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DIY Hands-Free Sheet Music

Never lose your place, with a flat-panel monitor and foot pedals

4 min read
DIY Hands-Free Sheet Music
Photo: Ryan Matthew Smith

As an old-school writer, I prefer my reading matter printed and bound. But as an avid piano player, I am sick to death of music books. The music stand on our Baldwin grand piano holds a few pages laid side by side just fine. But most piano music is sold in songbooks: double-sided pages bound to inflexible spines. These books close up on you midsong when they are new; they fall to pieces when they get old. And playing complex music without interruptions is virtually impossible unless you have an assistant to turn pages for you.

Tinkerers since the early 1900s have patented myriad mechanical page turners to address this problem, but to this day they are generally considered a pain to load, noisy, and unreliable.

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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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