Beating Sony At Its Own Game

The temptations and pitfalls of hacking the PlayStation Portable

5 min read
Nathan Wray [left] and Noah Vawter
Music Mod: Nathan Wray (left) and Noah Vawter hacked the PSP to make it into a drum synthesizer.
Photo: Joshua Dalsimer

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., of Tokyo, made headlines in August by adding a Web browser to the PlayStation Portable, its US $250 handheld gaming device. The PSP’s Web-surfing add-on, available as part of a firmware update, seemed like a smart move in the right direction. But that was only half the story. The browser release, in fact, came in the wake of a war that has been waged between the company and the hacker underground since virtually the day the PSP landed in gamers’ paws.

Released early last year, the PSP is Sony’s first foray into the lucrative world of mobile fun, and a direct challenge to the reigning champ, Nintendo Co., Kyoto, Japan, maker of the Game Boy and DS handheld systems. The PSP features a stylish wide-screen display and has Wi-Fi capability, which was exploited by hackers who beat Sony to the punch by releasing an unauthorized Web browser months before. The company wasn’t breaking ground; it was playing catch-up.

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
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Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford
Blue

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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