The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Why We Must Fight for the Right to Repair Our Electronics

Pending U.S. legislation could force manufacturers to make repair parts and information available at fair prices

9 min read
Photo of a smart phone surrounded by tools
Photo: The Voorhes

The Consumer Technology Association estimated that residents of the United States bought 183 million smartphones in 2016. There are already as many TVs in this country as there are people. That’s a lot of electronics, and these numbers are just going up.

On balance, all this technology is probably making our lives better. But there’s a downside, too: The stuff often malfunctions. Unlike the 30-year-old mixer on your kitchen counter that refuses to die, new technology—especially the smart devices with fancy, embedded electronics—breaks more quickly. That trend, confirmed by a recent study by the German government, applies not just to delicate products like smartphones and tablets but also to equipment we would expect to last for a long time—like televisions, washing machines, and even tractors.

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

New Pixel Sensors Bring Their Own Compute

Atomically thin devices that combine sensing and computation also save power

2 min read
close up image of a chip

This optical image shows the 900-pixel 2-D active pixel sensor created by the researchers.

Akhil Dodda, Darsith Jayachandran, and Saptarshi Das

By giving compute powers to atomically thin versions of the CMOS sensors now found in most digital cameras, a prototype sensor array can capture images using thousands to millions of times less power, a new study finds.

CMOS sensors are a kind of active pixel sensor, which combine a light detector with one or more transistors. Although scientists have made steady progress towards more energy-efficient light detectors, the signal conversion and data transmission capabilities of active pixel sensors are currently extremely energy-inefficient, says study co-lead author Akhil Dodda, an electronics engineer who was at Penn State University at University Park in Pennsylvania at the time of the research.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

John Bardeen’s Terrific Transistorized Music Box

This simple gadget showed off the magic of the first transistor

5 min read
 A small electronic gadget encased in clear plastic has a speaker and some buttons.

This music box demonstrated the portability and responsiveness of the point-contact transistor.

The Spurlock Museum/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

On 16 December 1947, after months of work and refinement, the Bell Labs physicists John Bardeen and Walter Brattain completed their critical experiment proving the effectiveness of the point-contact transistor. Six months later, Bell Labs gave a demonstration to officials from the U.S. military, who chose not to classify the technology because of its potentially broad applications. The following week, news of the transistor was released to the press. The New York Herald Tribune predicted that it would cause a revolution in the electronics industry. It did.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

Designing Fuel Cell Systems Using System-Level Design

Modeling and simulation in Simulink and Simscape

1 min read
Designing Fuel Cell Systems Using System-Level Design

Design and simulate a fuel cell system for electric mobility. See by example how Simulink® and Simscape™ support multidomain physical modeling and simulation of fuel cell systems including thermal, gas, and liquid systems. Learn how to select levels of modeling fidelities to meet your needs at different development stages.