Making sweet floppy drive music with a calculator

floppy-music-ti83-style

[Chris] says that he’s been pretty busy lately, leaving little opportunity for hacking. However he did manage to find a little time to put together a small project that has occupied his to-do list for a while – a floppy drive music controller.

We have seen hacks that use microcontrollers to actuate floppy drive motors before, but we can’t remember anything that used a calculator to do the job instead. While a microcontroller gives you plenty of I/O pins to play with, [Chris’] Ti-83+ only has two.

Even with the calculator’s I/O limitations, he didn’t find the task too overly difficult as he merely needed to hold a pair of the drive’s pins low, while pulsing two others. He modified a media player written for Ti calculators to output the necessary control signals, then he cranked out some tunes.

As you can see in the video below, his simple setup works quite well – not bad for just a few hours’ work.

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Emulating Oric-1 floppy disk hardware

This device is called the Cumulus and it’s used to emulate the floppy disk hardware for Oric-1 and Oric Atmos computers. These 1980’s era computers included an expansion slot to which you could connect a floppy drive. That module, called a Microdisc system, also included the driver circuit which means you can’t just use a modern-day floppy drive as a replacement. [Retromaster] sidestepped the need for magnetic media all together by building an SD card interface which emulates the original module. We can tell by the use of a color screen and clean board layout that a lot of love went into the project. A CPLD implements the communications protocol used by the Microdisc system and creates all of the registers that would have been found on the original hardware. A PIC takes care of the SD card communications and the user interface.

With the exception of comforting noises, we’d bet there are few who have fond memories of using floppy disks. No wonder we’ve been seeing hacks to replace them quite a bit lately.

Classical’s greatest hits on hardware’s greatest flops

We get a lot of tips about old hardware playing recognizable tunes. But once in a while one of these projects goes above and beyond the others and this is a shining example of great hardware music. [FunToTheHead] put together a music video (embedded after the break) that shows his custom MIDI device playing Bach’s Toccata in d minor. He left some comments that clue us into the way he did it. Most obviously, he’s using the stepper motors from four floppy drives to create precisely pitched sounds. Internally, a PIC 18F14K50 acts as a MIDI-over-USB device, taking commands for all 128 MIDI notes as well as the pitch bends associated with them. The first four channels are played directly on each drive and the other twelve are triaged among the hardware by the microprocessor. But for the results heard in the video you’ll need to code your MIDI files by hand.

Bonus points to the video editor for the Phantom’s floppy-laden appearance in the video… it’s good to laugh!

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Stepper Directed HDTV Antenna

Credit: http://www.instructables.com/id/Computer-controlled-OTA-TV-antenna/

Broadcast TV has come a long way from adjusting the rabbit ears on top of the set just to get a fuzzy black and white picture. While nowadays there are often HD signals broadcast in most areas, it can often still be critical to redirect an antenna to get the best possible signal. By harvesting a stepper motor from an old 5 1/2″ floppy drive, and using a PC’s parallel port to control it, this adjustment can be handled automatically. Broadcast tower locations are easily found online, and once you have calibrated your stepper to face North, you are on your way to free HDTV reception.

What we would like to see is this antenna attached to a HTPC, and some kind of script to automatically direct the antenna for the best possible signal for the current channel. If anyone out there makes this happen, be sure to let us know.

Make a knitting machine print pixel art

[Becky Stern] shows how to take an old electronic knitting machine and interface it with a computer. After seeing the Brother KH-930E knitting machine in the video after the break it looks like the controls function quite like a CNC milling machine. Patterns can be programmed in and stored on a floppy disk. Since we don’t want to use those anymore (unless they’re hacked as an SD card carriage) it is nice to see that this is how the machine is connected to a computer. Using an altered FTDI cable and a floppy-drive emulator written in Python a blank design file can be saved on the knitting machine, manipulated in the computer to add your own pixel art, then loaded back onto the machine for production. At the very least, it’s interesting to watch the knitting happen, but fans of knitted apparel and geek paraphernalia must be salivating by now.

We’ve never given up our dream to transition from Hack-A-Day to Craft-A-Day, this just fuels the fire for that cause.

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Mac SE reborn as a server and Mac emulator

[Sprite_TM] cooked up an amazing hack by resurrecting a Mac SE using a Dockstar and ARM processor. The retro hardware had a bad mainboard thanks to the corrosive properties of a failed backup-battery. He had been wanting to do something with the Seagate Dockstar and decided it would find a nice home in the Mac. But what fun is a dead machine housing a headless server? To add to the fun he included an ARM processor running a Mac emulator, along with all the bits to make the screen, keyboard, and peripherals work. When the Mac is off the Dockstar still runs as a server.

But one of the best parts is the floppy drive. It still takes floppies, but there’s no magnetic media inside of them anymore. Instead, he’s added an SD card slot and some protoboard in the space for the read head. The drive itself has had the read head transplanted for some pogo pins (hey, we saw those earlier today). When you insert the floppy, the pogo-pins raise up and contact the protoboard, connecting the SD card to a Teensy microcontroller.

There’s so much going on with this project we just can’t cover it all here. Things like a chemical cleaning to return the original color of the classic case, and building a converter so that the peripherals are USB compatible are just some of the pleasures awaiting you in [Sprite_TM’s] post. He’s also filmed a demo video that we’ve embedded after the break.

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Emulating an Amiga floppy drive

[Retromaster’s] Ultimate Floppy Emulator is a wicked display of hardware mastery. It is the culmination of several design stages aimed at replacing an Amiga floppy drive with a modern storage solution. You may be thinking that using an SD card in place of a floppy isn’t all that interesting but this hack does much more. The board, controlled by a PIC32, patches into the Amiga keyboard and monitor. This allows you to bring up an overlay menu for controlling the emulator in order to configure which virtual floppy disk is currently ‘in the drive’. He’s even gone so far as to add a piezo speaker to mimic the sounds the original drive head would make while reading a disk.

[Thanks Gokhan]