Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
It's funny.  Laugh.

Harddrive Speakers 226

paranoidia writes "Ever get annoyed by the loud noise your harddrive makes? I bet you never thought of actually using that to your advantage. A friend here at CMU actually took 3 broken hard drives and got them to spin at certain frequencies outputed by his computer. So in the end, three harddrives are actually now speakers! There are videos and a few pictures with explanations onto how he did this wonderous thing."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Harddrive Speakers

Comments Filter:
  • by October_30th ( 531777 ) on Saturday February 16, 2002 @01:40PM (#3018519) Homepage Journal
    I remember that my C64 1541 diskdrive could be made to play tunes, too.

    Too bad it caused serious head misalignment after a while.

    • by Wraithlyn ( 133796 ) on Saturday February 16, 2002 @01:43PM (#3018532)
      Ah yes.. the good old 1541, I remember it well...


      It used to get confused about where the head was positioned, so it would move it a long distance until it physically collided with the edge of the platter to re-align itself. Fruits of reading "Commodore DOS" back to back ;)
    • I remember the program that played "Bicycle Built for Two" on the 1541 disk drive motors. Sound quality sucked, sure, but DAMN, that was cool.
    • Didn't those disk drives contain their own processors? I recall hearing they were often programmed to format disks very quickly, so I guess they could be used to play those tunes while the C64 works on something else.

      • Yeah, they had thier own processor, but they were NOT fast at formatting a disk, it took about 80 seconds, then you had to flip the disk over and format the other side (if you were so inclined to use double sided disks).

        Oh, and copying a disk was lots of fun, considering that the memory could only hold 64K chunks at a time, and the disk held about 180K per side, I think (it was measured in blocks rather than KB back then). You had to keep switching the disks back and forth to make a copy of a full disk.
      • Didn't those disk drives contain their own processors?

        Yes, they had an on-board CPU and RAM so it was possible to run custom programs on the disk drive. I had one disk-copy program that worked this way; it would automatically copy disks from one drive to another, without involving the main computer (the drives were connected by a daisy-chained serial bus, so you could even unplug the computer from the drive chain once you'd uploaded the program).
      • If I recall, the 1541 had a 6502 and 14kb of ram. That was ironic, because I used it with my VIC-20 "computer" that had a 6502 and 3.5kb of ram.
    • Yup, but it was of course not really healthy for the drive. :)

      These tunes got so popular at least in swedish computer mags that they gave *huge* program listings in the mag with literally tons of DATA statements, like

      110 DATA 201, 34, 129, 123, ...

      etc. Of course since it was the only way to program in machine code from BASIC... *shudder*
      • 110 DATA 201, 34, 129, 123, ...

        Uhhuh. I still can remember typing in page after page of that kind of code from magazines. Imagine. The code and graphics like sprites and character sets were loaded in from DATA statements.

        But wasn't all in vain. I can still outtype the younger hackers both in speed and accuracy. ;-)

    • Ah, memories.

      That would be the "1541 Music Machine".

      Taking advantage of the onboard 6502 processor and 2k of RAM, it made the venerable Commodore 1541 floppy disk drive play a crude, yet recognizable version of "Bicycle built for two", which was the first piece of music ever sung by a digital computer. []

    • A little known fact about 1541: it was actually labeled 154l, or 154I, not 1541!

      If you have a close look at the label (see here [] or here []: sorry, couldn't find larger pictures), the last character is slightly different from the first (it does not have the oblique little dash like the first, so it is not a ``1'' digit).

      OTOH, all the Commodore user documentation reported it as 1541...

  • The 10K drives in my G4 and the 15K drive in my SGI Octane are pretty loud, but it kinda makes sense... faster spinning SCSI drives have never been known for their whisper operation, more like a jet engine.

    That said, most of my other drives in my Windows and Linux PCs are fairly modern 7200 RPM drives. My two newest Maxtor and Western Digital drives are so quiet that I sometimes forget they are spun up. Almost cool to the touch, too.

