Father of the Zip

Father of the Zip

April 14, 2000 - Phillip Katz died on this day. A hotel maintenance man found him slumped over an empty bottle of peppermint schnapps. It was the sad end to a remarkable life.

Back in the 80s Katz was a 20-something computer geek living with his mom. Tinkering away on an IBM computer he figured out a way to compress files and he posted it to a popular shareware site where people were invited to give the software a test drive. If they liked it, they could send Katz some money.

The money started pouring in. Katz formed a company (PKWARE), put his mother in charge of the administrative stuff, and spent most of his time writing code at her kitchen table.

The 90s were a blur as the company grew to about 3 dozen employees and annual revenue reached $5 million. While his mom kept an eye on the business Katz fell into a routine of partying hard and barely working. On most days he would roll into the office after noon, even then he would spend most of his time playing video games with the other programmers.

The crazy lifestyle was catching up with Katz. He had numerous drunk driving tickets, skipped his court dates and ultimately became a man on the run.

For a while he lived like a hermit in his condo with trash piling up and his neighbors complaining of the stench. Then he bounced around cheap motels, like the one he finally died in.

Dead at 37, Katz had helped create one of the most popular sharewares of all time.

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