Tip #415: Everything Starts With an IFF

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #415: Everything Starts With an IFF

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

All our media starts as a “chunk.”

Topic $TipTopic

Back in WWII, an “IFF” was a radar signal used for “identification friend or foe.” But, in the media world, IFF has an entirely different meaning – one that we use everyday.

The Interchange File Format (IFF) is a generic container file format, invented in 1985 by Jerry Morrison at Electronic Arts, along with engineers at Commodore, to simplify transferring data between computers.

Common IFF formats include:

  • AIFF (Audio IFF file)
  • TIFF (Tagged IFF file)
  • PNG (a modified form of IFF)
  • FourCC (a Windows media format)
  • QuickTime also has IFF elements as part of its structure

An IFF file is built up from chunks, small pieces of data containing media and information about that media, similar to an Ethernet packet.

Each type of chunk typically has a different internal structure, which could be numerical, text or raw (unstructured) data.

The benefit to using IFF files is that it become easy to move files from one program or computer to another. An even better benefit is that IFF, like Ethernet, does not require us to understand how it works in order to use it.

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1 reply
  1. woz
    woz says:

    5 stars if only for the identification friend or foe! (although I suspect not many who answer would say foe…)
    The benefit comment at the end is somewhat redundant these days, perhaps a long time ago it mattered.


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