    Now if only 7200 RPM drives would come with 7ms seek times. Heck, the drive in my O2, a 7200 RPM SCSI Seagate Barracuda ST318416 from almost 2 years ago has an average seek of 6.0ms with a max full seek of 10.5ms... a good 3ms faster than the fastest 7200 RPM IDE drives of today.
  • Umkay, I listened to that Matrix (sound) ... i couldn't hear anything but a *schhiiereiiiereiri* sound!? Yeah I know, my sound deamon is simply not good enough ...

    IMHO, some people have got too much free time.
    • Well maybe you should try replacing your sound system with some new harddrives.


      No seriously, the sounds recognizable and its a pretty impressive technical feat. Honestly though, I'd like to see a vibrator speaker system as well. Maybe it would turn on some women to new types of music.. omg.. stop me now.
    • I didn't recognize the matrix music myself in that video, but the rest of them were fine, starwars worked.
  • by siliconwafer ( 446697 ) on Saturday February 16, 2002 @01:49PM (#3018561)
    "Girls can try even making music come out of their vibr... *cough*... "

    Damnit, now I'll never get laid again.

    "But baby, YOURS doesnt play soothing music!"
    • Okay, this seems like an appropriate place to post my bewildered question :)

      Is this really for real? I for one have had an opportunity to use a vibrator, and while I did notice that the pitch changed depending on how much resistance was applied to.. well, while I could change the pitch, I can't imagine that I would ever get a chord. Ever. Or emulate a french horn or a 120-piece orchestra.

      So how the hell is he getting "Star Wars" out of those things? Is it really possible that vibrator, used by the most skillful hands imaginable, could be made to play "Invasion of the Gabber Robots" during foreplay, funny robot voices and all?

      Three pitches, I could easily buy - some kind of cheap MIDI substitute. Human voice? Someone has to explain this better. If my girlfriend's vibrator starts talking to me, I'm ending it. Well - I guess that would depend on what it said.
      • Erm. (Score:1, Redundant)

        by autopr0n ( 534291 )
        Well. You do realize that regular speakers only work by vibration, don't you? You get sound out of these the same way you get sound out of single speaker cones, by moving them through each individual sound wave.
        • So are you actually telling me that a vibrator could be made to say "Ohhhh, yeah!" like the Kool-Aid guy if you pressed it down juuust right?
      • uhm, just a have a girlfriend(a), she has a vibrator(b). And when you use a and b together you want to play music by using the exact right pressure...
        Is it just me, or is that a very wrong time to play with geeky toys?

        Just curious, what would one reply after finally succeding at the Star Wars theme and she asks what you're giggling at? Commit suicide by proxy by telling the truth? Just run? hmm

  • Well, instead of going for the first post, like I should have, I decided to pull the pics and txt and a vid or two from the website. I submitted them to since they are down with these cool ass mods as well. Its up to them to post it but if you go to check it out and its dead or gone, try No gaurantees as of yet.

    If neither work - bookmark this page and come back in a week. It is well worth the check out. Its amazing.
  • by ViciousMark ( 550673 ) on Saturday February 16, 2002 @01:51PM (#3018565) Homepage
    "Yes Police? Could you pay a visit to my neighbor. It's 4am, I'm trying to sleep, I have work in the morning, and he just bought a 200 gig hard drive, and a keg of beer."
  • Not bad... 150 KB/sec. I wonder how long Carnegie Mellon will hold up to the /. effect :)
    • We have a kickass connection here. I would be very surprised if /. took it down. Half the eastern cost bandwidth at one point or another passes through CMU. Cert is here, too.
    • I was pretty impressed that the page loaded... but then to be able to download the AVI's that is unheard of! Don't webservers know they are supposed to just laydown and die when they are posted on slashdot?!?!
    • I'm getting over 500k/sec here :) Basicaly instant downloads on these videos. If only the rest of the internet worked like this :P
  • Old news (Score:3, Informative)

    by Uberminky ( 122220 ) on Saturday February 16, 2002 @01:54PM (#3018582) Homepage
    I can't find the story for the life of me, but I know it was on Slashdot a long time ago. (Does anybody else think Slashdot's search engine is a pile of crap?!?!? Of course Google wasn't much help either, this time.) Anyway, the last article was actually about using printers to play music (remember now?) but either in the story or the comments, it was also mentioned that it could be done with hard drives (and had been done for years). Pretty cool, yeah.. What about picking up the Van Eck signals from your monitor on an AM radio? That was pretty cool. Anyway. Yeah. I do some tinkering with robotics, and if you pick a bad frequency for PWM (Pulse Width Modulation), your motors will scream and whine as they act like speakers. You can use frequency modulation to make them play music and stuff too. Useless, but kinda fun to show people that don't know squat about electronics... ;)
    • Re:Old news (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Hardly "old news".

