How to Create Floppy Drive Music

It started as a bet: The “Phantom of the Floppera” video was making the rounds at work and a co-worker was sure that the video was fake.
“They just dubbed audio over a video of some old computer,” he said.

“Nonsense,” I said. “It’s not even that hard! I bet I could go home tonight and do it!”

After many hours and a lot of trial and error, my salvaged floppy drive eked out the first few bars of “Ode to Joy,” only a little bit out of tune.

Floppy disks have several “tracks” of information on their circular media, and the drives that read them have a head that can step one track at a time across their surface. The position of the head is controlled by a stepper motor, and floppy drives have a convenient interface that moves the head one track at a time with a signal pulse to the right pin. Pulse this signal at a specific frequency and the drive’s vibrations give off sound like a speaker driven by a square wave.

After getting a glimpse of the potential musical floppy drives had to offer, I dug out an Arduino, mooched a grocery bag full of floppy drives off a friend, and set to work making beautiful (or at least recognizable) music. The result? A Java application and Arduino sketch that, as this article will show you, can be used to make floppy drives sing.”

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