512 Floppy Disk Drives Form This YouTube Tech Orchestra

Many performers, including singers and musicians, credit YouTube for giving them the exposure they needed to eventually gain fame and fortune. But one performer who’s yet to break into the record scene just received a major upgrade that could finally be their ticket to super stardom.

It was just last week when the roughly half a million subscribers to Paweł Zadrożniak’s YouTube channel were struggling with the news that the Floppotron 2.0, an orchestra made from outdated hardware, would be making its final performance. The tear-jerking rendition of Con te partirò (Time to Say Goodbye)—a song originally made famous by Andrea Bocelli— was all they had to comfort them. But now, Floppotron 3.0 is here, and is bigger than ever.

Time to Say Goodbye, Floppotron 2.0.

First debuting in 2011, the earliest versions of the Floppotron used just a pair of floppy disk drives that produced sounds by moving the stepper motors that controlled each drives’ read and write heads at specific speeds. The faster they moved, the higher the pitch of the sound they produced. One of its earliest performances was of John Williams’ The Imperial March from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Backwhich to date has been viewed over 6.7 million times on YouTube.

Five years later, the Floppotron 2.0 debuted with some massive upgrades. It used 64 floppy disk drives for the meolody, eight hard drives providing percussion, and a pair of flatbed scanners for panache. It would go on to perform countless classic tunes—everything from the Super Mario World theme to Queen’s We Are the Championsbut on June 6, 2022, the Floppotron 2.0 took its final YouTube bow.

The Floppotron 3.0 – Computer Hardware Orchestra

It was the end of an era, but the start of a new one, as today Paweł Zadrożniak officially revealed the Floppotron 3.0, which uses 512 floppy disk drives, 16 hard drives, and four flatbed scanners which are all connected by a combination of off-the-shelf MIDI gear, custom hardware, and a rather imposing-looking power source. The Floppotron 3.0’s inaugural performance is of the 1897 Julius Fučík masterpiece, Entrance of the Gladiators: a piece that’s instantly recognizable as the entrance music for circus clowns. It’s a rousing performance but an incredibly complicated one that has us wondering just how long it takes Zadrożniak to program. At this point, it just may be faster to learn to master a real instrument, but where’s the nerdy fun in that?


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