A “Jukebox” In A Bell Jar

jukebox in bell jar

[Tim] wrote in to tell us about his Mark III hard drive in a bell jar, and we were quite impressed! The principle of using a bell jar to protect the hard drive inside so the world can see it spinning is really a cool idea, but his execution of this project is excellent. It was reportedly so good that an unnamed college actually asked him to build one of his drive displays for them.

The Mark III is an excellent build, and the little hard drive has been swapped to the front of it for better visualisation. The disadvantage of the iPod Mini used for the Mark III build is that it actually buffers enough so that the read head doesn’t have to spin during the entire song.  Because of this, we thought that his first build, nicknamed [pink], was even more interesting, if ever so slightly less refined. By many of our hacking standards though, both are incredibly finished works of art!

Both these builds feature a plethora of LEDs to keep you entertained, and can be seen demonstrated after the break!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGPPSzfo0aI%5D

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5un_GkwjCs%5D

23 thoughts on “A “Jukebox” In A Bell Jar

    1. As long as you’re in a fairly clean room they’re okay to be opened for short periods of time. I put a drive window in a 2.5″ drive years ago in my bathroom. Drive ran just fine for years until I threw it out. It was only a 20Gb drive.

  1. Am I the only one thinking of dust ?

    20 or so years ago a HDD read/write head in relation to the magnetic platter was described to me as concord (R.I.P.) flying at supersonic speeds 4 feet (1.2m) off the ground, in very approximate relative terms. And that one spec of dust in these terms would be the approximate size of a boulder.

    1. I wish people would stop using such nun-free music in videos if the music does not add value to the video. (Not so much because I cannot see it. Why should someone get money for something I don’t even want to hear?)
      Great hack, probably…

  2. I did this to several harddrives, they worked fine for a few months and then started to die.

    I removed the top cover from an identical but broken drive, put a plastic window in it, cleaned it well and quickly swapped with a functioning drive.

    I only modified 3.5″ drives and and i never really succeeded with anything above 10GB. The surface and head damage accumulated and finally the drive died.

    I did run a 260MB drive completely unprotected in a very dusty room, reading and writing over the entire surface all the time, and it survived for about 2 days before it crashed. Before it started exhibiting errors the read arm and inside was covered in dust :P

    1. Did you remove the breather vent in the process of removing the lid? That could cause a problem, that vent regulates the pressure inside the hard drive (which is important since it could mess with the aerodynamics of the head). You don’t need to worry about it if you’re running the whole hard drive in a clear container like this mod, but if you’re running a clear top there needs to be a breather vent somewhere. Most drives have it on the top but some have it on the bottom, see if you can find one like that for running clear lids.

  3. I would imagine that he put the hard drive in the jar so there would be no dust… Unless you meant while he was doing the mod in which case he either went or made a dust free area. I’ve seen a few hdd mods cut out the metal and instead have plexi window displaying it and supposedly no problems.

    1. You have obviously not listened to much music if you think this is the “Worst. Song. Ever.” I love how someone makes a truly magnificent piece of technological art and all you can do is comment on the song.

      This is truly one of my favorite hacks lately. Beautifully done with incredible attention to detail. I would really love to duplicate this for my own use.

      1. I can say the same thing like draeath did.
        I would love to comment on the build or anything else.
        But all I got is an overview of the build and nothing else. One photo. No video available thanks to f***in GEMA which won’t allow the music content.
        How should I be able to comment on something like that?
        Just remove the Music and show off the build for itself. Yeah I love it when a LED-Cube got music in it because otherwise it would be only half as cool. But There is no point when part of the world you want to show it to can’t watch that movie.


    1. I would have loved to have put the speaker on show inside the jar, but to keep it hermetically sealed, I had to squeeze the speaker in the base. The music at the start of the video is coming from the ‘jukebox’ and although it’s not amazing quality, it is surprisingly loud.

      Sorry about the music/licence issues!

    1. I have to say I love this build, but I think I like the full size hard drive build a little better. I’m thinking about stealing your idea and building one for myself, but I am curious what you used for the HDD status lights? Did you use some kind of controller? I don’t suppose you have some kind of build log for these do you?

      1. Sorry, picture galleries and sketches are all I have!
        The activity light on the Mk.I is controlled by a PIC mounted behind the HDD. The (badly written) code turns on more LEDs the longer the HDD activity pin is active for. Not a technically accurate measure of data transfer speed – but it looked pretty!! The down side of the PIC was that it drew current from the HDD and on some laptops the HDD would not power up.
        2.5″ HDD’s are the best for putting inside a bell jar, most can run without a lid (3.5″ HDD’s need a partial lid for supporting the head armature bearing) and laptop HDDs are designed to take a beating.
        The Mk.II that I built for Bexhill college in the UK is much simpler than the Mk.I – the only activity lights are three parallel LEDs in the base that run off the USB activity LED but it still looks good.

        Feel free to post questions on my Google+ galleries and I will get back to you.

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