Flopotron 3.0: The member mill of floppy drive plays with 512 floppy drives

Flopotron 3.0: The member mill of floppy drive plays with 512 floppy drives

Polish engineer Pawe Zadrożniak significantly expanded the Floppotron floppy disk drive member mill in version 3.0. Instead of 64 3.5-inch FDDs in Floppotron 2.0, 512 drives with 16 hard disks (HDDs) and four flatbed scanners now sing well-known songs.

His “computer orchestra,” as Zadrożniak calls his noise machine, is in its “studio” room. In an article on his blog, the inventor describes the basic structure and function of the system. Zadrożniak takes advantage of the fact that floppy disk drives, hard disks and flatbed scanners emit noise at different frequencies via stepper motors and moving parts such as the read/write heads of hard disk drives, depending on how they are controlled. Depending on the frequency, such noise can be assigned to a musical note and – as Zadrożniak writes – “misused”.

The hobbyist uses the MIDI numerical control information as the starting data for the songs. The computer sends event information to a gateway based on the nRF52 microcontroller via a USB-MIDI converter. The gate forms the bridge to the device’s control units. The digital information is then converted in such a way that the actuators and mechanics generate the desired movement and thus the desired sound – for example through skilled control and pulsing of the hard disk’s read/write heads. Depending on the speed of the stepper motors, different grades are created that depend on the speed of movement.

In the video, Pawe Zadrożniak shows the floppotron 3.0 and how it works.

For example, to allow a tone to fade and have a natural sound, Zadrożniak simulates an audio envelope across several active floors at the same time playing the same tone. The engineer explains that the sound fades away by playing it from fewer drives. This can also be used to achieve other sound effects.

In addition to the 512 FDDs and 16 HDDs, the reformer also uses a flatbed scanner that can play back higher pitch sounds. Used HP scrap scanners. The controller moves the scanner head at different speeds and in alternating directions to create the desired sounds. The LEDs on the scanner head indicate which device is currently playing a piece of music. Improvements in detail compared to the previous model of the fluoroptron now lead to better modulation and modulation effects. This makes it possible to produce “crazier sounds”.

Zadrożniak also uses hard disk drives as a percussion instrument. In doing so, it allows the read/write head to move further than it would normally be intended up to the breakpoint. Depending on the drive used, this results in a simple “click” or a brighter “click”. According to the audio, Zadrożniak assigned a MIDI drum sound to each of the 16 hard drives used, which corresponds to the natural noise of the hard drive in question, and thus can imitate a hi-hat or a snare.

floppotron 3.0 requires a lot of power. Scanners and hard drives are still quite frugal, but 512 floppy disks should be supplied with sufficient power. About 32 of them can take up to 16 amps if they all “play” at the same time. However, the load is usually only 20 to 30 percent, depending on the music being played. In theory, floppy disk drives assembled in 16 stacks have a power of 1.28 kW. Zadrożniak measured about 1.15 kW when he allowed them to buzz at the same time.

Power is provided by 16 5V/18A power packs with over-temperature and short-circuit protection. They are inexpensive, compact and run quietly due to the absence of a fan – so they do not affect the enjoyment of music.

Floppotron 3.0 is MIDI compatible. In principle, it can be controlled using any MIDI program. Corresponding instruments such as drums, guitars or pianos are assigned to individual instruments. Scanners run lead tracks.

Zadrożniak then adapts the MIDI files to the floppotron by ear and rearranges the song so that it best matches the original. This can take anywhere from three to four evenings, he says. floppotron 3.0 is not yet the end of development. In the future, he wants to add more ‘gadgets’, such as dot matrix printers and should also upgrade the look with automatic lighting.


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