The Floppy Disk As A Portable Music Format

We remember the floppy disk as the storage medium most of us used two decades or more ago, limited in capacity and susceptible to data loss. It found its way into a few unexpected uses such as Sony’s Mavica line of digital cameras, but outside those who maintain and use older equipment it’s now ancient history.

Seemingly not for [Terence Eden] though, who has made a portable audio player that uses a floppy disk as its storage medium. It came about with the realization that half an hour of extremely compressed audio could be squeezed onto a standard 3.5 inch floppy, and then that the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night album comes in at only a shade over that time. With some nifty manipulation of the compression command line and the judicious removal of some unnecessary metadata, the album can fit on a floppy in equivalent quality to the AM radio fans would have heard it over back in 1964.

The player would have been a major undertaking when the floppy was king, but in 2020 it’s simply a USB floppy drive, a Raspberry Pi, and a battery pack. He’s given us the full instructions, and no doubt a more permanent version could be built with a 3D-printed case.

We’re fascinated by the recent trend of storing audio on floppy disks, but despite the hipster vibe, we doubt  the idea will catch on. It’s not the first floppy-based player we’ve seen, but the previous one was more of a fake player.

Easy-To-Use Music Player Relies On RFID

Microwaves used to be simple to use. Set the dial for the desired time, and hit start. Then, everything went digital and the average microwave now takes between four and six button presses in precise order just to start heating. Music players have gone down a similar path, and those that grew up in the era of vinyl records can find modern digital media simply too hard to work with. To solve this problem, [ananords] whipped up Juuke, a music player focused on ease of use.

The Juuke has a simplistic interface intended to be as easy to use as possible. Songs are selected using printed cards with embedded RFID tags – placing them on the Juuke triggers playback. Volume is controlled with a simple knob, and the only two buttons are for play/pause and shuffle mode.

Underneath, an Arduino Uno runs the show, hooked up to a RC522 RFID interface board. Music is handled by the DFPlayer mini, which loads tracks off a microSD card. The DFPlayer can be hooked up to a speaker directly, but there’s also a 3.5mm jack output if the device is to be used with an external amplifier.

It’s a tidy project, and one that actually looks pretty fun to use. Obviously, there’s some time investment required to prepare the SD card and produce the RFID cards, but the final product could be fun to use at a party, too. We’ve seen similar builds before, as well. Video after the break.

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Telephone Plays The Songs Of Its People

Music, food, and coding style have one thing in common: we all have our own preferences. On the other hand, there are arguably more people on this planet than there are varieties in any one of those categories, so we rarely fail to find like-minded folks sharing at least some of our taste. Well, in case your idea of a good time is calling a service hotline for some exquisite tunes, [Fuzzy Wobble] and his hold music jukebox, appropriately built into a telephone, is just your guy.

Built around an Arduino with an Adafruit Music Maker shield, [Fuzzy Wobble] uses the telephone’s keypad as input for selecting one of the predefined songs to play, and replaced the phone’s bell with a little speaker to turn it into a jukebox. For a more genuine experience, the audio is of course also routed to the handset, although the true hold music connoisseur might feel disappointed about the wide frequency range and lack of distortion the MP3s used in his example provide. Jokes aside, projects like these are a great reminder that often times, the journey really is the reward, and the end result doesn’t necessarily have to make sense for anyone to enjoy what you’re doing.

As these old-fashioned phones gradually disappear from our lives, and even the whole concept of landline telephony is virtually extinct in some parts of the world already, we can expect to see more and more new purposes for them. Case in point, this scavenger hunt puzzle solving device, or the rotary phone turned virtual assistant.

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Somewhere Down In Africa Toto Is Playing On Loop

Amidst the vast expanse of sand dunes in the Namib desert, there now exists a sound installation dedicated to pouring out the 1982 soft rock classic “Africa” by Toto. Six speakers connected to an MP3 player all powered by a few solar powered USB battery packs, and it is literally located somewhere down in Africa (see lyrics). The whole project, known as TOTO FOREVER, was the creation of film director [Max Siedentopf] who himself grew up in Namibia.

“I set up a sound installation which pays tribute to probably the most popular song of the last four decades…and the installation runs on solar batteries to keep Toto going for all eternity.”

Max Siedentopf, Creator of TOTO FOREVER

[Siedentopf] certainly chose a song that resonates with people on a number of levels. Toto’s “Africa” was one of the most streamed songs on YouTube in 2017 with over 369 million plays. The song continues to reach a new generation of fans as it has also been the subject of a number of internet memes. Though those local to the sound installation have had some less than positive things to say. [Siedentopf] told BBC, “Some [Namibians] say it’s probably the worst sound installation ever. I think that’s a great compliment.”

