CLOSE
Original image
iStock // ioResearch

Behold the Floppotron, a Computer Hardware Orchestra

Original image
iStock // ioResearch

Back in the era when floppy drives came with home computers, PCs made a lot of noise starting up. They made a kind of music as the motors in the floppy drives buzzed and clunked, the hard drive spun up and chattered, and various peripherals slowly ground their way through startup tests. Now one man has turned those tones into an orchestra.

Polish engineer Paweł Zadrożniak built the Floppotron, a synchronized array of obsolete computer hardware programmed to play tunes. The current Floppotron 2.0 build sports 64 floppy drives, 8 hard drives, and a pair of flatbed scanners—most of these items have had their covers removed, apparently for improved acoustic performance.

Zadrożniak harnessed the power of the stepper motors in the floppy drives and scanners. By driving those motors at specific speeds, he can force them to generate pitches that sound a lot like string instruments. The hard drives can be gently overloaded to force the read/write heads to whack against metal guard rails—voila, percussion!

Floppotron 2.0 uses the floppy drives in banks of eight, allowing for volume control—one floppy is quiet, eight playing together is loud, just like an orchestra. Given the eight banks of drives, as many as eight notes can be played simultaneously, each at its own volume. The scanners act more like solo instruments, with their larger motors allowing them to take the lead.

Zadrożniak wrote the Floppotron software during his university classes. It translates MIDI music files—which specify instruments and notation—into a series of discrete commands telling the hardware when to buzz, click, and remain silent. The net effect is of a robot orchestra.

The Floppotron is a little light on bass; in this last song, Zadrożniak manually simulates a kick drum via a clothes washer, a snare drum by whacking a microwave oven, and...well, there's more. Enjoy:

For more Floppotron goodness, check out this playlist.

Original image
Ikea
arrow
Design
How IKEA Turned the Poäng Chair Into a Classic
Original image
Ikea

IKEA's Poäng chair looks as modern today as it did when it debuted in 1976. The U-shaped lounger has clean lines and a simple structure, and often evokes comparisons to Finnish designer Aalto’s famous “armchair 406.” Its design, however, is ultimately a true fusion of East and West, according to Co.Design.

In 2016, the Poäng celebrated its 40th birthday, and IKEA USA commemorated the occasion (and the 30 million-plus Poäng chairs they’ve sold over the years) by releasing two short videos about the armchair’s history and underlying design philosophy. Together, they tell the story of a fateful collaboration between Lars Engman, a young IKEA designer, and his co-worker, Noboru Nakamura.

Nakamura had initially come to IKEA to learn more about Scandinavian furniture. But the Japanese designer ended up imbuing the Poäng—which was initially called Poem—with his own distinct philosophy. He wanted to create a chair that swung “in an elegant way, which triggered me to imagine Poäng,” Nakamura recalled in a video interview. “That’s how I came up with a rocking chair.”

“A chair shouldn’t be a tool that binds and holds the sitter,” Nakamura explained. “It should rather be a tool that provides us with an emotional richness and creates an image where we let go of stress or frustration by swinging. Such movement in itself has meaning and value.”

Save for upholstery swaps, a 1992 name change, and a new-ish all-wooden frame that's easily flat-packed, the modern-day Poäng is still essentially the same product that customers have purchased and enjoyed for decades. Devotees of the chair can hear the full story by watching IKEA’s videos below—ideally, while swinging away at their desks.

[h/t Co. Design]

Original image
iStock
arrow
Medicine
Why Haven't We Cured Cancer Yet?
Original image
iStock

Walkathons, fundraisers, and ribbon-shaped bumper stickers raise research dollars and boost spirits, but cancer—the dreaded disease that affects more than 14 million people and their families at any given time—still remains bereft of a cure.

Why? For starters, cancer isn't just one disease—it's more than 100 of them, with different causes. This makes it impossible to treat each one using a one-size-fits-all method. Secondly, scientists use lab-grown cell lines cultivated from human tumors to develop cancer therapies. Living masses are far more complex, so potential treatments that show promise in lab experiments often don't work on cancer patients. As for the tumors themselves, they're prone to tiny genetic mutations, so just one growth might contain multiple types of cancer cells, and even unique sub-clones of tumors. These distinct entities might not respond the same way, or at all, to the same drug.

These are just a few of the challenges that cancer researchers face—but the good news is that they're working to beat all of them, as this TED-Ed video explains below.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios