The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Keith Donovan: The Tintinnabulator

His name may not ring a bell, but he designs the sophisticated electronics used in bell and clock towers, monuments, and animatronic figures

3 min read
Keith Donovan
Clear as a Bell: Before he became a bell and clock tower engineer, Keith Donovan had no idea how technologically sophisticated these systems could be.
Photo: Tony Arrasmith

Strolling through a postcard-perfect New England town, you hear the solemn bells of a nearby church striking the hour, and the moment seems steeped in centuries-old tradition. Thanks to handiwork, though, what you take for Old-World ambience—the tolling of those bells—may in fact be an ingenious facsimile.

There may not even be a real bell in that bell tower, just a digital recording, retrieved from flash memory, amplified, and projected out over industrial-grade speakers. Or the bell tower may contain special Dutch-cast bells, but with computer-controlled actuators and sensors that can be programmed to hammer out tunes from a nearly infinite playlist.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions
Colorful chip with wires coming out of it surrounded by large metal plates.

Engineers probe the performance of noisy bits that, when working together, may solve some problems better than quantum computers.

Lang Zeng/Beihang University

A large universal quantum computer is still an engineering dream, but machines designed to leverage quantum effects to solve specific classes of problems—such as D-wave’s computers—are alive and well. But an unlikely rival could challenge these specialized machines: computers built from purposely noisy parts.

This week at the IEEE International Electron Device Meeting (IEDM 2022), engineers unveiled several advances that bring a large-scale probabilistic computer closer to reality than ever before.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

A World-Class Tech MBA on Your Own Schedule

Purdue University offers professionals around the world a flexible, STEM-focused, all-online MBA from a top-ranked business school

9 min read
Photo of Purdue campus showing a sculpture of a rock topped with a large metal P letter.

Purdue is one of the world’s premier engineering universities.

Purdue University

This sponsored article is brought to you by Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management.

A Master of Business Administration degree can be a passport to broader career horizons—especially for ambitious young (and young-ish) engineers.

Keep Reading ↓Show less