      Here's the discussion you wanted anyway: Symphony for Dot Matrix Printers []. If I remember correctly, there was a second Slashdot story posted about this site - either a duplicate or a Slashback article. Finding that is left as an exorcism for the reader. ;-)
    • by MarkusQ ( 450076 ) on Saturday February 16, 2002 @02:08PM (#3018633) Journal
      Many years ago we used to have a yearly "printer calling contest" (sort of like hog calling contest) at a local pub. Contestents would immitate a printer, and listeners would try to guess the make (& model, & even in one case someone got the serial number, though this was sort of a set-up).

      This was back when computer geeks were very rare, so we were just one more group that shoved a few tables together in the corner, ordered beer, made funny noises, laughed, ordered more beer, rinse, lather, repeat.

      -- MarkusQ

    • BTW- Yes the slashdot search engine is a steaming pile of shit. They really should buy one of Google's fine products or something.

      In the near term though, try in google, to narrow the search. You can also try the linux search on google,
  • On the same site... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rjw57 ( 532004 ) <> on Saturday February 16, 2002 @01:55PM (#3018589) Homepage Journal
    On the same site is a cool HOWTO of how to make an old monitor into a cardboard + plastic model of the final level from Doom ][. Just follow this [] link.
  • I wonder if you can scratch the drives :) Seriously though, out of complete ignorance, does this work in a similer fashion to vinal record players?
  • I had a maxtor hdd refusing to spin up and it was making funny beeping noises.

    I thought that the harddisk came with speakers, but later on realised that those "beeping" sounds were caused by the coils!
    • Re:Hard drive noises (Score:3, Interesting)

      by GigsVT ( 208848 )
      On a similar note, I have an old 10Base-T hub, one of the old metal wall-mount kinds, and if you power it from a 9 volt power supply rather than a 7.5, it actually hisses! It doesn't overheat or anything, I can only think it must be an inductor or something that vibrates in a certain way to make the hissing noise.

      We also had a cisco hub at work that does the same thing on it's rated voltage. That one also got really hot though.
  • Girls can try even making music come out of their vibr... *cough*...

    Yeah, makes them sing... sort of.

    Your comment has too few characters per line (currently 9.0)... the hell it does, it's called being concise, if anyone has heard of it.

  • lives in my dorm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by altaic ( 559466 ) on Saturday February 16, 2002 @02:07PM (#3018629)
    He lives two floors below me-- it's pretty wild. It doesn't actually need to spin the platters, though, and that not how the sound is created; the noise comes from moving the heads over the platters. Hard drive heads move via by a coil like those in a speaker, which he drives with a home-brewed amplifier. Similarly, he did it with a cpu fan, which yielded much more quiet results. Headphones, anyone? =)
  • Reminds me of a simpsons ep i saw a few days ago, marges old boy friend is now a millionare b/c he invented a modem that converts the old analog squeeks into easy listening music.
  • What drive noise? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by entrylevel ( 559061 )
    I am actually shocked whenever I here a noisy, clicking hard drive, even though I know it is the norm. I never buy anything but the cheapest Maxtor I can find, and they don't make any noise I can discern over the computer's fan. Why PC manufacturers use anything else when Maxtor is usually the cheapest is beyond me.
    • Re:What drive noise? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by GigsVT ( 208848 )
      Maxtor drives are always very quiet. They have an acoustic management utility you can use to either make them seek faster or be quieter. Even with fast seeks on, they are still very quiet. Maxtor is quickly becoming the best hard disk manufacturer. Their drives are also very reliable and they are the technology leader with the largest dis(c)ks.
      • technology leader with the largest dis(c)ks.

        Hard drives are `disks'.

