Barbot, the Automated Bartender

What's the perfect drink for a hacker party? Anything, so long as it's mixed by a robot

4 min read
Barbot, the Automated Bartender

At NYC Resistor, a communal hacker space in downtown Brooklyn, N.Y., we do two things really well—hack and party. An automated bartender seemed like a natural, but as we searched the U.S. patent database for ideas, it became clear we’d have to hack one up ourselves. And so we have. An ongoing series of them, in fact.

Believe me, we looked. For example, U.S. Patent No. D496657, with the promising title ”electronic bartender,” turned out to be nothing more than a design for a curved flask with a flat LCD display. And while patents 3428218, 3930598, 4278186, 4411351, 4433795, 5731981, and 5913454, for ”beverage dispensing systems,” seem fine for pouring beer, wine, or liquor, none of them is going to mix you, say, a Sazerac (a New Orleans concoction of rye whisky—or absinthe, if you can get it—with bitters that may well be the first cocktail invented in the New World).

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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