Created by Paweł Zadrożniak from Poland, the Floppotron 3.0 is the latest incarnation of a “PC hardware orchestra” that comprises floppy disk drives (hence the name), hard disk drives, and scanners. If you know your retro hardware, you’ll know that all of these devices are noisey.
The big upgrade of my PC hardware orchestra. 512 floppy disk drives, 16 hard disks and 4 scanners. What do you want to hear next? Write it in comments! Playing: Entrance of the Gladiators (by Julius Fucík).
But did it ever occur to you that these noises could be harnessed to create music? It did to Paweł. As he writes:
Sometimes that noise can be controlled. and turned into music – which usually involves some level of abuse. All of the devices present in the „orchestra” contain either stepper motors or moving heads (in case of hard drives), which are driven by custom electronic circuits – controllers.
The project has grown exponentially since the days of the Floppotron, and now incorporates “multiple custom circuit boards and 3D-printed parts,” with “nice solution[s] as well as some janky, quick-and-dirty ones.”
With everything hooked up, the gateway, at its heart a microcontroller, “receives MIDI data and converts that data to RS-485-based internal protocol which can encapsulate MIDI and some extra stuff.” A comprehensive examination of the hardware involved, including the roles of the floppy drives, HDDs, and flatbed scanners, can be found on the creator’s homepage
Meanwhile, you can support Paweł Zadrożniak’s work on Patreon.
Gaming since 1984, retro gaming since 2004. Contributes to Linux Format magazine and MakeUseOf.com.