The Troubled Origins of .ZIP | Nostalgia Nerd

30 sep 2020
284 427 visningar

The first 1000 people who click the link will get 2 free months of Skillshare Premium: PKWare, PKZIP, PKUNZIP, these are all names which mean something significant to me. For most of the 90s, the PK tools were probably the most frequently used in my toolbox. Compressing Doom from my mate's PC across several floppy disks, creating my own VB installers, downloading data from bulletin boards or the early internet. It was an essential compression/decompression tool. But, the story of its origins is a little more tarnished than perhaps you would expect. If you've hard of SEA and their ARC file format, you might already know. Let's dive in.
Thanks to Tony Zinicola, Jr. for emailing me regarding this story. If you have any stories you want covered, email me at peter [at]
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  • BBS: The Documentary is essential viewing, if you haven't already seen it. Check out or watch the entire documentary through Jason Scott's playlist at You can follow Jason on Twitter at

    Nostalgia NerdNostalgia Nerd7 månader sedan
    • @Jason Scott No doubt. It's a great documentary and super in depth. I hope documentaries as thoughtful will appear (have appeared?) for other computers/countries. The teletext system is interesting, as well as France's national computer service they ran (the name escapes me at the moment). I'm sure there's interesting stuff that's obscure to english speaking territories that existed in Asia as well. Hopefully it's just a matter of time for some of those histories to be properly documented. Peace!

      Jeremy LandryJeremy Landry6 månader sedan
    • @Jeremy Landry I knew getting other countries would bust my budget at the time (I paid for the BBS documentary all by myself, doing a pre-ordering at the end to pay for the duplication).

      Jason ScottJason Scott6 månader sedan
    • Omg never heard of this! BBS' changed my life, I was a teen, it was pre-internet days as far as the public was concerned and me and my stepdad connected over computers and he showed me how to call in to BBS'! Soon I was downloading warez and playing Baron Realms Elite!

      Hermetic XhaoteHermetic Xhaote7 månader sedan
    • The series is very American centric. Multiple regions had systems of their own with their own stories. Furthermore, there were simultaneously boards for other computers existing in the same time frame. BBS is about IBM PC compatibles ecosystem and networking alone. It's a damn good serious, but it's deliberately focused on one specific area in one specific region, but arguably the largest, most populous one of the time. Peace and love.

      Jeremy LandryJeremy Landry7 månader sedan
    • @ArthursHD I hope you are aware that JPG/PNG, AV1, VP8, etc. are lossy compressions, which means they understand the type of content and leave out content that looks duplicate to the user (or reduce resolution). And LZMA2, Zip, etc. are lossless compression of which the output is the same as the original file not altered in any way. The lossy are thus a different technology with mostly a different history

      autohmaeautohmae7 månader sedan
  • 6:24 While SEA’s Arc was written in sea. I mean, C.

    Jean GagnierJean Gagnier11 timmar sedan
  • And this is how the first Matrix was born. It was designed to be a paradise free of suffering. But it seems people identify with suffering so they rejected that reality.

    First NameFirst Name14 dagar sedan
  • Oof. *Nostalgia* nerd is right. I got smacked in the face with so much nostalgia in the video.

    Zotan InoronZotan Inoron17 dagar sedan
  • I kinda liked ARJ back in the day, cause it was so simple to compress into practical 1,44 MB chunks to put on floppies. Yep, this was a long time ago.

    FattarduFattardu18 dagar sedan
  • want to talk #censorship get your phone number blocked from a #BBS

    ExtraneusExtraneus19 dagar sedan
  • What about B1 format?

    ValerioValerio21 dag sedan
  • This and the Microsoft Story was awesome

    William DWilliam D29 dagar sedan
  • Wohoo. What was even worse than the zip format was iomega zip disks...

    JP TJP TMånad sedan
  • After so may years, now when i try to compress something with 7zip or Winrar, the difference in size is so low that it just to pack the files at the end 😣

    FhargaZFhargaZMånad sedan
    • Really depends on what exactly you are trying to compress. Image sound and video is nearly always compressed already. Compressing games can give you a nice compression ratio. Starsector for example takes up 280mb without mods, compressing on 7zip ultra preset shrinks that down to 170mb.

