Analog audio recorded on a floppy


[Jeri ellsworth] of has made an audio recorder out of a floppy disk and an old tape recorder. She’s able to record 15 seconds of audio directly to floppy disk. In the video after the break, she explains how it works, and why you hear the creepy reverb effect. The next step is to run this as a pedal effect for stage music, and she even mentions doing a larger hard drive version with the ability to seek tracks.


  1. abeck99 says:

    I just saw this on another blog, and was checking out their shows:
    The shows are way too long to watch right now, but skipping around it looks pretty awesome.

    Besides teh obvious (Make), do you know anybody else who does hacky how-to shows?

  2. The Moogle says:

    I did this before only there was no modification needed to the drive. My idea was to make a sample mixing device but gave up because of the small sample sizes

  3. cyberpunk64bit says:

    WOAH! this is WAY cool. now, where did i put my old floppy drive?

  4. nemo says:

    they stole my idea! i actually built a prototype of this exact project, but i guess they win because they made a video first. :(

    I used an arduino to drive the floppy motor and also used the guts of a tape player for the record and play just like this project. its freaking hard to solder to those flexible tape traces.

  5. pRtkL xLr8r says:

    I did this in the late 80’s on an Apple IIe computer and a 5 1/4 floppy drive. I think I got maybe 30-60 seconds of music to play from the pc speaker. The song was Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil. At the time it was pretty awesome; everything was just beeps and tones from PCs back then…

  6. ank0ku says:

    @abeck99: The show Systm on Revision3 does strange hacks, but ever other how-to is actually useful.

  7. numa says:

    I love it – everything old is new again. Good job!

  8. Wwhat says:

    Those rev3 vids are so overdoing the commercials it’s unwatchable, ad, slow-to-the-point talk with overlaid ad, more ads, yeah thanks but no thanks.

  9. muckleby says:

    is there a how-to on this about anywhere?
    absolutely mad effect, gotta try it.

  10. josh says:

    I had this idea long ago, only for video usage. I figured that if I made a write/pickup coil with a sewing needle wrapped with wire, it would work. But, back in ’95, floppy drives were expensive and off-the-shelf op-amps were a bit too noisy. I gave up after the parts list exceeded my budget of $20 (college student).

    Nice work. I wish I could have stuck with it way back when.

  11. chris says:

    Jeri ellsworth is my hero! She actually has her own electron microscope and semiconductor fab =)

  12. rasz says:

    great find, awesome hack

  13. andre says:

    i had a similar idea a few weeks back, but mine involves using a UV LED to “write” the data onto a piece of spinning ZnS:Mg GITD material, and an infrared LED to stimulate light emission for reading.

    the basic idea is that the signal degrades logarithmically depending on time since illumination, but upon IR irradiation it “releases” all of its stored energy in one burst.

    This would probably be capable of storing video (just barely) and if you set it up to do a repeating read/write/erase cycle it would store the video for quite a long time.


  14. teebs says:

    I wonder if you slowed the disk speed you would get more record time. Also it would be cool to do this with an old hard disk. Multiple tracks on multiple platters!

  15. njakol says:

    I saw this on ladyadas blog, really cool, I have to look at the other episodes, it seems like a good show.

  16. tom says:

    zip drive next ;)

  17. ShadowX says:

    Back in the day we used an audio track on a special disk so we could align the heads on 5-1/2 and 3-1/4 inch disks for commodire systems

  18. The Moogle says:

    way ahead of you
    the problem that I’m running into is the crappy cheep head positioning system Iomega used. it is spring loaded so you have to pwm the coils constantly. will be very tough to get the turn table scratching fun too

  19. muckleby says:

    rah can anyone explain how this is hooked up?
    is the head stepper mod essential for normal forward playback?

  20. F. says:

    Some old telephone time services also worked with analog magnetic platters. The announcement was assembled by movable reading heads that selected the appropriate speech fragments from different tracks.

  21. ehrichweiss says:

    I had this idea years ago(like 20+) but I abandoned it when I realized that VCR’s had a better chance of doing what I wanted(multi-track recording at higher quality; for the record a VCR records audio FAR better than any 4 track recorder of the day). Then 2 years after I had my plans drawn up, Alesis released a multi-track recorder that used….VCR tapes. I don’t blame them, mind you, it just shows I was on the right path and they saw it as well.

    Kudos on making my old weekend project a reality though!!

  22. 1up says:

    Is there no tutorial for this, or is there something I’m missing? I really want to know how to do this.

  23. John says:

    so.. it’s cool to make your own 8 Track Tape? I don’t understand. What a waste of time.

  24. John says:

    Welcome to the 70s, maybe this decade we can invent the PC

  25. ac7zl says:

    I did something like this back in the late 80’s. I used a 5-1/4 drive. Back then, the drive motors were motor/generator combos, and it was very easy to hack the speed controller (usually on its own PC board) to make the thing run at whatever speed you wanted.

    I cut extra windows on the floppy so that I could have multiple heads working the disk at the same time. Depending upon which heads were hooked up and what the rotational speed of the disk was, you could get some pretty interesting echo/chorus sounds. Fidelity was poor, however. I think that was largely due to the shape of the hysteresis curve associated with magnetic materials designed for digital data storage.

    Speaking of floppy drive motors- I installed one in a modified cassette deck and hacked the servo PCB, which allowed the transport to run at single/double speed, depending upon how an external switch was set. In combination with an outboard DBX unit, the sound quality was incredible, and it allowed me to do effortless ping-ponging with the Yamaha 4-track recorder I had at the time. I would record 4 tracks worth of music (drums, bass, and two guitars) and mix it down to the modified recorder. Then, I’d pop the tape out of the modified deck, reinsert it in the Yamaha, and have two open tracks left for vocals. Very clean, let me tell you.

  26. vw says:

    So… Where’s the instructable?

  27. 1up says:

    I’m going to make one, actually.

  28. vw says:

    awesome- I set aside some victim drives so I’m looking forward to it.

  29. WOAH! this is WAY cool. now, where did i put my old floppy drive?

  30. Mike C says:

    dammit! i designed the same thing, i haven’t built it yet. kinda gay to see somebody else already did it and made a video.

    i guess i’ll still do it. my design drops the voltage to the floppy disk motor though, so a lot more than 15 seconds can be recorded. it will affect the audio quality some.

    floppy drives spin at 300 or 360 RPM, but if you drop it to 25 RPM you can get a good 3 minutes on a floppy. enough for a short song.

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