Floppy Music

Floppy music has been floating around the Internet for a few years now with some real classic demonstrations like Phantom of the Floppera and The Ghostbuster’s Theme on 8 Floppy Drives. “Many Thousands” is probably an understatement of the number of floppy music videos that have been put up on YouTube by now.

Despite the novelty being old hat, it’s hard not to appreciate seeing it work in person. Since the company I work for encourages employees to give short presentations on practically any topic at the end of our bi-weekly staff meetings, I thought this would be a fun, easy, and short demonstration to put together. Here’s a recording of one of the songs I demoed:

One of the benefits of the floppy music phenomenon already being done to death is that other people have already done all the hard work for you. I used (loosely) this Instructables piece as a guide, which outlines everything you’ll need and how to put everything together. Here’s a few notes on my experience:

  • Don’t forget to install your Arduino drivers if you’re a complete Arduino newbie like me. If you see an error in the Arduino software that looks like avrdude: stk500_getsync(): not in sync: resp=0x00, then you’ve selected the wrong device port and likely forgot to install those drivers.
  • Counting pins on a 34-pin floppy connector is hard. If your drives aren’t responding and you’ve double-checked you have the right pins connected, check again.
  • If you have old PC jumpers kicking around, they’re great for bridging the drive select pin to the ground pin below it.
  • Front panel wires make great solder-free floppy connectors if you have an old PC case to harvest some from. Old CD drive analog audio cables also work great, requiring 2 per drive (or cut one in half).
    • I used these male to female jumper wires, which can be peeled apart into groups of 4 and plug into the drives and Arduino headers without any fuss.
  • Standalone molex power adapters are very convenient alternatives to using a full ATX power supply. I had a couple that came with USB SATA/IDE bridges for connecting raw external disks to a system. You’ll probably need a few of these as well.
  • VGMusic is a great source for video game MIDI files, but almost none of them will be suitable for playing on floppy drives. Have a MIDI sequencer on hand and be prepared to combine, cut out, transpose, and modify tracks to make them playable and actually decent sounding. I don’t have any recommendations for a free sequencer. If you have a recommendation, leave a comment.

About jaquadro

I am a full time software developer and part time game and game tooling developer.
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