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Romke Jan Bernhard Sloot (27 August 1945, Groningen – 11 July 1999, Nieuwegein) was a Dutch electronics engineer, who in 1995 claimed to have developed a revolutionary data sharing technique, the Sloot Digital Coding System, which could allegedly store a complete movie in 8 kilobytes of data — this is orders of magnitude greater compression than the best currently available technology as of 2019. He died suddenly on July 11, 1999 of a heart attack, just days before the conclusion of a contract to sell the invention. The full source code was never recovered, and the technique and claim has since never been reproduced or verified.
Sloot was born the youngest of three children. His father, a school headmaster, left his family quite soon after Sloot's birth. :18 Sloot was enrolled at a Dutch technical school, but dropped out early to work at a radio station. :20 After fulfilling mandatory military service, Sloot settled in Utrecht with his wife. :20 He worked briefly for Philips Electronics in Eindhoven. He left this job in 1978 after a year and a half, starting his next job in Groningen at an audio and video store. A few years later he moved to Nieuwegein where he started his own company repairing televisions and stereos.
In 1984, Sloot began focusing on computer technology such as the Philips P2000, Commodore 64, IBM PC XT, and AT. Sloot developed the idea of a countrywide repair service network called RepaBase with a database containing details on all repairs carried out. This concept was the motivation to develop alternative data storage techniques that would require significantly less space than traditional methods.
Sloot Encoding System
In 1995, Sloot claimed to have developed a data encoding technique that could store an entire feature film in only 8 kilobytes. For comparison, even with the most modern techniques, a very low-quality video file normally requires 10,000 times more storage space, and a higher quality video file could require 175,000 times more data.
Roel Pieper is quoted as saying (translated from Dutch):
- "It is not about compression. Everyone is mistaken about that. The principle can be compared with a concept as Adobe-postscript, where sender and receiver know what kind of data recipes can be transferred, without the data itself actually being sent."
In 1996, Sloot received an investment from colleague Jos van Rossum, a cigarette machine operator. The same year, Sloot and van Rossum were granted a 6-year Dutch patent for the Sloot Encoding System, naming Sloot as inventor and Van Rossum as patent owner.
Despite the apparent impossibility of the encoding system, there were investors who saw potential. In early 1999, Dutch investor Marcel Boekhoorn joined the group. In March 1999, the system was demonstrated to Roel Pieper, former CTO and board member of Philips. Pieper resigned from Philips in May 1999 and joined Sloot's company as CEO, which was re-branded as The Fifth Force, Inc. The story—including an account of a believable demonstration of the technology—is told in modest detail in Tom Perkins' 2007 book Valley Boy: The Education of Tom Perkins.
Perkins, the co-founder of the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, had agreed to invest in the technology when Sloot died. Perkins and Pieper would have proceeded after Sloot's death, but a key piece of the technology, a compiler stored on a floppy disk, had disappeared and, despite months of searching, was never recovered.
On July 11, 1999 Sloot was found dead, in his garden at his home in Nieuwegein of an apparent heart attack. He died one day before an attractive deal was signed with Roel Pieper, former CTO and board member of Philips.
The family consented to an autopsy, but no autopsy was performed. Sloot left behind his wife and three children.
- Klok, Peter (September 20, 2004). "Tv-reparateur nam geheim mee in zijn graf" [TV repairman took secret to his grave] (in Dutch).
- Bartels, Vladimir (2001). De Broncode Deel (Video Documentary).
- Smit, Eric. Der SuperCode [The SuperCode] (in Dutch). ISBN 978-3431036329.
- "The Sloot Digital Coding System is not about compression". September 17, 2006.
- Perkins, Thomas J. (2007). Valley boy : the education of Tom Perkins. New York: Gotham Books. ISBN 9781592403134. OCLC 122423908.
- "Jan Sloot, l'ingénieur mort juste avant d'avoir changé le monde". usbeketrica.com (in French). Retrieved 2019-09-09.
- Broadband applications on limited bandwidth networks[permanent dead link] (PDF) - see section 3.1.5, "Beyond the limits?"
- "The Stick of Jan Sloot," article on Sloot's claims by Pieter Spronck from Tilburg University
- "Jan Sloot - The Source Code", dutch-language website devoted to Jan Sloot and Sloot Coding System
- "The Source Code Part 1" "The Source Code Part 2" Dutch-Language News Segment Regarding Jan Sloot
- NL1005930C: Sloot, Romke Jan Bernhard/J.V.R Services Nieuwegein BV: Compression of video data (02-11-1998)
- NL1009908: Sloot, Romke Jan Bernhard: Storage system for digital data relating to text or bit-map elements, involves storing possible values in coding memories and chopping incoming data into blocks for comparison with stored codes (22-02-2000)