CAM00386

Remember the famous floppy drives? They’re back… with multiplied force (yes, THAT „force”) and some friends!

I have bought some more drives in order to expand the previous project back in 2012, which spent four years in a carton box. Together with new floppy drives, some more hardware has arrived: hard disk and optical scanners. Now I have the whole computer hardware orchestra – 64 floppy drives, 8 hard disks and 2 scanners – The Floppotron.

How does it work? The principle is simple. Every device with an electric motor is able to generate a sound. Scanners and floppy drives use stepper motors to move the head with sensors which scans the image or performs read/write operations on a magnetic disk. The sound generated by a motor depends on driving speed. The higher the frequency, the greater the pitch. Hard disks use a magnet and a coil to tilt the head. When voltage is supplied for long enough, the head speeds up and hits the bound making the „drum hit” sound. The disk head coil can also be used as a speaker to play tones or even music, but… that would be too easy and too obvious.


    
Every column of 8 floppy drives is connected to one 8-channel controller built on ATMega16 microcontroller. One controller acts as one voice with envelope simulation – the higher the volume, the more drives are playing. This allows to make ADSR-like shape and simulate a musical instrument, like a piano (exponential decay) or string instrument (sine, „vibrato”). The boards which were made a few years ago, were designed as a stand-alone „players” with optional USB-to-UART bridge and was not intended to be chained. My goal was to re-use old stuff and get the job done as fast as possible, so I used the on-board ISP (which in fact is a SPI interface) connector to link 8 drivers in a SPI chain. Long SPI chain with unidirectional communication is not an example good and reliable design, but it did not require any hardware modification and took a minute to build a controller network, so let’s call it… good enough for this kind of project.


        
Scanner and disk head controllers share the same base with floppy controllers, but have a different „instrument interface”. For driving the coils, I used 2 push-pull outputs (H-bridge) built with discrete SMD MOSFETs. Scanner head controllers were built using of-the-shelf boards – an Arduino Uno (firmware also builds for ATMega328 using AVR-GCC / Atmel Studio; none of this Arduino crappy software and libraries was used) and L298 breakout to save time needed to draw and etch the boards. PC interface (another Arduino board) receives the data over UART (USB-UART), buffers the messages and keeps the timings while passing packets to „musical instruments” over SPI interface, so a Windows hiccup will not affect the playback. It can also be driven by anything else like Raspberry Pi, Android smartphone (with USB-UART or UART-over-Bluetooth adapter) or another microcontroller.

Host application was written in Python 2.7. I wrote it mostly on some boring lectures when I was still studying at the university, so it’s a one big mess, but… at least it does the job. It parses the simple language used for writing note sequences arranged in tracks tied to a specific controller / channel and merges those parallel tracks into one command list which is transferred over COM port. It can also partially generate „song script” from MIDI file which speeds up the „song porting” process.

Like the project? Here’s some another records.

127 Responses to “Return of the Floppies”

  1. 138269 pisze:

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  2. Bill pisze:

    I have my floppies and NEMA steppers singing away and would like to add percussion. What pins are used on the hd’s to trigger them?

  3. Jacob pisze:

    Take on me by aha?

  4. Teodoro pisze:

    These websites will have a downloadable link readily available for you to install the software.
    Getting dressed, running to a movie rental store, stopping
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  5. Thhunder pisze:

    what is about to have the song: Metallica – Nothing Else Matters ?
    would be very very nice…
    you did a very good job and i like this project much!
    could you describe more details how you build it and as well how much time you needed to get that nice sounds out of the Hardware pls :)

    greets from germany

  6. Arkadiusz pisze:

    Jak to zrobiłeś? Czy jest jakaś szansa byś zrobił tutorial na ten temat?

  7. [...] You can read more about how it works on Zadrożniak’s website. [...]

  8. [...] We’ve covered the Floppotron before, beginning with Zadrożniak’s cover of the “Imperial March” from Star Wars and later with the theme from Pokémon Go. The actual machine looks much the same as it did earlier this year, but Zadrożniak at least helped it get into the festive spirit with a string of lights and a Christmas hat. You can read more about how it works on Zadrożniak’s website. [...]

