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In Retail’s Shift to Online, The Winner is… Pinball?

Stern Pinball is seeing sales surge as it provides sophisticated new machines for an arcade business renaissance. Meanwhile, new technology is keeping old machines running in New York

4 min read
Beatles pinball machine from Stern Pinball.
Photo: Stern Pinball

If you think pinball—the original electric arcade game—is dead or dying, you’d be wrong. With rippling colors, streaking silver balls, and a superior soundtrack, last Friday saw the unveiling of a new Beatles-themed pinball machine in New York City. Stern Pinball’s game isn’t just fun to play though. It’s a marker of a global revival of interest in pinball, driven in part by a surprising ripple effect of e-commerce. 

Stern Pinball designs and assembles its own machines, employing over 300 people in a 10,000-square-meter plant close to Chicago’s O’Hare airport. According to CEO Gary Stern, sales are brisk: “We had 40 percent sales growth in 2016, and 40 percent sales growth in 2017. Coming off those years, growth has been a little slower, with 25 percent in 2018.”

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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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