Search in: Word
Vietnamese keyboard: Off
Virtual keyboard: Show
Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary
Lempel-Ziv Welch compression
Jump to user comments
(LZW) The algorithm used by the Unix compress command to
reduce the size of files, e.g. for archival or transmission.
LZW was designed by Terry Welch in 1984 for implementation in
hardware for high-performance disk controllers. It is a
variant of LZ78, one of the two Lempel-Ziv compression
The LZW algorithm relies on reoccurrence of byte sequences
(strings) in its input. It maintains a table mapping input
strings to their associated output codes. The table initially
contains mappings for all possible strings of length one.
Input is taken one byte at a time to find the longest initial
string present in the table. The code for that string is
output and then the string is extended with one more input
byte, b. A new entry is added to the table mapping the
extended string to the next unused code (obtained by
incrementing a counter). The process repeats, starting from
byte b. The number of bits in an output code, and hence the
maximum number of entries in the table is usually fixed and
once this limit is reached, no more entries are added.
LZW compression and decompression are licensed under Unisys
Corporation's 1984 U.S. Patent 4,558,302 and equivalent
foreign patents. This kind of patent isn't legal in most
coutries of the world (including the UK) except the USA.
Patents in the UK can't describe algorithms or mathematical
[A Technique for High Performance Data Compression, Terry A.
Welch, IEEE Computer, 17(6), June 1984, pp. 8-19]