How to Make Music Using Floppy Drives

One of the more popular projects circulating the DIY community right now is related to the idea of turning old hardware including floppy drives and hard disk drives into musical instruments thanks to the moving parts associated with each device. The sound of a floppy drive seeking out information, a hard drive arm crashing and jumping between points, and other audible tones associated with hardware have been associated closely with geek culture for years. How do you turn these seemingly random tones into something that sounds like organized and recognizable music?

(d)iskette (O)rgan

Diskette Organ is a project dreamed up by computer engineer George Whiteside after cleaning out his closet in February of 2011. After considering what to do with a stack of old drives and other miscellaneous hardware, he decided on turning these old drives into a functional organ by tweaking the pinouts and utilizing an ersatz drive controller. The controller interprets MIDI tones into frequencies that are then sent to the drive. The drive itself recreates the tone through the motion of its reading head, moving at precisely the right frequency to recreate a specific note.

Floppy Music

Another project that can teach you how to make music using floppy drives is Floppy Music by Michael Kohn. This project is very similar to George Whiteside’s in that it utilizes a MIDI controller to send frequency commands to the drive. Like other projects, Michael has rigged up his own makeshift floppy controller and shared the circuit readout for others to learn from.

Regardless of how you decide to go about creating your own custom floppy drive band, the trend is another example of why the DIY community is still successfully impressing the technology community. Old hardware, which typically gets chuckled at by modern users used to Wi-Fi and high-capacity flash drives, is a treasure trove of potential DIY projects. For this reason alone, you may want to think twice before tossing out that old floppy drive.

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Ryan Matthew Pierson