Floppotron, the “symphony orchestra” consisting of 512 floppy disks and 16 hard disks

Floppotron

A Polish engineer, Pavel Zadrozniak, has united his passion for music and retro computer technology to create a peculiar “symphony orchestra”. For this he has had to gather nothing less than 512 old floppy disks, 16 hard disks and 4 scanners desktop scanners.

The first Floppotron played the “Imperial March” from Star Wars with only two floppy disks

Long gone are the days of the first Floppotron, a simple combination of two floppy disks whose different startup sounds, conveniently synchronized, managed to perfectly interpret the well-known “Imperial March” composed by Joh Williams for the original soundtrack of “Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” (Irvin Kershner, 1980). Now, in its third generation, Floppotron is able to reproduce more complex melodies, including several voices sounding simultaneously.

The sound comes from the various motors that drive the moving mechanisms of the different devices. Each one of them sounds with a differentiated intonation, so that conveniently paused they reproduce a chromatic and tonal spectrum that, properly adjusted and synchronized, is capable of sounding, literally, like music. To achieve the different notes, it is enough with the “simple” procedure of alternating their frequency by modifying the rotation speed of the respective motors.

Once the different motors have been harmonized so that the sound produced responds to the required note Zadrozniak’s work consists of distribute the notes of the melody among the various devicessynchronizing their operation. It is also necessary to coordinate the operation of different floppy disks in charge of enriching the sound of the same note by adding nuances, vibrato, sonority, strength..

The set of floppy disks, organized and decorated exactly like an octave on the keyboard of a piano (although with the colors inverted), stands out especially for its spectacularity. The floppy disks are in charge of reproducing the lowest notes while the scanners are in charge of the highest sounds Percussion is the job of hard disksthe percussion is the task of the hard disks, coming from the tapping of the read heads and their movements on the disks.

The whole of this particular orchestra is organized as shown in the video published by the author himself, being possible to distinguish the different controllers in charge of handling such peculiar “instruments” that, after going through a MIDI module and a USB converter, are connected to the computer in charge of managing the playback of the piece and the driving of the “instruments”.

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