lip 062016

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.

  262 komentarze to “Return of the Floppies”

  1. Would it be very hard to mimic sounds in this video?

  2. You have inspired me to build an 8 channel Floppytron!
    I am founder and President of a MAKER space here in the U.S.A.
    we have public events to show off our projects and my 8 channel floppytron was a success.
    i credited your YouTube channel to inspire others.
    i would like to increase my floppytron to 16 or 32 channels.
    do you sell your circuit boards and software?
    Please let me know.
    very respectfully,

  3. hi

  4. Amazing! ????????
    Song wish:
    „I can’t escape myself”, THE SOUND ????

  5. Can you please give me your „song script” language (values sent to the COM-port)?
    And I’ll write new operating system specially for Floppotron V2.0

  6. Great Project. Never saw anything like this!
    Maybe you can do something similar with dial up modems, since it’s analog sound.Is that technically possible?

    Still have that 90’s dial in sequence to get into the net in my head ringing.
    Couldn’t use phone simultaneously…

    Music wish:
    Van Halen – Ain’t talking bout Love on Floppotron.

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    Am I in the wrong? We always give each
    others ideas. I would rather spend money on something I’m certain he wants/needs than spend money on something
    he might like but…he’ll go out and buy something else he wants after christmas.

  8. Earnings from 500$ per day!

  9. Will there be alot dark people in Africa? Hello Jamie,

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  13. The floppotron is destined to play „CANYON.MID”. Anyone who used windows 3.0 through windows 2000
    will recognize it.

    Please play canyon.mid

  14. You should do a Skyrim theme!!

  15. Do you have a sound clip from a IBM PS/2 Model 30? That was my favorite retro HD sound, and I would love to hear it again.

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  20. Very interesting stuff. But surely I don’t miss floppy disks 🙂

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  23. where to download your python program and Arduino files

  24. Can we have the code for the program?

  25. 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.

  26. nice‮‮҉

  27. […] 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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  29. Do Sandstorm by Darude on The Floppotron.

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

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

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  34. you are programming the music or itsprogramm to play midi?

  35. 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.

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

  38. Mario Brothers!

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

  40. 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

  41. 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)

  42. Would you consider recording Telstar by the Tornados?

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

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

  46. 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

  47. Could we have the code???

  48. you should do a Spooky scarey skeleton on flooptron

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