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.

226 Responses to “Return of the Floppies”

  1. tucktin pisze:

    where to download your python program and Arduino files

  2. yeet pisze:

    Can we have the code for the program?

  3. Owen Roth pisze:

    What did you use to power the flopoy drives? I have 8 but when at least 6 are playing simultaneously they start to lose power.

  4. Tom pisze:


  5. [...] Originally, the Floppotron was nothing more than a single floppy drive connected to a microcontroller playing Mozzart. By moving the magnetic head of the drive at different frequencies, sound is created which can naturally be organized to play music. Before long, it was two drives playing the Imperial March. After spending a few years boxed away, the popularity of his creation on YouTube made Paweł decide to revive and expand it, increasing the number of floppy drives to 64 and adding eight physical hard drives and two scanners. The upgrade included more microcontrollers to separate the drives into groups and Arduino boards to run the scanners and interface with a PC or other devices. A detailed description of how all the pieces come together and interact can be found here. [...]

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  7. David Henderson pisze:

    Do Sandstorm by Darude on The Floppotron.

  8. Guy pisze:

    I would love to hear and see „Gilligan’s Island Theme” on the floppotron.

  9. wes pisze:

    the fact that a raspberry pi can drive this is pretty dope,i am the proud owner of several of these boards.long story short i bought them for a project that i ended up not doing. i thought about building like a baby floppotron lol.

  10. Keybounce pisze:

    Please do „Bad Apple”.

    You could even have the images (no sound) show on your computer screen where you normally have the song / artist picture.

  11. cửa hàng cung cấp vòng tay gỗ sưa quảng bình

  12. Boo pisze:

    you are programming the music or itsprogramm to play midi?

  13. Rick pisze:

    Loved your „Country Roads” rendition!

    You mentioned that your software can partially translate a MIDI file. Here’s one that might work well on the FLOPPOTRON – palette. mid, a jazzed up version of „Just a Closer Walk with Thee” for WINJammer.

    Not sure about copyrights and legal stuff but it’s a really good song.

  14. Leon pisze:

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  15. Steve pisze:

    You are a genius! Very creative use for old hardware.

  16. Eyad Alam pisze:

    Mario Brothers!

  17. Michał pisze:

    Możesz udostępnić kod programu i schematy na budowe tego?
    Can you share source code and schemes to build this?

  18. Matt pisze:

    you should do a floppotron cover of the Phantasm 2 End theme, I really like that theme and its a really good horror theme lol

  19. Franc pisze:

    PCtel modems support PTT testing commands. There is a list on pages 39 and 40 of the following AT command guide.

    The following command looks useful. I suspect that the frequencies could be tuned by changing the modem’s oscillator.

    %P99, n where 0<= n <=23 , f(Hz) = n * (150Hz)

  20. Franc pisze:

    Would you consider recording Telstar by the Tornados?

  21. Tinh dầu thiên nhiên giá sỉ tại latima, đảm bảo chất
    lượng, tinh dầu latima giá sỉ uy tín nhất
    thị trường
    Tinh dầu hay tinh dầu bỗng dưng là một cái chất lỏng có đựng các hợp chất
    thơm mang tính dễ bay hơi được chiết xuất trong khoảng
    những bộ phận của thực vật. Hầu như mọi
    phòng ban của thực vật đều mang thể chiết xuất được tinh dầu,
    đa dạng nhất là: Hoa, lá, vỏ cây, vỏ quả, thân cây, rễ… với
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    coi là bảo vật của tình cờ ban tặng
    cho con người

  22. Sir KiKo pisze:

    I have one question.
    Why do some floppy drives have an inserted floppy disk and others are free?
    Will the sound change?

  23. Machinegamer pisze:

    Hello, somebody knows how to get the scanners?
    and, is there a special type of scanner that works to make those lovely tones?

  24. Zaid pisze:

    Can you please make LWIAY’s into music?
    But in the video’s beginning you can say : but can you do this?..
    Oh and subscribe to Pewdiepie

  25. alex pisze:

    Could we have the code???

  26. Carsten pisze:

    you should do a Spooky scarey skeleton on flooptron

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