Thursday 19 October 2017

This amazing contraption plays pop songs using floppy disk drives and scanners

Pawel Zadrozniak’s masterpiece is a nerd’s dream – and it actually sounds awesome.

The Floppotron
The Floppotron

By Edd Dracott

Searching beyond a cappella renditions of Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine and of bands using toy instruments that are rife across the internet, there is an actual song-covering machine.

Made by Pawel Zadrozniak, a 27-year-old programmer and self-proclaimed “nerd” from Krakow in Poland, it’s called the Floppotron – and it’s quite something.

Zadrozniak’s masterpiece took four years of bit-part work to make and uses dozens of floppy disk drives, hard disks and document scanners – and includes 10 hand-made circuit boards.

The speed of operation of each part dictates the pitch at which it plays.

“For instance, to play the A3 note (220Hz), the motor must perform 220 steps per second,” Zadrozniak told the Press Association.

“Writing the software took the most amount of time,” said Zadrozniak. “The software within the controllers does all the magic to receive the data from the computer and make the motors play sound sequences and force the hard disk heads to ‘click’. There is also software on the PC which sends the data to the controllers.

“Having the working software, making the song arrangement takes me around two-three evenings, depending on the complexity.”

The Floppotron’s portfolio of covers has ranged from chart-toppers and classic singles to theme tunes from games and films – with Zadrozniak occasionally adding heavier percussion with sampled sounds from his home.

“My favourites are Smells Like Teen Spirit and The Final Countdown,” said Zadrozniak. “I’m a big rock fan and the floppy disk drivers are quite good at reproducing distorted electric guitar sounds.”

The Floppotron’s quirky performances have proved hugely popular online, with Zadrozniak’s YouTube channel gathering over 170,000 subscribers and 26 million cumulative views.

Zadrozniak is employed full time at a semi-conductor company, working on the Floppotron in his free time as “a form of relaxation” – and it sounds like there could be bigger and better things to come from the technological maestro.

“I am currently working on the third version of the Floppotron,” he said. “Most of the design was made in 2012 when my engineering skill were much lower.

“The next generation will be bigger, solve current design issues and will be more modular and portable to be able to feature it in some live exhibitions.”

That’s the future of music right there.

If you’d like to hear more from Zadrozniak and the Floppotron’s vast musical collection, check out his YouTube channel here.

Press Association

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