JBIG2: A Short History
Paperless Document Transmission
As amazing as it seems, the idea of transmitting images over wire came into being before the Pony Express. Alexander Bain filed the first patent for image transmission via wire in 1843, some 17 years before the first Pony Express delivery in 1860. Bain's idea was realized by the end of the Civil War. By 1865, images were being transmitted over telegraph lines. (And the Pony Express had been defunct for three years.)
A century later, the Xerox Magnafax Telecopier could connect to any telephone line and transmit bi-level images. (A bi-level image is an electronic image in which each picture element [pixel] is represented by only one bit, which can be either on or off.) Within two decades, many businesses around the world had adopted facsimile technology - the fax machine - into their everyday practice.
As people have embraced the Internet and personal computers for both business and home use, the fax machine has waned somewhat in popularity. Today, document transmission can be done via e-mail, a Web site, a wireless personal digital assistant or even a cell phone. But the much-anticipated "paperless office" is still a myth in present practice. (Once upon a time, this "paperless office" was seen as an ideal world where the need for paper significantly decreased as electronic communications and documents increased. Yet the reality is that the use of paper copies of documents has expanded even as the use of electronic document media is being adopted into business. In a variety of studies, including Sellen and Harper's The Myth of the Paperless Office, Web use and e-mail use are both shown to substantially increase the amount of paper used in an office.)
The Need for Optimization
As the number of electronic documents increases, so does the need to optimize electronic document files for transmission speed and the smallest storage space possible. Scanned books and manuals need to be accessed and manipulated easily. Checks and legal documents must be accurately stored and filed electronically, and available for easy and immediate retrieval. As appropriate, digital media must be ready for Web and LAN-based transmission and display.
There are a number of file formats available for document transmission and storage, some more efficient than others. In the pages that follow, you'll see why file formats make a difference - and why JBIG2 is being heralded as a breakthrough format.