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Let 'Er Rip

Audio-Technica's USB turntable spins '70s vinyl albums into MP3 gold--and I don't even have to leave my desk

3 min read

Goodbye to Paris, goodbye to the past, we live in shadows�” Oh, excuse me. I’m listening to my favorite vinyl album—Southside Johnny’s The Jukes—for the first time in decades, using the Audio-Technica USB stereo turntable, through my laptop speakers. Now Southside and Blondie and Dan Fogelberg are going into my iPod. And then maybe I can finally say good-bye to the vinyl of my past—and pick up a little closet space.

I could have done this ­conversion without the Audio-Technica ATâ''LP2D-USB LP-to-Digital Recording System, or any of the other USB turntables you can now find for between US $90 and $300. All I really needed was a $15 adapter—to convert two RCA jacks (standard for audio equipment) to a single miniplug—and some ­software. But going this route would have meant crawling behind the audio equipment in the family room, unplugging various cables, and sitting there the entire time with one hand on the speed switch of my old, failing turntable, which doesn’t always hold its position by itself. Way too much trouble. I was willing to tackle my pile of vinyl albums only if ­conversion was easy and mostly automatic.

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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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