Computer Hell

My Computer

Since last Friday, my computer has tended to present me with the Black Screen of Death (BSoD) at odd times. Whereupon I would shut down and the computer and try for a cold start. I would get the Dell Computer logo, followed by the screen that indicated the system was attempting to load Windows 10. Then, most times, I got the BSoD again.

After all my best efforts failed utterly, I called my friend Mike, whose knowledge of hardware and system software far exceeds mine. After a couple hours of going back and forth on the phone, it seems that the Dell Optiplex 9010 had system software that did not match some of the more recent application software. So we upgraded the system software, and suddenly the BSoD was a thing of the past.

Computers are complicated. Fortunately, I do not mind spending the money to get really good advice. Otherwise, I would be one of those millions of people who lose all their files when they unnecessarily migrate from one computer to another.



The Sad Life of Phil Katz

The Inventor of ZIP Files

The Inventor of ZIP Files

Way back in the early days of Personal Computers, space was at a premium. Very early on, back in the 1980s in fact, I quickly learned to use PKZIP and PKUNZIP to compress and decompress files that I was not using frequently. The PK in the names stood for inventor Phil Katz from Milwaukee, whose company PKWARE pretty much owned the business.

Then the lawsuits came, from a patent troll named System Enhancement Associates (SEA), which tried to establish the similar ARC format. For whatever reason, perhaps even before this happened, Phil turned to drink. He was arrested so many times for drunk driving that he stayed mostly in hotels between Milwaukee and Chicago. It was in one of these hotels in 2000 that Phil was found dead in his room with an empty bottle of peppermint schnapps at his side and two other empty liquor bottles nearby.

He was only 37 when he died.

Not all the innovators in the computer business turned out like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Although at one time, PKWARE had twenty employees, Phil was mostly an absentee loner and was not drawn to the business side of his enterprise, though he was not averse to draining the profits whenever he could.

Today I use the ZIP format on an almost daily basis. Although PKWARE is still in existence (at least, their website is), most people use either WinZip or just the ZIP functionality built into the Microsoft operating system (which Phil hated).

So drink a toast to Phil Katz, who didn’t really want to be famous or rich. He just wanted to be left alone.