The world of learning toys has exploded in the past decade. As well as the toys themselves, learning competitions such as FIRST are also showing up to encourage kids in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
FIRST isn't exactly a toy, but it's a program that engages kids into building and competing with elaborate team-built robots. FIRST is a competitive program that helps kids build their own ultimate toys. The next step up from FIRST is working at NASA or in Silicon Valley.
Click on the LEGO Mindstorms kit below to see 12 examples of toys that ignite the inner engineer in all of us.
The LEGO Mindstorms series of kits contain hardware and software to create customizable, programmable robots. They include an intelligent brick computer that controls the system, a set of modular sensors and motors, and LEGO parts from the Technics line to create the mechanical systems. The hardware and software roots of the Mindstorms Robotics Invention System kit go back to the programmable brick created at the MIT Media Lab. This brick was programmed in Brick Logo. (Source: LEGO Group)
Popular music had/has oodles of compression because our ears have gotten used to hearing music that way, so it just sounds better to us humans. Sometime in the Nineties it became popular to have the "loudest sounding" recording, and things were squeezed down quite a bit to accomplish it. The song I remember as being the biggest offender was Del Amitiri's "Some Other Sucker's Parade". In vinyl recording there was a brick wall limiter to prevent grooves from being to large, and this device was often abused a little for effect. Geoff Emerick discusses the process in his book and he also has a little anecdote about three sided records.
When CDs first appeared, there was very limited production capacity. Content owners often mastered the CD from the final 2 track master tapes, which were optimized (compressed, filtered, equalized, etc) for the LP format. In some cases, a vinyl LP was used as the source, since the original tapes were lost. But as the media matured, some content providers learned the strengths and weaknesses of the digital format and began to optimize master tapes, and later master files, for digital release. That's why newly remastered CDs often sound better than the older releases.
However, some of the best-sounding records in my collection are 78 RPM disks pressed in vinyl. Few of these saw commercial release, but were produced as promotional material for the radio stations, starting in the late 1930's. Radio demanded disks that lasted longer, and were less subject to breakage. Commercial releases of the same music were still manufactured in shellac.
The dynamic range on vinyl records was fiddled with, to prevent the groove walls from being excessively thin in the low frequencies. RIAA equalization circuits were used in amplifiers to reconstruct, as much as possible, the original sound.
Thanks for the link, wirkmanv. She makes good points in the video, especially about female perspective for products. About 20 years ago, I did a story about the fact that automakers in Detroit were going out of their way to hire female engineers for cars that had largely female customers. It made sense at the time, and made even more sense when they found those brands were growing because those engineers knew how to appeal to their customers. Interestingly (I digress slightly here), the automakers were also hiring engineers who grew up in rural areas to design their trucks. That, too, reaped benefits. It's a sensible approach.
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