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musical hard drives

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  • musical hard drives

    so here's a stange story that i'm hoping won't seem so strange after some others make comments in response.

    i had a large disk array fail at a job site. no, this was not the same array whose failure indirectly led to the original creation of the travelling terabyte. actually, in truth it didn't "fail" as much as it "failed to initialize"

    after much fiddling and farting around with IDE cables, controller cards, etc. i came to believe that the problem lay with one of the drives themselves. (and, might i just note, i absolutely HATE how piss-poor the support is within a win32 environment when it comes to isolating which disk in a system is generating timeout and paging errors. if you have a software array built it becomes all the more exasperating since the system logs treat this logical volume as a single device it seems.)

    i began firing up and testing the disks one at a time (pulling the array apart, attaching them to independent ATA/133 controllers, attempting to format, scandisk, and move data around, etc)

    within a short while i started hearing the strangest noise i have ever heard... i actually began my quest to suss it out by digging through nearby desk drawers in search of a pager, pocketPC, or travel alarm clock where i assumed some sort of alert was sounding off. it was a sing-songy series of melodic beeps.

    eventually, i came to realize it wasn't coming from a nearby desk or bag but from the machine itself. although repeating, the interval was highly varied and this made pinpointing the problem item that much harder. i eliminated the possiblity that it was the PC speaker (by yanking it mid-jingle only to hear the music continue to its conclusion) and the piezo speaker on the array controllers (a thick layer of tape over them and no change in the sound was heard)

    eventually i came to find that this "music" was actually coming out of a hard drive! have you ever heard of this? the circuit board doesn't appear to have any speaker devices embedded in it. and while many bits of hardware now sport the ability to generate error beeps, i'd never heard one from a disk nor one in this oddly musical manner.

    the whacky musical drive is a 500GB Maxtor (model 6H500R0) and just to prove to everyone that i haven't been mainlining peyote here in my office, i'm going to try to make a sound recording of the chiming beeps and post it somehow.

    odd, man... seriously odd.

    (btw, the drive is fucked... no longer detecting or properly initializing so it was the culprit indeed... i just wish i had more to go on earlier than incomprehensible musical notes)
    "I'll admit I had an OiNK account and frequented it quite often… What made OiNK a great place was that it was like the world's greatest record store… iTunes kind of feels like Sam Goody to me. I don't feel cool when I go there. I'm tired of seeing John Mayer's face pop up. I feel like I'm being hustled when I visit there, and I don't think their product is that great. DRM, low bit rate, etc... OiNK it existed because it filled a void of what people want."
    - Trent Reznor

  • #2
    Re: musical hard drives

    There were stories during the 80's of people making hardware not designed to produce "music," produce music.

    Two examples that come to mind include Apple ImageWriter ][ printers (dot matrix) and Apple ][ 5.25" disk drives.

    The ImageWriter is an easy one to consider. The speed charaters were pinned into the paper, the darkness, the size of the characters/symbols (number of pins pressed) all contributed in changing the pitch generated by the printer. a Black "square"where all/most pins are tossed forward, with a slow pass (lots of ink) would generate a low pitch, while a thin line at low quality wouldproduce a high pitch. Map characters to pitch, length to duration, and you can have aprogram that makes a printer play "music."

    Apple ][ 5.25" disk drives (and Apple SuperDrives 3.5") were able to get more data on the same "sized" disks than IBM/clone PC. By altering the speed that the disk spun (slower rotational speed near the outer edge, and faster on the inner ring) the bit-density of the media could be more efficiently used. Again use of speed and things like drive reset could then be used to make "music."

    I've heard dotmatrix "music" but the tempo seemed to get ruined by the end of line.

    I heard a 3-tone "song" from a Floppy drive (low, high, higher) and I've heard stories from other people about more complicated music.

    Using hardware to make software was a "useless pet trick" of the 80's. Another one was, "writing software that destroys hardware," which was easier to do when hardware didn't have safeguards to "ignore" bad signal/data/direction.

    Depending on the quality of music produced by your drives, it may not be an accident. It is possible that the tones generated (if repeatable) are a POST/Diagnostic added to allow for the vendor/technician to have some idea where the drive is failing.


    • #3
      Re: musical hard drives

      The non-musical musical hardware I remember most is the musical scanner, I believe it had Ode to Joy built in as an easter egg.


      • #4
        Re: musical hard drives

        I've heard hard drives buzz really loud when they're about to crap out but music never. Maybe you hard drive was channeling the ghost of Beethoven, or maybe "and this is a huge guess" the the board has a quartz crystal in it and some strange feed back or something caused it to act as a speaker.
        There is nothing more dangerous than people with a little knowledge. Which means society is mostly safe.


        • #5
          Re: musical hard drives

          Maybe the drive was failing so it was singing its Swan Song. :>


          • #6
            Re: musical hard drives

            Perhaps the arm is rubbing on the platter, similar to how people play glasses of water and depending on how full the glass is the tone changes, maybe as the arm moves across the platter the platter is ringing, different positions of the arm cause different tones. Just and idea. I know hard drive platters ring, Ive taken drives apart and tried to demolish platters before.


            • #7
              Re: musical hard drives

              1403 printer music