Scanner Music


Continuing our trend of peripherals modified to perform functions that aren’t actually useful: here’s how to play music on your scanner. The HP ScanJet 3c/4c have a variable speed scan head that is driven by a stepper motor. The Play Tune command can be used to move the head at different frequencies. Here’s a video of a scanner playing F?Elise. The site we’re linking to has the source code to do this, but newer HP scanners may have hardware activation built-in, according to these two Easter eggs.

37 thoughts on “Scanner Music

  1. Holy shit! once my father told me that our HP3500c played some kind of “happiness hymn” (ok ok, remember that my english is a shit)…i thought it was just a coincidence.

  2. some of the best stuff ive seen in awhile! In Computer Science we just wrote so program to like interpert mp3s and play them, the first steps where getting it to play single frequencies then cords, the first song we played, fur elise. You could take like 4 of these and get them to do cords, then teach them to play stairway to heaven, LED ZEPPLIN!

  3. Actually you can do that with any dc motor and even with an stepper motor (not sure but maybe even with a servo too) Using the PWM at certain frequencies the stator housing of a dc motor will vibrate (specially when the voltage is not high) to produce an audible sound. I imagine this is what the “trick” uses to make sound. Try it your self with a pic, say 16f87x, and a china’cheapo dc motor.

  4. I found this to be really cool. Unfortunatly, My scanner is a ScanJet 2400, so it won’t work for this. Now, if it could scan pages while playing songs, scanning stacks of paper would be much more interesting!

  5. this is rad. it would be cool in conjunction with printer music and the CRT transmitter.

    p.s. you run a kick ass site. The stuff is bound to be somewhere else too. it’s great to come here and find this stuff. and to the peeps who are constantly complaining in the comments, if you don’t like it, don’t read it… but either way shut your mouth because nobody cares or wants to hear you whine “oh wahhhhhhh i saw this last year, wahhhh this is on another site, wahhh you did somethin similar last month”. just be thankful this site is here at all.

  6. Actually eliot, this story appeared on MAKE before it was submitted to digg. In fact, the guy who submitted it seems to have done the same with a lot of make stories. Either way all these good stories get put on all the blogs and new sites anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.

  7. The software to play music on the scanner used to be included in the standard install back in the NT/Win95 days. I remember the first time I discovered it. Thought it was the best thing ever. More proof that old-school HP used be really good company.

    If you can find the original NT driver software, you can likely get the software.

  8. Come on, it’s a guy offscreen on a casio.

    Just kidding.

    My Dual Alpha server 5000 can play music in BIOS, I forget what it plays though, I haven’t used it lately since it is such a power hungry beast. Essecntially, the BIOS is just a small unix shell.

  9. This is nothing new; the ScanJet 4c actually came with a Windows 3.x program that had five or six songs that HP included on the driver disk. I still have my 4c and will try to dig out the driver 3.5″ if I can find it, will post the software.

  10. This may explain the HP scanner we received a few years ago — we tried to install the software from the cd only to discover that it was in fact an Ella Fitzgerald album, masquerading as software! Luckily, we had purchased two scanners and the second one had software on it.

  11. Reminds (and dates me) of setting a AM radio next to my Altar 8008 and programming different length loops to create “pitches” in the noise on the AM radio. Took about a week to program “Jingle Bells”. Awesome!

  12. Not only is this a function of the scanner and not really a “hack”, the original magazine articles are documented on HP’s site. I have one of these scanners on a shelf somewhere, so I figured I would take E up on their challenge and encode Paul’s Boutique… Needless to say, it’s way more work than I want to attempt. That’s one reason the video is of Fur Elise and not something else.


  13. Very cool, but not new. The origional HP ScanJet (before they started adding numbers and letters to them) came with a program called SJBOX (DOS program) and half a dozen or so files that played music. Playing music on your scanner is still cool though. I used to work for HP and still play french horn in the HP orchestra. One of our members has written a couple of songs based on the sounds made by various pieces of office equipment, such as laser printer duplexers and such.

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