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Create a “Wheel of Excuses” With BASIC and the New Raspberry Pi

RISC OS and a retro language make hardware interfacing easy

4 min read
Create a “Wheel of Excuses” With BASIC and the New Raspberry Pi
Photo: Randi Klett

Many years ago in the offices here at IEEE Spectrum, we had a “Wheel of Excuses” pinned to the outside wall of a cubicle. Made from paper and cardboard in the style of a small lottery wheel, it could be spun to suggest plausible excuses to luckless editors seeking to explain a blown deadline. The wheel had its limitations however, chief among them being the small number of excuses that could be squeezed onto a disk just 25 centimeters across, and a tendency to fall off the wall if spun with too much vigor or desperation.

Spectrum’s offices were renovated this year, the dingy cubicle walls swept away for a modern office layout. So I thought it might be time for an updated Wheel of Excuses—a digital one, naturally. I wanted a one-touch system that would show an animation of a spinning wheel, followed by the display of a randomly selected excuse from an extended list.

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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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