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How to Bend a Vintage Casio Keyboard

An ’80s synthesizer is reborn as an avant-garde instrument

5 min read
How to Bend a Vintage Casio Keyboard
Photo: Randi Klett

I’ve been increasingly intrigued by electronic music, sparked in large part by covering an exhibition of designer theremins for IEEE Spectrum in 2013, followed by watching documentaries such as 2014’s I Dream of Wires, which traces the history of the modular synthesizer. One notable cohort in the modern electronic music scene are the circuit benders. These folks modify all sorts of audio-enabled equipment, including children’s toys and digital keyboards, to produce sounds definitely not intended by the designers. So when I came across the Casio SK-5 keyboard [pdf] I’d received for my 14th Christmas lurking in my parents’ attic, I pounced.

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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
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Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush
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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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