        CDs are Compact Discs.

        Actually, I would say that, in general, magnetic media arranged on a disk-like platter is a `disk' where as optical media on disk-like platter is a `disc'. Though, who really cares, call them HDDs or CDs or DVDs and be done with it :) .

        Since when has having a large penis made you a technology leader?
        • I meant that as a joke only, biggest dicks. I know the supposed standard in the use of discs vs disks, even though people regularly use either to refer to both, even in major magazines and the like, so it's hard to say that it's a very strong standard.
      • Well the older Maxtors have occasionally given me trouble, but the newer ones are fine - maybe because of the infusion of the tech they bought from Quantum. Heck, I just bought a 60gb Maxtor D-740x and the thing's got a Quantum-style case and everything, just with the Maxtor logo on it instead =]
    • $ dmesg | grep hda
      hda: Maxtor 90840D6
      (more output snipped to appease the lame lameness filter)

      It's pretty old I admit, but it's the loudest hard drive I've ever heard and it drives me crazy. Even when the drive is idle the spinning platters sound like a jet engine.
  • A Beowulf cluster of ... Ahh nevermind.

    Seriously though, we could be talkin 6.1 surround here with enough of these babies!

    • > A Beowulf cluster of ... Ahh nevermind.

      Would that by a computer symphony?
    • Ok, a Beowulf cluster is multiple COMPUTERS (or at least partial computers) that are linked together to do distributed computing. A RAID Array is multiple HARD DRIVES linked together to emulate one large hard drive with redundancy. There's a big difference.

      I don't know...a Dolby Digital EX or a DTS sound played through 6 sets of these could be cool (and über geeky)...don't know about the ".1" though. I think you'd have a hard time finding a hard drive head driver that could produce that low of a frequency!
  • Please don't slashdot us! We need the bandwidth!

    Heh, the web request stats will be interesting to look at. I bet the porn movies get lots of downloads.
  • imagine a beowulf cluster of these...
    heh this guy should consider going into business... if he can get things at the right price break he might be able to make a few bucks selling geek specialty items... just put them in a nice case (and if he can demonstrate the sound live, i'd consider buying a pair...
  • While you're at it, why not make an old monitor into a fish tank. Remove all the electronics, and crt, and put a piece of glass over the front end, cementing and plugging up the holes with RTV. Then cut a hole in the top and add your fish.
  • Wow...all my IBM DeskStar 75 makes are clicks of death! Quite impressive.
  • by Nall ( 559101 )
    Reminds me of last week's episode of The Simpsons, where Marge's old boyfriend invents a device to turn modem static into music.
  • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) on Saturday February 16, 2002 @02:32PM (#3018728)
    ...that college dining hall trays make excelent mounts for home brew electronics projects!
    • dining hall trays make excelent mounts for home brew electronics projects

      Among other things. Here at the U of Wisconsin - Madison we use use them as sleds. :)

      Lots of fun trying to stop at the bottem of Bascom Hill before you hit the trees...
  • by Ozan ( 176854 )
    He connected the drives parallel to the amp, without any filtering? A lowpass for the big one, highpass for the small and bandpass for other would sound much better as with all drives heads moving similar.
  • Hey this Afrotech stuff is grattttttttttttteee!

    Got a real kicker out of this one. Check for one hell of a site design.
    • Re:Neato! (Score:2, Funny)

      by loz ( 64114 )
      hehehe, Afrodot, news for idiots. do t.jpg

  • Hehe... that's Awesome :)
  • Floppy drives (Score:1, Interesting)

    by captainmoo ( 209101 )
    I know the head in a floppy drive doesn't work the same way as it does in a hard drive, but I wonder if there's enough similarity to get the same effect? My FDDs seem to die more often than my HDDs so I'd try it with one of them before I take apart my hds
  • For geez sake thats the dumbest hoax i've ever seen. I mean the drives are not even moving in sync with the bloody audio. [hint: watch the "star wars" one].

  • We used to do this with our Commmedore 64 floppy drives, or at least something close. You could control the and make it play a crude melody. []
  • His other Hack (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Saturday February 16, 2002 @03:10PM (#3018898) Journal
    Is not bad either []. The psx-PC hybrid is somewhat interesting.