      -RandomUserName--RandomUserName-19 dagar sedan
  • At the beginning was that mr sandman?

    lillylillyMånad sedan
  • never used zip. i use RAR. zip or winzip or 7z are trash programs, poorly designed.

    nope!nope!Månad sedan
  • Yo, did my guy actually just sit still at the beginning for 10 seconds?

    Wintertree StudiosWintertree StudiosMånad sedan
  • wait this isnt lgr

    archimediesarchimediesMånad sedan
  • I miss the BBS days. Me and my Commodore 128D with wildcat BBS. Good times.

    David MillerDavid MillerMånad sedan
  • next episode: What happened to WinRar?

    Christian BernardoChristian BernardoMånad sedan
  • In the late dos years zip wasn't the dominant format. It wasn't even competitive. ARJ was the dominant. It outperformed ZIP in every way. The best by far in speed and compression was AIN, but had a bug for over 1024 files. Early RAR was crap until they released version 2 of the format.

    nikoladdnikoladdMånad sedan
  • These are cool videos but they really have ‘credits’ that contain 10 or so different people?

    codycastcodycastMånad sedan
  • Someone who assumingly had ARPAnet access (having a .arpa site) weighing in shows how widesprad this really was

    P77777777P777777772 månader sedan
  • Smaller is better...hold on guys (grin)

    Robert BruceRobert Bruce2 månader sedan
  • .ZIP did not win. Microsoft in fact stole ,ZIP compression and incorporated it into windows XP and later versions. .Rar is actually superior.

    Robert KingRobert King2 månader sedan
  • 6:00 Talks about UW Milwaukee *Shows capital and UW Madison*

    T MajorT Major3 månader sedan
  • Ugh SEA should've just moved on and developed new software to stay in the business. You can't stay stagnant, and it's morally wrong to try and copyright an algorithm imo.

    HayleyHayley3 månader sedan
  • Would be super interesting to see some more videos on the history of different file formats! Even if they’re on some of the more obscure ones like the ODF (Open Document Formats) which was the ISOs attempt at standardizing office document formats

    Rory McGuireRory McGuire4 månader sedan
  • Got an ad for Zipcars before the video played. The SEworld algorithm is either getting lazy as hell or is really playing it on the nose at this point

    Rory McGuireRory McGuire4 månader sedan
  • Zip File

    Holy Mother Oil GazpromovnaHoly Mother Oil Gazpromovna4 månader sedan
  • .arj then .rar unless I was forced to use .zip by less smart people.

    #BLDM#BLDM4 månader sedan
  • David Huffman was a Computer Science professor at UC Santa Cruz when I was there between 1984 and 1989. I had a few classes with him, including one where he covered his encoding scheme.

    Edward BlairEdward Blair4 månader sedan
  • I've always used .7z but i did not start using pc's until Microsoft Me.

    Eddie QuistEddie Quist4 månader sedan
  • That flyover shot is not Milwaukee - it's Madison. They're about 1hr15min apart.

    ChiefUnderAchieverChiefUnderAchiever5 månader sedan
  • is there a video about fraunhofer mp3 and another audio/video formats, like rm?

    Dante At WorkDante At Work5 månader sedan
  • what about .arj (or was that the file format for pkarc?) and .pak

    Jerry BeardJerry Beard5 månader sedan
  • 2:50 I heard 1985 but subtitles say 1995????

    Yongen AngYongen Ang5 månader sedan
  • The wild days of early nineties compression routines... You also got .lha, .lzh, and .arj archives, to not make it too easy.

    Karri KoivusaloKarri Koivusalo5 månader sedan
  • Phil Katz, also habitual drunk-driver and eventually died of alcohol/organ failure. Not a quality person.

    Insidious DrNineInsidious DrNine5 månader sedan
  • i love your videos, but i have a request. a compilation of the beauty shots of your cable modem. Scientific Atlanta Webstar 2100 right?

    mattgladmattglad5 månader sedan
  • have anyone mentioned the "" joke yet?

    Ruslan PetreaRuslan Petrea5 månader sedan
  • Compression is complicated af and blows my tiny mind.

