It’s been almost a year since YouTuber Paweł Zadrozniak first debuted the Floppotron, an array of floppy drives, scanners, hard drives and an ATMega microcontroller. When forced to actuate at an appropriate frequency, each drive can make specific sounds that, when combined together, can make a variety of tunes.
Their latest rendition is of the classic Rick Astley track which was used so successfully over the past decade to “Rickroll” people – that is, trick them into viewing the video when expecting something else. It’s an internet staple and it’s more surprising that it’s taken Zadrozniak this long to take a crack at it.
However he has been rather busy with other tunes. The Floppotron has also taken a swing at other internet classics like Smash Mouth’s All Star – which was recently played with Windows XP error noises, too.
Perhaps the most fitting of all its projects though is the Portal – Still Alive theme, which it nails perfectly. The retro feel to the sound seems just right for this sort of tune.
In total the Floppotron is built from 64 floppy drives, eight hard drives and two scanners. Why so many? In short, volume. While each individual drive can produce unique notes, they can only make so much noise by themselves, hence Zadrozniak created banks of drives, so that when a louder note was required, he has the mechanical oomph to deliver it.
Each channel of eight floppy drives is connected to a single eight-channel controller, which controls the “voice” of the drives and how many will output the sound. The scanners and hard drives have their own controllers, all of which translate commands from the main Arduino board which interfaces with the PC that controls the Floppotron.
If you’d like to learn more about its construction or the Python that handles the software side of the equation, Zadrozniak has a thorough breakdown on his blog.