The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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The Freedom Fight

The campaign for free software

1 min read

Matt Lee is one of the Net’s leading young activists, but you won’t find him on Facebook. Or Twitter. Or MySpace. The scruffy 27-year-old forsakes these and other proprietary sites as the campaigns manager of the Free Software Foundation, the grassroots group fighting to remove restrictions from the computer programs we use. The mission: to empower the gamer generation by letting them freely modify and share software, and have access to the code behind the scenes.

Lee preaches the gospel well, because he grew up with it. The free software movement began when legendary hacker Richard Stallman created and disseminated a free operating system called GNU in 1983. Lee, an autodidactic hacker from Manchester, England, heard a calling in Stallman’s message. The once underground online world was exploding mainstream, and with more start-ups dominating the way we communicate and interact, the stakes were on the rise.

After striking up a friendship with Stallman via email, Lee moved to the U.S. to runt the Foundation’s website and take on perhaps its most important task: educating a new generation of computer users who blindly embrace every new online fad. When he’s not organizing protests, Lee travels the world speaking on the new wave of free software alternatives – from social networks to online games.

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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
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Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford
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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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