Back to the Future theme tune, played by disk drives

YouTuber Arganalth has an interesting hobby: music production using disk drives. His channel contains a whole host of musical masterpieces conducted using an array of various disk drives, programmed to make the arms in the drives retract in very specific ways to generate the right sound. Until now he’s been using a PC which sends the data to an Arduino Uno.

For some time he’s wanted to use a Raspberry Pi to replace the need for the PC and power supply unit – and now he’s back with a new setup. He’s put together a musical octet of disk drives, and chosen the theme tune from the 1985 SciFi comedy classic Back To The Future for his opening Pi performance:

Arganalth has adapted the setup shown in Sammy1Am’s YouTube tutorial; he’s used a mixture of floppy drives and and hard disk drives, it’s battery-powered and the latest iteration of the ensemble is housed in a suitcase, so he can always carry the party with him wherever he goes! Some other songs performed, in the pre-Pi days include Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, the Portal song Still Alive and the Zelda theme. We look forward to more Pi powered musical treats.

This is a really nicely realised project: it just goes to show that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. The project also highlights how a Raspberry Pi can take the place of a desktop PC, providing as much flexibility but with the portability and low power of a microprocessor.


Martin OHanlon avatar

Barking, but brilliant…

Davespice avatar


AndrewS avatar

“comedy classic” ? I thought it was a documentary! ;-)

Great Scot!

Gee 'The Rabid Inventor' avatar

Stepped to Perfection :)
love it

Danny avatar

This is incredible :D

A Non avatar

“it just goes to show that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

Isn’t this a quote from the film…Back To The Future?

Helen Lynn avatar

Might be.

Tzarls avatar

This is great…. and after listening to it for a while on my tiny laptop speakers it starts to sound like the music from an old video game (from the so called 8-bit era).

The next terminator movie should have a soundtrack made this way.

Daniel avatar

So take a look at my FlopPi project: :)
I have to finish this project finally and release the code :)

Gee 'The Rabid Inventor' avatar

I remember seeing these a while back may favourite has to be the bond theme.

there is something fascinating about making stepper motors sing.

though this has to be the most extreme :)

3xBackups avatar

I always like Star Wars Imperial March, I just think that it is a perfect match

Liz Upton avatar

I see your Imperial March, and raise you the Game of Thrones theme.

mittfh avatar

While it takes a lot of programming to get floppies, industrial lasers, scanners (if you’re not taking advantage of a built-in easter egg)or dot matrix printers to sing, for overall impressiveness, how about DIY lightning? This HAS to be the only way for an Evil Overlord to play their Leitmotif, while here’s a more conventional Faraday Cage in the way – complete with willing volunteer.

Michael Horne avatar

Genius. Insane, but genius at the same time. :-)

Dio avatar

I remember a program that was supplied on a magazine cover disk that would play tunes using the stepper motor on my Amiga 500’s floppy drive back in in the late 80’s.

The magazine did warn not to run it for more than a few seconds at a time as it would destroy the floppy drive – an expensive item back in those days, so I only tried it once.

With the multitude of old valueless drives I have lying around I might give this a try.

Ken MacIver avatar

A 21st century natural succesor to those 19th century music boxes and twittering clockwork automata birds. Fantastic…

bertwert avatar

This is awesome!!!
I just watched Back to the Future :-)

A random pun (with nothing to do with this):
I ate a mosquito.
And it tasted bloody awful!

James avatar


I have listened to this so many times now! Can’t get the theme out of my head!

Staff room laughed their head off!

Aaron avatar

I still can’t believe all that sound is coming from disk drives.

Pointlessly and ridiculously awesome :-)

MIke T. avatar

For anyone with an old scanjet 5P around, if you can get it to do it’s self test it will play ‘Fur elise’ (using the stepper motor that moves the sensor) – someone obviously wanted to make sure all the bytes in the firmware ROM got used!

wombat avatar

Brings back memories of commodore pet 4040 disk drives in 1989/90 and using the 2 floppy drive read heads to play music and then spending many a happy (ish) hour re-aligning them so that I could read my disks!

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