I love image compression

For many years, JPEG has been the standard for image compression on the internet.  Having started in video games in the late 1970’s, when the Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) standard began to appear in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, I thought it was amazing.

In the 70’s and early 80’s, much of video games art was 8-bit and blocky.  Image compression was accomplished by reusing the same or the same run of color blocks.  My classic video game “Microsurgeon” (1982 Imagic) was probably one of the first video games to use quite a bit of compression in this fashion.  I had to represent several screens and code all the game play using minimal data — the game was 8k (that’s not 8GB or 8MB, it’s just 8k).

Some simple art and vector graphics could be compressed using data compression techniques like LZ and LZW, but images and more complex art either had to be compressed with proprietary schemes or finally JPEG when it came along.

I may be missing some important image compression algorithms here as I write off-the-top-of-my-thoughts, but my point is that compression always seems to get better — even when some think it won’t get much better.  For example, fractal image compression tried to better JPEG.  Nowadays we have Apple’s HEIC and Google’s AVI-based image compressions formats.  These seem to be useful improvements over JPEG.

Finally, I’ll just say that I love image compression.  It is mathematically appealing to this math enthusiast (B. A. Math, UCLA) to see a new compression algorithm that someone has devised to further compress an image without a great loss to the details.  Even if you don’t love image compression the way I do, you probably appreciate it when you stream television shows over wireless or broadband or keep a bunch of photos stored on your phone.


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