The Most Beautiful Floppy Disk Jukebox Ever

Rail

Playing music on floppy drives is something that has been done to death. [kiu]‘s RumbleRail is something else entirely. Yes, it’s still a collection of floppy drives playing MIDI files, but the engineering and build quality that went into this build puts it in a class by itself.

Instead of the usual assemblage of wires, power cords, and circuits that accompany most musical floppy drive builds, [kiu]‘s is an exercise in precision and modularity. Each of the eight floppy drives are connected to its own driver with an ATMega16 microcontroller on board. The microcontrollers in these driver boards receive orders from the command board over an I2C bus. Since everything on the RumbleRail is modular, and the fact [kiu] is using DIP switches to set the I2C address of each board, this build could theoretically be expanded to 127 voices, or 127 individual floppy drives each playing their part of a MIDI file.

The RumbleRail can also operate in a standalone mode without the need for a separate computer feeding it data. MIDI files can be loaded off an SD card by the main controller board, and decode them for the floppy drivers.

If you’d like to build your own RumbleRail, all the board files, schematics, and firmware are up on [kiu]‘s git. There are, of course, a few videos below of the floppy jukebox in action.

Comments

  1. supershwa says:

    Slicker than snot! Finally – something to do with these old floppy drives!

  2. Th3BadWolf says:

    Message to Kiu:
    I’ve had a mechanical design to use 8 floppy as “towers” done a couple months ago but I’m lacking the code-know-how to make it work.

    I’d like to check if we could work together to build a kit. Thks

    For everybody else: Anyone interested?

  3. If I was going to make the ultimate floppy drive choir, it would probably turn out something like this. Now I don’t have too! Nice work!

  4. rue_mohr says:

    next time I find 4 boes of floppy drives that have been tucked away into different corners of the shop I really need to think about making one of those….
    GREAT BUILD!

  5. xwhatsit says:

    Nice to see the use of bootlace ferrules and proper screw terminals :)

  6. XOIIO says:

    I wanted to do something similar but man I’d never be able to make it as awesomely as he did, that is super badass!

  7. Version 2 = reading the midi from one of the floppy disks?

  8. Galane says:

    That last video almost sounds like voices. :-) NEC made a 1.44M floppy drive with a linear actuator for the heads instead of a stepper motor. It still made a noise, with a mic and a bit of amplification it might work for higher notes. Oh, heh, I made a similar comment here http://hackaday.com/2013/02/13/building-a-six-channel-floppy-drive-synth-from-start-to-finish/#comment-959855

  9. nixieguy says:

    I just realized, that the floppy drives with the topmost holes, look like a capella singers when the heads move up and down.
    Made my day!

  10. Very nice, but can anybody estimate the expected life time of such a setup?

    • Sam Archer says:

      As long as it’s still using the floppy interface (rather than directly interfacing with the stepper motor), the drives aren’t really operating outside of their normal parameters. The only difference is that instead of moving between tracks as quickly as possible, each track-step is precisely timed to create a pitch. I would say in theory, they should last as long as they would have lasted as a functional disk-drive (if not slightly longer because the drive motor and read-write heads aren’t important).

  11. zibri says:

    Making music with a floppy was FUN when you had to code that on a C64. Not now.

  12. voxnulla says:

    They do look like a set of robot heads in a choir moving their mouths.. Love it, I want to play it!

  13. aztraph says:

    Dude, Awesome! now give them faces!

  14. maurizioram says:

    Wow! When you see it is much more better then when you imagine it… great! What a piece of retro electric art…

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