    R69NiXR69NiX5 månader sedan
  • 0:53 Mr. Sandman!

    Forest WhispersForest Whispers5 månader sedan
  • Badasses discovered gzip & abandoned pkzip by the early 90's. Despite even better algorithms like xz, it's hard to believe most of the world still uses ancient pkzip.

    Lion McLionheadLion McLionhead5 månader sedan
  • 5:55 "enrolled at UW Milwaukee" shows flyover of downtown Madison/ UW Madison campus

    pikachu 922pikachu 9225 månader sedan
  • BaHahahahahaha! I'm in that documentary

    Mad Man JonesMad Man Jones5 månader sedan

    Alexey SamokhinAlexey Samokhin5 månader sedan
  • Remember ARJ?

    iamalongusernameiamalongusername5 månader sedan
  • pkzip and zip are unable to handle files over 4GB. Back during it inception, hard drives were 10MB or 20MB, or in that area. So a 4GB ceiling seemed to be a non issue. Try zipping up a DVD movie (and even DVD is now old) or zipping up a 4K video, and unless the video is only a few minutes long, you will easily exceed pkzip's (and zip's) file size limitation. Or try zipping up your music collection. Unless you have only a handful of songs, 4GB is only a few albums. And today, you cannot even find new storage devices that are less than 16GB. But for not-so-large file compression needs, pkzip (and zip) are good utilities. One excellent benefit of zipping files is for transferring them over a network (via ftp, or e-mail, etc). When the receiving party gets the zip archive file, and they unzip it, they will know whether or not even a single byte of data got corrupted. The unzipping utility checks the veracity of all files contained within the zip archive file. Normally, you would never get a warning, because it is rare for there to be an issue. But the file validation that takes place is confirmation of no issues. Cheers!

    PerhapsPerhaps5 månader sedan
  • Power Packer FTW!

    ziplock9000ziplock90005 månader sedan
  • 5:51 - is this Madison Wisconsin ? .. not Milwaukee ?

    B SmB Sm5 månader sedan
  • I remember another one called .PAK and the first BBS I used switched from PAK to ZIP, around 1988 or so (must be 1989). Oh that must be the PKPAK you mentioned at 12:45

    Donald RiversDonald Rivers5 månader sedan
  • .zip How I got all my warez in 93.

    Mr. KornnuggetMr. Kornnugget5 månader sedan
  • I think I've never used ARC. But I can remember me using ARJ in DOS to compress/decompress files.

    Martín LehoczkyMartín Lehoczky5 månader sedan
  • The only reason I use ZIP is to bundle files together to a single package so I can upload it in one batch. Rarely ever do I care about the compression, for what i then usually use .7z which seems to be very good so far. .zip just has the advantage to work with a lot of programs straight out the box

    LabongaLabonga5 månader sedan
  • this content is awesome. shame that youtube did not recommend this early.

    Krishna OzaKrishna Oza5 månader sedan
  • In the early to mid 90s, I remember using ARJ and a bit of RAR. No ZIP.

    MaxMax6 månader sedan
  • Bold of you to assume i was even alive in the 90's.

    Captain ChairCaptain Chair6 månader sedan
  • Do you guys remember .rar?

    Roach Dogg JRRoach Dogg JR6 månader sedan
  • Should be about deflate algo

    TJ In SpaceTJ In Space6 månader sedan
  • Omg... I had no idea! Great video, thanks. pkz204g.exe was always handy on a disk in my DOS days. I had completely forgotten about ARC. It was ubiquitous back in the BBS days. I ran a board on WWIV back in the late 80s and early 9os. Good times!

    Rick NuthmanRick Nuthman6 månader sedan
  • Gzip.tar FTW

    Scared FolksScared Folks6 månader sedan
  • ZIP … that’s a weird way of saying RAR.

    Multifaceted AbnormalMultifaceted Abnormal6 månader sedan
  • Not only now we use .zip files directly but also OpenDocument (LibreOffice) and Office Open XML (Microsoft Office) formats are also ZIP files containing all the data/metadata of the documents; and also in JARs (Java applications) and APKs (Android apps) among other users.

    Eduardo EscarezEduardo Escarez6 månader sedan
  • ZIP is not only the standard on IBM PC-compatibles, but it's also used often on Android and Unix. Incredible.

