The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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Early one morning, a man who identified himself as John Titor posted a message on the forums of the Time Travel Institute, a website "dedicated to research and exploration of the temporal sciences." Titor said he had returned from the year 2036, and that he was a survivor of a civil war and nuclear attack. He had been sent back in time to retrieve an IBM 5100. That computer, a primordial desktop PC released in 1975, supposedly had some key to solving a future crisis.

Titor methodically listed the parts required for what he called "gravity distortion system." His grandfather, he claimed, had worked on such a machine, and he was on his way back to 1975 to find him. Titor’s messages from continued for a few months, then he claimed he had to return to 2036 for good. That was weird. But then something even weirder happened. The followers online couldn't let Titor go.  Now this is the Sasquatch of Generation Net.  It's a real-life version of a new kind of game - the alternate reality game, which sends surfers down reality-blurring rabbit holes.

Geeks began unearthing strange facts about the IBM 5100s. Obsessives launched Titor sites, stitching together his postings. They created timelines, charts...they even held conventions. It was cited many times by Art Bell, the host of the paranormal radio show Coast to Coast.  Ultimately, an Italian TV show hired a private eye to go on Titor's trail. The gumshoe ended up at the doorstep of a flashy entertainment lawyer living in the Disney utopia of Celebration, Florida. The lawyer claims to be merely "representing" Titor, but some online think that he or his teenage hacker son made up the whole thing. No matter. Titor has legs. There are now Titor books, websites, fan clubs, merchandise... even a stage play. The most compelling question of all isn't whether Titor exists. It's why a story so ludicrous would seize the imaginations of so many people online.

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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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