The idea of the installation “lasting for all eternity” will certainly be difficult to achieve since the components most certainly lack any serious IP rating. The audio player itself appears to be a RHDTShop mp3 player that according to its Amazon listing page, has three to four hours of battery life per charge. Considering the size of those solar cells the whole thing will probably be dead in a week or two (it is in a desert after all), but no one can deny the statement TOTO FOREVER makes. Below is some footage of the art piece in action taken by the artist himself.
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PiPod: A Raspberry Pi Zero Portable Music Player

[Bram] wasn’t satisfied with the portable music playback devices that were currently available. He craved an offline music player that had a large storage capacity but found that this was only available in high-end, off-the-shelf options, which were far too expensive. [Bram] decided to make his own, powered by a Raspberry Pi zero. After building an initial prototype, the design was iterated a few times, with the latest version featuring a BOM cost of roughly €80.

The whole project is open source, with hardware and software files available on the project GitHub. A 2.2″ TFT displays the UI, which is of course completely customisable. Everything is squashed into a 3D printed case, which has the smallest form factor possible whilst retaining a decent amount of battery life. The electronics are what you’d expect: a boost converter to produce 5 V for the Pi from the 3.7V battery, a charge controller and a battery protection circuit. As a bonus, the battery voltage is monitored with a 12-bit ADC which reports to the Pi, enabling it to do a safe shutdown at low voltage, and display battery level on the UI.

Since the whole purpose of the device is to play audio, onboard filtered PWM wasn’t going to cut it, so instead a 24-bit DAC talks to the Pi via I2S. The audio player backend is VLC, so there’s support for plenty of different file types. A disc image of the whole system is available with everything pre-configured, and you can even buy the assembled PCB from Tindie.

Want to keep the look and feel of your old iPod? We covered an impressive restoration of a 6th gen model, upgrading the storage and battery significantly.

This Is How The Fonz Would Play MP3s

Here at Hackaday, we love to see old hardware treated with respect. A lovingly restored radio or TV that’s part of our electronic heritage is a joy to behold, and while we understand the desire to stream media from a funky retro case, it really grates when someone throws away the original guts to make room for new electronics.

Luckily, this Seeburg jukebox wall remote repurposing is not one of those projects. [Scott M. Baker] seems to have an appreciation for the finer things, and when he scored this classic piece of Mid-Century Americana, he knew just what to do. These remotes were situated around diners and other hangouts in the 50s and 60s and allowed patrons to cue up some music without ever leaving their seats. They were real money makers back in the day, and companies put a lot of effort into making them robust and reliable.

[Scott]’s first video below shows the teardown of this unit; you can practically smell the old transformer and motor windings. His goal in the second video was to use the remote to control his Raspberry Pi jukebox; he wisely decided to leave everything intact and use the original electromechanically generated pulses to make selections. His analysis led to a nicely executed shield for his Pi which conditions the pulses and imitates coin drops; happily, the coin mechanism still works too, so you can still drop a quarter for a tune.

The remote is working well now, but [Scott] still needs to finish up a few odds and ends to bring this one home. But we love the look and the respect for tradition here, as we did when this juke got a Raspberry Pi upgrade to imitate a missing wall remote.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Dementia-Friendly Music Player

The loss of memory is an extremely difficult situation, not just for those afflicted, but also for immediate family, close friends, and care givers. With no cure available for dementia, providing care is an extremely demanding task for everyone involved – both mentally and physically. Patients are unable to retain recent events and information, but will most likely be able to recall some amount of past memories. This presents serious challenges when they encounter “modern” technology and cannot figure out how to use and operate everyday devices that normal people take for granted.

[rosswesleyporter]’s Dad had trouble using modern iPods and CD players, so he built DQMusicBox — a Dementia friendly music player. It’s very simple interface resembling a radio from half a century ago. There are just two large, clearly marked rotary dials — one for Volume, the other for Songs, and a headphone socket. The inspiration came from a very moving documentary called “Alive Inside” which explores how music brings extreme joy to people with dementia.

The device is built around a Raspberry Pi, enclosed in a laser cut enclosure and requires no soldering — making it easy for anyone to build one for themselves using easily available parts. The Raspberry Pi runs on a lightweight, optimized version of Raspbian called DietPi. The music playback is handled by VLC ensuring support for a large number of music formats. A Python script looks for music files, sets up the VLC-NOX player and handles knob and button events. A bundled image file for the software includes everything needed to get it running, making setup easy and quick. Since Raspberry Pi’s are prone to OS corruption when power is disconnected without performing a proper shutdown, [Ross] uses write protection on the SD-card and walks you through the process of how it works.

Between his Project page, Github and DQMusicBox website, you will be able to get all the information needed to replicate this excellent project. And for his next version, he already has a few ideas for improvement and would like to hear if other hackers have suggestions.

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