  9. [...] festive spirit with a string of lights and a Christmas hat. You can read more about how it works on Zadrożniak's website. SHARE Facebook Twitter tweet !function(d,s,id){var [...]

  10. ronny pisze:

    great work, love the way you built percussive instruments out of the harddrives. the scanner’s doing an amazing job as well, i like how that one’s responding to pitchwheel-data.

  11. [...] drive. New hotness: una suite di Star Wars suonata con 64 floppy drive, 8 hard disk e 2 scanner. I dettagli dell’opera realizzata da Paweł Zadrożniak sono qui. FacebookTwitterGoogleLinkedInAltroRedditE-mailStampaTumblrPinterestPocketMi piace:Mi piace [...]

  12. [...] Informationen könnt ihr auf seiner Seite einsehen, wo er diese Thematik glücklicherweise in Englisch [...]

  13. McGuire Irvine pisze:

    Xmas album would sell like floppy disks used to in 1995.

  14. [...] more check out Paweł Zadrożniak on youtube. You can also check out this post to see how its done Rate this:Share this post with your friends just click and share belowShare on [...]

  15. Jack Kassai pisze:

    Hey man!

    First of all, this contraption of yours amazes me. It could be called a uh, eletronically-controlled analog instrument? Which isn’t something I’ve heard of before.

    A suggestion: what if you arranged the scanners, drivers and floppy rows spatially like an orchestra and recorded it all stereo? Easiest way would be to use a pair of identical mics in either AB or XY position, or if you wanna get fancier, use a technique known as Mid-Sides recording. I’m studying those as a music production/engineer student now, and I think the Floppotron would sound amazing recorded like that. Cheers, and congrats on your creation!

  16. Hi! I’m writing on behalf of our audio collective in Washington DC, The DC Listening Lounge. We put together an interactive audio installation each year and would be psyched if you wanted to attend (and/or submit any proposals for work to be included?).
    Please be in touch.
    Sincerely,
    Jocelyn (on behalf of the DCLL)

  17. klaus pisze:

    where i do i get one from for sale

  18. [...] We’ve previously shown you Zadrozniak’s wonderful contraption when he used it to play the Star Wars and Game of Thrones theme songs. It consists of 64 floppy drives and eight 8-channel controllers with envelope stimulation. He manipulates the pitch by controlling the speed and voltage of each drive. The hobbyist goes into a little more detail on his site: [...]

  19. [...] Scallon : Harp metal Sérénade à John Williams : La répétition La rencontre Le Floppotron : Imperial march Pokémon Theme Billie Jean au GRIDI Chopstick piano Sampling mécanique par [...]

  20. Sam Cork pisze:

    Would arduino uno’s work as the controllers?

    Could you provide the sourse code?

    Could you also maybe create a schematic for each section and for how it is all connected?

  21. Charles pisze:

    You Should do final boss theme from sonic 2
    LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4L4TSrDB4M

  22. Ronald pisze:

    Startrek of course!! Boldly go where no Floppy Drive has gone before!

  23. [...] Podcasts You are here: Home / Retro Gaming Culture / Pokemon Theme By A Computer Hardware OrchestraPokemon Theme By A Computer Hardware Orchestra September 9, 2016 By Ms. ausretrogamer Paweł Zadrożniak, a.k.a. Silent, is the inventor of the amazing ‘Floppotron’ – a computer hardware orchestra of 64 floppy drives, 8 hard disks and 2 scanners. Follow the link to see how he made it. [...]

  24. hlpc pisze:

    It´s great!
    Congrats!

  25. Bernd Bollmann pisze:

    It’s great. Try to get a sponsor on a computer or game fair and show it. I think it is easily possible. Good luck.

  26. [...] Zadrozniak explica en su blog personal como este proyecto es en realidad una evolución de uno mucho más antiguo de [...]

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