Controlling Musical Floppy Drives Directly via MIDI

One of my first thoughts on how to improve Moppy was to drive it directly via MIDI. At the moment, the format of serial messages sent to the drive controller is proprietary and requires using the “MoppyDesk” application on your PC to convert MIDI notes into playable pins and wave periods.

What if we can skip the PC altogether and simply plug a MIDI cable into the floppy drive controller? The goal of this experiment is just to see if this is feasible.

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How to Send and Receive MIDI Messages Over Serial

While MIDI is serial communication, it is a standardized protocol and is treated differently by most operating systems. But because it’s just serial data, it’s possible to “re-route” these MIDI messages to a generic serial device like an Arduino using two small pieces of software.

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Building Musical Floppy Drive Breakout Boards

With power taken care of, the next step is to connect the data lines (step, direction, and drive select) to the Arduino. The easy way to do this is to carefully count the pin numbers, attach a female header cable to each pin, connect the step / direction pins to the correct Arduino numbers, and join the grounded connections on a breadboard.

That’s the quick and easy way. But it’s also:

A.) Tedious to set up / take down
B.) Possible to make a wiring mistake
C.) Prone to disconnects

How do we fix all three of these problems? We build a breakout board!

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Getting Started with Musical Floppy Drives

With enough ingenuity, you can turn just about anything into a musical instrument. A few years ago, some inspired makers did just that using floppy drives. By manipulating the drive’s read-head motor, you can produce different pitches and therefore play music!

After doing a bit of research this seemed surprisingly simple, so I thought I would take a crack at it.

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