Abraham Lempel revealed algorithms for lossless knowledge compression in 1977 and 1978, each within the IEEE Transactions on Info Concept. The strategies grew to become referred to as LZ77 and LZ78 and are nonetheless in use immediately.Picture: Jacob Ziv/Technion

Whereas Ziv and Lempel had been engaged on LZ78, they had been each on sabbatical from Technion and dealing at U.S. corporations. They knew their improvement can be commercially helpful, they usually wished to patent it.

“I used to be at Bell Labs,” Ziv remembers, “and so I believed the patent ought to belong to them. However they mentioned that it is not attainable to get a patent except it is a piece of {hardware}, they usually weren’t all in favour of attempting.” (The U.S. Supreme Court docket did not open the door to direct patent safety for software program till the Nineteen Eighties.)

Nonetheless, Lempel’s employer, Sperry Rand Corp., was prepared to attempt. It bought across the restriction on software program patents by constructing {hardware} that carried out the algorithm and patenting that gadget. Sperry Rand adopted that first patent with a model tailored by researcher Terry Welch, referred to as the LZW algorithm. It was the LZW variant that unfold most generally.

Ziv regrets not having the ability to patent LZ78 instantly, however, he says, “We loved the truth that [LZW] was extremely popular. It made us well-known, and we additionally loved the analysis it led us to.”

One idea that adopted got here to be referred to as Lempel-Ziv complexity, a measure of the variety of distinctive substrings contained in a sequence of bits. The less distinctive substrings, the extra a sequence will be compressed.

This measure later got here for use to test the safety of encryption codes; if a code is really random, it can’t be compressed. Lempel-Ziv complexity has additionally been used to research electroencephalograms—recordings {of electrical} exercise within the mind—to
decide the depth of anesthesia, to diagnose melancholy, and for different functions. Researchers have even utilized it to analyze pop lyrics, to find out developments in repetitiveness.

Over his profession, Ziv revealed some 100 peer-reviewed papers. Whereas the 1977 and 1978 papers are essentially the most well-known, data theorists that got here after Ziv have their very own favorites.

For Shlomo Shamai, a distinguished professor at Technion, it is the 1976 paper that launched
the Wyner-Ziv algorithm, a method of characterizing the bounds of utilizing supplementary data out there to the decoder however not the encoder. That drawback emerges, for instance, in video purposes that benefit from the truth that the decoder has already deciphered the earlier body and thus it may be used as aspect data for encoding the following one.

For Vincent Poor, a professor {of electrical} engineering at Princeton College, it is the 1969 paper describing
the Ziv-Zakai certain, a method of realizing whether or not or not a sign processor is getting essentially the most correct data attainable from a given sign.

Ziv additionally impressed numerous main data-compression consultants by means of the lessons he taught at Technion till 1985. Weissman, a former pupil, says Ziv “is deeply passionate in regards to the mathematical fantastic thing about compression as a technique to quantify data. Taking a course from him in 1999 had a giant half in setting me on the trail of my very own analysis.”

He wasn’t the one one so impressed. “I took a category on data concept from Ziv in 1979, at first of my grasp’s research,” says Shamai. “Greater than 40 years have handed, and I nonetheless keep in mind the course. It made me keen to take a look at these issues, to do analysis, and to pursue a Ph.D.”

In recent times, glaucoma has taken away most of Ziv’s imaginative and prescient. He says {that a} paper revealed in IEEE Transactions on Info Concept this January is his final. He’s 89.

“I began the paper two and a half years in the past, after I nonetheless had sufficient imaginative and prescient to make use of a pc,” he says. “On the finish, Yuval Cassuto, a youthful college member at Technion, completed the mission.” The paper discusses conditions by which massive data recordsdata should be transmitted rapidly to distant databases.

As Ziv explains it, such a necessity might come up when a physician desires to match a affected person’s DNA pattern to previous samples from the identical affected person, to find out if there was a mutation, or to a library of DNA, to find out if the affected person has a genetic illness. Or a researcher learning a brand new virus might need to evaluate its DNA sequence to a DNA database of recognized viruses.

“The issue is that the quantity of data in a DNA pattern is large,” Ziv says, “an excessive amount of to be despatched by a community immediately in a matter of hours and even, generally, in days. If you’re, say, attempting to establish viruses which might be altering in a short time in time, that could be too lengthy.”

The method he and Cassuto describe entails utilizing recognized sequences that seem generally within the database to assist compress the brand new knowledge, with out first checking for a particular match between the brand new knowledge and the recognized sequences.

“I actually hope that this analysis may be used sooner or later,” Ziv says. If his observe file is any indication, Cassuto-Ziv—or maybe CZ21—will add to his legacy.

This text seems within the Might 2021 print situation as “Conjurer of Compression.”

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