History [of irreversible data compression]

The idea of creating sounds by adding together pure tones goes back to antiquity. At a mathematical level, following work by Joseph Fourier around 1810 it became clear by the mid-1800s how any sufficiently smooth function could be decomposed into sums of sine waves with frequencies corresponding to successive integers. Early telephony and sound recording in the late 1800s already used the idea of compressing sounds by dropping high- and low-frequency components. From the early days of television in the 1950s, some attempts were made to do similar kinds of compression for images. Serious efforts in this direction were not made, however, until digital storage and processing of images became common in the late 1980s.