Jean-Claude Risset, who reimagined digital synthesis, has died

We’re in a strange time, as we big farewell to a great generation of pioneers of electronic music. French composer Jean-Claude Risset’s work can still tickle our perception and challenge what’s possible. He helped expand the frontiers of what digital synthesis can do for our ears, and brought the technology to the European continent. And this week, he left us at the age of 78. The sound for which Risset is best known is perhaps the most emblematic of his contributions. Creating a sonic illusion much like M.C. Escher’s optical ones, the Shepherd-Risset glissando / Risset scale, in its present …


Farewell to Dennis Ritchie, Whose Language Underlies Digital Music Software

Photo (CC-BY) Mark Anderson. The generation of people who defined modern computing seems to be passing this year. Following Max Mathews, another Bell Labs titan is lost to us: Dennis Ritchie is the man who created the original C programming language (again at Bell Labs) as well as co-developed the UNIX operating system. President Obama commented that many people learned of Steve Jobs’ death on a device “he invented.” For all Jobs’ contributions, it is as untrue to say that as it is true to say the same of Ritchie: you are quite literally reading this story as served by …


Meet the People Who Invented the Digital Camera

The transformation of expression in digital form is not the magical outgrowth of some unseen force, nor the studied assemblage of minds to tackle a high-priority, high-profile problem (as was nuclear fission). It is the result of a handful of tinkerers, working on “what-if” research scenarios with little money or priority from their employers. They had no clear commercial application, indeed with no view of the radical transformation of culture they were about to unleash. The revolution, in other words, was a clever, challenging hack pulled off by people who were tenacious and smart about making stuff. And because so …