Floppy Drive Reverb, recycling floppy drives as tape delays

Floppy Drive Reverb

Self taught computer chip designer Jeri Ellsworth known for making an emulation of the Commodore 64 that fits into a joystick has recently found a new application for old floppy drives and diskettes. This storage technology, still widely available, has become of little or no value and is soon to be discontinued by major manufacturers. While the reduced capacity of the storage medium has made it obsolete in the quickly evolving digital world, it might soon become a popular item in the bag of tools of electronic musicians. Jeri Ellsworth has found out that by feeding an audio signal to the head of a floppy drive it is possible to record up to fifteen seconds of sound on each side of a disk, naming her project “Floppy Drive Reverb“. The magnetic surface of the floppy works like audio tape, but while on tape time is represented linearly, on the disk it is written in circular tracks. This means that cross-talk between adjacent tracks produces a blurring of time, an overlapping of past, present of future, which generates resembles echo effects. Daniel McAnulty has developed Ellsworth’s idea further. Attempting to emulate a vintage tape delay unit, he has combined three of these hacked drives, enabling simultaneous recording and playback functions. He is also putting together a guide on his website to make it easier for other hackers and circuit benders to make their own floppy echo effects. Other than their technical characteristics or sonic qualities, what gives these devices a special allure perhaps is the fact that they are not only inhibiting the decay of sounds, but they are also prolonging the duration of the recording medium itself.

Matteo Marangoni