David and Goliath Versus Another David

A patent dispute triggers an unusual alliance between an open standards group and Microsoft

3 min read

”Does Macy's tell Gimbels?” was once a popular saying in New York, back in the days when the world's largest department store was so close by it could have whispered to its small rival across Herald Square.

Nobody today will rhetorically ask, ”Does Microsoft tell the W3C?” That's because software giant Microsoft Corp. (Redmond, Wash.), whose empire is built firmly upon a foundation of proprietary software, has found itself a surprising ally in the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an important but obscure organization devoted to open standards.

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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
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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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