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Holy Grail: Fiber to the Home

As every Internet surfer knows, broadband is good, broader band is better

2 min read
The broadest broadband, of course, is optical fiber, the only medium capable of moving data at multigigabit-per-second speeds. It's fiber that will ferry us into a future of thousands of television channels, videoconference telephony, movies on demand, distance learning, telemedicine, and a digital record of every sight and sound around us.

We've known this for two decades. Yet only rarely is an existing residential connection being refurbished with fiber. That will soon change--in fact, the pace of fiber installation is expected to pick up dramatically in the next few years.

This past summer the three largest U.S. telecommunications providers, Verizon, SBC, and BellSouth, agreed on a common set of standards for residential fiber-optic networks. That congruity is expected to lower costs and unleash a tidal wave of spending--Verizon alone reportedly has plans to embark on a 10- to 15-year US $20 billion to $40 billion upgrade of its fiber-to-the-premises networks.

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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
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

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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