    Having a mad scientist for a parent does have some benefits sometimes.

  • The sound being produced is not the related to the noise some hard drives make. He's not spinning them at particular rates to get different sounds (which would only allow him to produce one frequency per platter anyway). He's vibrating them, just like regular drivers. Still a cool waste of time, but not the least bit what the posting indicated.

  • Back in my C=64 days, I remember finding this program that played a song ("sailing, sailing, ..." if my memory serves me correctly) using the motors on the C=1541 disk drive. Pity that just a few runs of the program would trash the drive. Ah, nostalgia!
  • ... the amiga is so old that a HDD would be the size of a small suitcase. Yet this dude says that it's the smallest drive.

    Don't ask me, I was too skint to have an Amiga with a hard drive, or even an amiga with a floppy for that matter, I had to stick to the spectrum (and the tops-20 machine at college - only 3 people allowed to use emacs at once otherwise it'd kill the machine!), but maybe this is a typo or this is a little bogus.

    So: how big WAS the amiga hard drive?
    • ... the amiga is so old that a HDD would be the size of a small suitcase. Yet this dude says that it's the smallest drive.

      The Amiga 1200 used a 2.5" (laptop-style) drive. I assume that's what this guy had.
      AFAIK all of the other Amiga models used normal 3.5" hard drives (if they had one at all).
  • just for the record, this is probably the most fucked up thing I've seen in a while !
  • I bet this technology could be used to move a cone of paper or other stiff material, which would move a large air mass and create clear sound vibrations, thus reproducing sound...

    Nah, too crazy...

    Seriously this is very cool and reminds me of the folks who put an AM radio next their Altairs (or whatever it was) and ran different instructions to create different frequency interference, thus creating music.

    What I'd REALLY like to see is the microwave interference from a GHz PC fucking with a cordless phone or something, making it ring....could it be done?

  • Back in 1982 or so, I remember pr0n software for the Apple ][ that used the floppy drive (O, the irony!) for the sound effects. Same principle: it did it by moving the head (hee-hee!) back and forth.
  • Found this while browsing around here []... Afroman's parody [] ( of Slashdot.
  • An engineer who shall remain nameless (cuz I just know what'll happen here if I bring up where I know him from - the Coleco Adam - and yes, there were some very cool things about that machine for its day)

    Anyway, he was charged with a program that would make sure the floppy drive was operating before doing other things, so to put it thru its paces, he had it access tracks in the correct order (and therefore musical pitches based on spin) to play "Mary Had A Little Lamb" - hear the tune - everything's OK!

    That - um *feature* didn't make it to 1.0 though.

  • I'm going to make my speakers store gigabytes of data!

    this one might take a while. hmmmm...
  • well.. kinda...

    I once accidentially connected the internal PC speaker to the HDD led pin on the mobo... well it was some kind of "Harddrive Speaker"... more or less ;)

  • I was doing this same thing with metal-bladed fans when I was a we lad of 12. I didn't make a demonstration out if it, but at least I've got some witnesses.

    Heh... Although, back then, things that didn't have a practical purpose WERE NOT news ;-).
  • If you attach two of the four pins that power the stepping motor [] that spins the platters to an audio input, the stepping motor produces an audible square wave when the platter is spun by hand.

    Try it! It makes a really nice analog whirrrrrrring sound.

  • A ScanJet 4c (I think) we got back in 1994 had a Jukebox.exe program on the driver disk. It's been a while, but I believe it let you play MIDI files on the scanner stepper. Quite clearly, too. I think they yanked the program later on, though, I've never been able to find it again.
  • Old hat (Score:2, Interesting)

    by uspsguy ( 541171 )
    A looooong time ago, at a college not too far away, 1/2 inch tape drives were in very common use. The capstan motors were capable of small movements and could be reversed quickly. IBM had a demonstration set up at one of our E-Days programs with a paper speaker cone mounted on a small stick. The stick was clamped to a capstan and they had a program running to play quite acceptable quality music. IIRC, they could even control the volume. Since this was over 30 years ago, I don't remember all the details but I was impressed at the time.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!