The Retailer of the Lost Electronics Ark

Shopping for a used oscilloscope or a rare spare vacuum tube? Walter Shawlee II's online warehouse may be the place to go

5 min read

From the outside there is little to distinguish the Shawlee family residence from the other homes overlooking Lake Okanagan in the southern British Columbia town of Kelowna, in Canada. But inside it’s another world. From here, Walter Shawlee II runs a rather unusual—and successful—operation selling used electronic test equipment and parts through his vast and colorful Web site (http://www.sphere.bc.ca) to customers all over the world.

Looking for that good old analog oscilloscope that was your benchwork companion back in the days of electronics class? Or perhaps that sturdy multimeter that you carried with you everywhere but is now long discontinued? Chances are you’ll find those at Shawlee’s virtual electronics warehouse, along with power supplies, frequency counters, signal generators, transformers, photomultipliers, high-voltage rectifiers, and a plethora of spare parts—vacuum tubes, Nixie tubes, Numitrons, cathode ray tubes, fuses, relays, and integrated circuits, including ”obscure, obsolete, and military ICs.”

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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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