    IndellableIndellable6 månader sedan
  • 7z is better

    Virtual Sky TateVirtual Sky Tate6 månader sedan
  • 7-Zip has entered the chat

    gothael1gothael16 månader sedan
  • 5:57 You mention the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The overview you show is of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Just an FYI.

    Bluenote22Bluenote226 månader sedan
  • I am more an ARJ kind of person :>

    J BJ B6 månader sedan
  • Cut and DRIED.

    Andrew HoldawayAndrew Holdaway6 månader sedan
  • Isn’t that because...... Mr.Shot get killed? as the shot digital coding system is a really good thing.

    Freddy LiFreddy Li6 månader sedan
  • What isn't made completely clear is Phil Katz knowingly stole the ARC compression code and was a massive dick about it too. It's kind of glossed over at 7:38 - it's not "He didn't think he did anything wrong." He knew full well. It was made open source by SEA as a kindness - you need to buy a licence to use the code commercially. (This is exactly how Unreal Engine 4 works right now - try repurposing their code and advertising right next to them and see how far you get!) Phil made improvements, but then made large amounts of money off that original algorithm, and their business model. SEA was able to disassemble PKUnzip and find the exact same spelling mistakes they put in their code. They diplomatically asked for a licence, and, using unpleasant language, he told them where to shove it, claming it was all original work, which of course was an outright lie. When they finally moved to sue, he promoted himself as the little underdog being sued by the big bad company (even though they were both out-of-home operated businesses). He knew it would be a great story for the public, and it worked. Nearly all re-tellings of this story still to this day describe him as a kindly soul just dedicating software to the community. It was only when the court case actually went ahead that he caved in and settled out of court because he knew he was doing the wrong thing. You can read more from Thom himself (SEA) here and the links there.

    Clint HobsonClint Hobson6 månader sedan
    • @Secret that's actually very poetic.

      Clint HobsonClint HobsonMånad sedan
    • Thoms footnote at the end of the text file you linked is perhaps the most salient :- "If you fail to abide by the terms of this license, then your conscience will haunt you for the rest of your life." I was lucky enough to meet Thom a few times in person, and I know how much he was haunted by this, and sure enough the quote was copied verbatim from the S.E.A. source into the PKARC source.

      SecretSecretMånad sedan
  • PKZIP!

    tr1p1eatr1p1ea6 månader sedan
  • Did you forget PKZIPFIX? Also ARC would even make its way into ICD's SpartaDOS X cartridge for the Atari 8-bit.

    The Annoyed Mr FloydThe Annoyed Mr Floyd6 månader sedan
  • I still use ARJ (I am a BBS sysop and developer). Better compression than ZIP and there is an open-source version of ARJ (not official but works just the same). ARJ is still available for purchase by the Jung family with DOS and Windows versions available. I knew about the backhandedness of Phil Katz years ago and didn't like using ZIP for that reason but I used it since it was popular. These days, I use ARJ without any issues. RAR is great but with all of the improvement and major changes to its algorithm, RAR is lousy for backwards compatibility.

    Sean DennisSean Dennis6 månader sedan
  • As someone who was around during this period, I can say, in my case, it had nothing to do with who made the utilities. Phil's stuff was just waaaaay faster. And back then... speed was everything. We were always looking for ways to get our computers to do things faster. Only having 10 minutes of the video watched as of writing this, I going to say, this is why pretty much everyone moved to ZIP after the dust settled. It was faster, and compressed better. But there were a lot of utilities to do this at the time. In hindsight, I wish we'd all just used the tar format and compression filters, which is how we do things in unix/linux, and how it was done then too. Tar hasn't changed much in 50 years. As a result, even a modern linux box with tar can still read old tar archives.

    Chetar RubyChetar Ruby6 månader sedan
  • renegade BBS :)

    Chris TeschkeChris Teschke6 månader sedan
  • TLDR Zip came from updated stolen code

    LunarFoxzLunarFoxz6 månader sedan
  • I sometimes just use wim as archive format lol.

    Old LiquidOld Liquid6 månader sedan
  • When is 7-Zip going to release 8-Zip?!

