Behold The Mighty Floppotron 3.0

If anyone has been struggling to get hold of a 3.5″ floppy drive lately, we think we’ve got a clue as to why — behold, the mighty floppotron 3.0 by [Paweł Zadrożniak.] With an utterly bonkers 512 floppy drives, four flatbed scanners and sixteen hard disks of various sizes, the floppotron 3.0 MIDI synthesiser is possibly the biggest such retro hardware synthesiser so far. Since every part of the system is motor-based, nobody is going to be surprised that to power the show is quite an undertaking, with nearly twenty switched-mode PSU modules needed to keep up with the demand, averaging 300W but rated at 1.2kW peak!

A full custom MIDI-to-RS485 gateway based around the nRF52xx series MCU deals with the communication to the collection of instrument controllers. These controllers are generic enough to take RS485 input and control a dedicated driver for either an array of floppy drives (up to 192), an array of hard drives or the handful of scanners. The way the floppy drives are grouped is quite neat. Rather than using each drive to generate a specific tone, the software uses the whole column for each note. By varying the number of drives moving simultaneously over time, the sound volume varies, simulating the note envelope and giving a richer sound. Multiple columns driving in parallel give the system a 16-note polyphony. The floppies cover the low notes, with the four flatbed scanners covering the higher notes. MIDI drum sounds are mapped to the hard disks, operating in a, well, percussive manner, with different case shapes giving unique sounds. Even the firmware can be updated over MIDI! So, checkout the demo video after the break for a sweet rendition of the very familiar “Entry of the gladiators” by Czech composer Julius Fučík.

If you think this looks familiar, you’re not mistaken, we’ve covered an earlier floppotron before, but we reckon nobody has attempted to do it with ye olde eight-inch drives yet!

Thanks [electronoob] and [Ruhan van der Berg] for the tip!

37 thoughts on “Behold The Mighty Floppotron 3.0

    1. It would be great if he made it into an artwork for the ages, by sticking it in an openside truck or trailer like a fairground calliope, maybe have repurposed tickle me Elmos, Furbies and Teddy Ruxpin storytime bears as animatronic dancers/performers. Hey Elongated Muskrat, give this guy a cybertruck maxed out with batts to make this happen.

  1. I’m glad there are people with enough free time to develop such things. This is amazing !
    What will we see in 50 years when our current technology is as “vintage” as floppy drives today ? An orchestra of Nespresso coffee machines ? Giant displays made of smartphones matrix ? Entire movie made of memes ? A swarm of vacuum robots dancing ? Can’t wait to see that…. well … if I’m still alive.

    1. I doubt that it uses all of that power. The power supplies were probably chosen to handle the maximum peak load, like when all of the floppies are seeking at the same time. Average power is no doubt much lower.

    1. And was laying the two colours out to look like piano keyboards the plan from the start, or driven by the colours of the available drives?

      I’m also curious about how he hooked up the lights on the scanners. At a glance, he doesn’t have too much detail on those in the blog post.

      1. From the linked article:
        “However, there are two new features. The first one is the nice looking, neon-like silicon RGB LED strip mounted on each scanner head.”

    2. Considering the mostly uniform appearance, I would venture to say he bought most of them either one lot sale on eBay or multiple lot sales. However, if he’s resourceful then he may have gotten them by surplus. If he’s lucky then someone in IT contacted him and offered him a large number of drives that would be otherwise scrapped.

      You could always ask him.

      1. Someone in IT once contacted me with info that I’d find 3.5″ floppy drives in the rubbish tip, if I was perchance interested. I still have about 30 stepper motors (having checked the rest away).

    1. But here’s a more solid reason. Have you heard the music made by the earlier versions? There’s no better inspiration to become a better musician than to build your own instruments, and vice-versa.

  2. Wow… Just… Wow. This is incredible ! Pure genius of the Tecno/Mozart kind. This is what a future take on a Seberg Orchestrion (1900’s) would be. Future songs should be… “On A Clear Drive You seek Forever”… or maybe.. “Never Gonna Boot You Up… Never Gonna Shut you Down.. Never Gonna Scan Around or Crash You” – Hack Roll. 😂

  3. I doubt that it uses all of that power. The power supplies were probably chosen to handle the maximum peak load, like when all of the floppies are seeking at the same time. Average power is no doubt much lower.

  4. It’s nice and all, but adding floppy drives doesn’t really improve the sound. Maybe some of the time should have been invested in new instruments. The Device Orchestra shows how to do it.

    1. You speak as if you had commissioned the project and were disappointed in the outcome. Lighten up. I find the sound quality to be a generational improvement over the previous model. I think the sample music justifies the choices he made.

  5. House on the rock is awesome. Very neat exhibit. I’ve been there twice. once as a kid and once as an adult and it was fun both times. (Even if as an adult I could tell that the “player” orchestra in one area was just miming and the sound was pumped in)

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