    Mr. GarbageMr. Garbage6 månader sedan
    • I hope there will be no 10-Zip.

      pvcpvc6 månader sedan
  • Oh, SEA was sold to a Japanese firm? Maybe that explains why I ran into so many .arc files from Japanese sources in the late 90s, despite it being outdated for many years at that point.

    Tannhäuser GateTannhäuser Gate6 månader sedan

    Joe ManningJoe Manning6 månader sedan
  • Not bibi S??

    Richard MRichard M6 månader sedan
  • Holy hell dude, this was a great listen while vacuuming the floor at my work! This is quite an amazing educational vid

    YamiGekusuYamiGekusu6 månader sedan
  • I found/find the overwhelming advantage of any of these programs was not the compression, but the *archiving*, the conversion of multiple files into a single file for transfer, so you just transfer instead of having to transfer StarTrek.exe, StarTrek.ini, StarTrek.doc, ReadMe.txt, trek001.dat, trek002.dat, trek003.dat etc etc etc etc.

    Jonathan HarstonJonathan Harston6 månader sedan
  • Back in time, the first compression utility I have used is Arj for DOS. It was slow but I think it gave better compression than pkzip. Then i quickly moved to another compressor - AIN. Ain was written by a Russian company and was giving superior speed and compression to ARJ. Then we got RAR. RAR was simply the best. After RAR somebody invented the arithmetic coding. I've seen some underground but outstanding compression utilities which have gone into oblivion. And 7-zip appeared with LZMA support.

    Angel GAngel G6 månader sedan
  • PKZIP, I still use that everyday. Part of a programming software

    DeKempsterDeKempster6 månader sedan
  • Before .RAR was available I was all about .ARJ compression. Much more options and overall a better software than ZIP was. Then came RAR

    twistedtxbtwistedtxb6 månader sedan
  • whatever you do don't tell me it's actually pronounced "Jip" 😉

    Shadowmaster625Shadowmaster6256 månader sedan
  • Everybody uses zip these days?????????????? Yes maybe in 2005

    Atomy111Atomy1116 månader sedan
  • 10:18 Grognards ruin everything. Absolutely everything.

    phuturephunkphuturephunk7 månader sedan
  • Did i see the Frankfurter Römer?

    Mark St.Mark St.7 månader sedan
  • Nice video. Where are those days that you had no choice to compress files to store it on a cd, dvd or sending files by mails? We have come a long way. I personally do not need to use it anymore.

    Yves GyselYves Gysel7 månader sedan
  • Yeah, i remember .LZH and .ARJ competitor of .ZIP.

    KaynosKaynos7 månader sedan
  • Do you write your own closed captions? If you do, there is a typo. The timestamp is getting displayed instead of the intended caption text. Check around 0:16:00.920

    AbandonedCraniumAbandonedCranium7 månader sedan
  • May have been asked b4: So, how does winzip relate to this? Why is .zip still weird on my top of the line for 2008 win7 deskiy? I feel there's still some strangeness in the equation because I find I have to DL a zip program whenever I reinstall a "modern" win OS.

    H\-/ LeathH\-/ Leath7 månader sedan
  • *Phil Katz:* (delivers huge reams of blank paper) *Phil Katz:* "Here is the PKXARC source code...written in Whitespace."

    AkashicRecordAkashicRecord7 månader sedan
  • And then a time traveler with "Bzip2" arrives and overtakes the world...

    AkashicRecordAkashicRecord7 månader sedan
  • This video came on via auto play while I was in the kitchen with my wireless headset, and I was genuinely confused as to when and why Jimmy Broadbent started making IT videos.

    domssondomsson7 månader sedan
  • That documentary was well worth the 5 hours!

    694206969420697 månader sedan
  • captain wankbeard

    R SimpsonR Simpson7 månader sedan
  • loving the updated look f your channel!

    ZooblesDooblesZooblesDoobles7 månader sedan
  • Loving auto generated subtitles. Wis-con-sin in Milwalkie :-)

    FrikinOSMFrikinOSM7 månader sedan
  • Ah yes, Phil Katz, host of RetroManCave.

    Jay ThomasJay Thomas7 månader sedan