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Dot matrix printer playing “Eye of the Tiger” [video] (youtube.com)
567 points by jgrahamc on March 29, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 62 comments

I loved this. This fit's perfectly with Stallman definition of hacking [1].

    composing a funny joke or a beautiful piece of music may well involve
    playful cleverness, but a joke as such and a piece of music as such
    are not hacks, however funny or beautiful they may be. However, if the
    piece is a palindrome, we can say it is a hack as well as music; if it
    is empty, we can say it is a hack on music
Playing The Eye of the Tiger per se is not hacking. Playing it with a dot matrix printer is. In its purest form. :)

[1] https://stallman.org/articles/on-hacking.html

I've always considered 'hacking' as finding unconventional uses, for conventional things. Then again, that link (or what's included) is pure art.

Next step: generate a QR code that looks like a tigers eye, that links you to code that generates the program that runs the printer, that...

It's pretty much in line with my definition of hacking: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacker_(hobbyist)

That's pretty impressive. Printer music goes way back, by the way. Here's a (low-quality) recording of a 1960s-era IBM 1401 mainframe playing the Blue Danube Waltz on a 1403 line printer: http://www.apropos-logic.com/1403music/1403_blue_danube.mp3 And here's the 1401 playing tunes on a radio via RF interference from the core memory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPk8MVEmiTI Unfortunately the 1401 at the Computer History Museum isn't currently authorized for line printer music because the stress might destroy the print chain and they don't have a replacement.

A fantastic band called Tree Wave [1], from Austin, used a dot matrix printer as a synth [2] in a bunch of their music [3] around 10 years ago. It's pretty fantastic stuff. Paul Slocum whom lead the group did some amazing work hacking together instruments from Commodore 64s and Atari 2600, going as far as writing and building a custom synth cart for an Arari [4]

[1] http://www.treewave.com/ [2] http://www.qotile.net/dotmatrix.html [3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byKx8bZ5eq8 [4] http://www.qotile.net/synth.html

Explanation of how this is achieved: https://vimeo.com/57960146

I used to work with a guy who did this with food sorting machines. You've never heard Britney Spears' "Hit Me Baby" until you've heard it played on 192 air valves.

please please please does this have a web presence?

I wish. I would have posted it if I had thought to record it.

Looks like printer was actually modified to achieve this. Now it's much less interesting...

An Atmega8 and an FPGA are connected to various parts of the original printer main board. The Atmega handles the incoming MIDI messages, communicates with the FPGA and drives the stepper motors for the print head and paper feed. The FPGA is configured to generate lots of pulse-width modulation signals with independent frequency and duty cycle to drive the individual printer pins.

Much less interesting... Yes and no.

It's a different kind of hack.

My favorite version of this hack is Renault changing the RPM of their F1 engine to play God Save The Queen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRXwWbo_mX0

Same idea with traction motors, though arguably not "intentionally": https://youtu.be/6xAGqP7enQI?t=2m21s

Electric motors and speakers are basically the same things. Speakers are optimized to be more efficient at producing sound, motors are optimized to be more efficient at moving things, but at the core, they're the same device.

Ha, reminds me of the Class 323's we have in Birmingham: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y25aCRWgvWc

>> Electric motors and speakers are basically the same things. Speakers are optimized to be more efficient at producing sound, motors are optimized to be more efficient at moving things, but at the core, they're the same device.

Not only that, you can superimpose audio on the intended operation of the motor by putting the signal on the "D axis" which produces no torque. Unless you're in field weakening blah blah blah... But only higher frequencies are typically possible.

This is cool but my favorite all time video in this genre is "Big Ideas (don't get any)" on Vimeo https://vimeo.com/1109226 In addition to driving a number of pieces of old equipment in unintended ways to make the sound the video is also very artfully done.

Eye of the tiger played using floppy disk drives, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMcRd_4RwRQ

If you like this, you'll love everything this guy does: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRa1raJXF22KpZ8IknQpGEw

I'm not sure if you meant to convey a judgement relative quality. I think that the this video is more impressive than 8 floppy drives. I never thought a single printer would be capable of that tonal quality and that range of polyphonics. I don't mean to hate on MrSolidSnake745 though, his videos are dope.

A loudspeaker is nothing but a coil, a magnet and a piece of cardboard and it too is capable of incredible tonal quality and a huge range of polyphonics.

This one really got me:


Apparently he somewhat cheated in that video by mixing in a bit of the original audio.

Here's what it sounds like on its own: https://vimeo.com/1483630

Thanks for that. I am literally more disappointed than when I found out there was no Santa Claus.

Now I'm too sad to work, instead of just being too lazy.

It looks like a 9-pin dot matrix, so essentially 9 channels of variable frequency.

Here is Eye of the Tiger on 8 floppies, for comparison:


You can see the printer model in another video, it's a Olympia NP 80-24. A whopping 24-voice polyphony!


or this classic just for reference:

Radioheads Big Ideas (don't get any) by James Houston https://vimeo.com/1109226

This is brilliant.

It reminds me of the old HP ScanJets, which came with SCSI commands to play musical notes[0] (someone at HP must have had too much free time on his hands ;)). Some videos of the scanners are at [1] and [2].

Another interesting hardware hack to produce music is the "hard drive speaker". You can see some of them in action in a rendition of Radiohead's "Big Ideas: don't get any" [3], as well as various printers and other devices used for their auditive side effects.

[0]: http://www.hpl.hp.com/hpjournal/97feb/feb97a8a.pdf

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1tatiU2ha0

[2]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S53Mly3A8c8

[3]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmfHHLfbjNQ

[The User] did something similar back in the '90s with their 'The Symphony #1 for dot matrix printers'


The sound quality is so good, YouTube prevent it playing on some devices because of the copyright protection on the music.

I really love this floppy drive rendition of a song from one of my favorite games as of late: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f5bSyO4Dx8

That rig would be amazing for playing the theme to Threes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Unr0A2iOe1E

If there's a MIDI of it out there, maybe they would take a request!

Brings back the memories from high school time, when I was helping my father in his accounting office. I was able to recognize the document being printed just by the sound pattern the printer was making :)

I think the first one of these I saw was this one, back in 2004ish, I think: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S53Mly3A8c8

See also, a 3D printer playing the Imperial March from Star Wars.


If you have a cooperative LCD monitor, it will play some tones: http://genabitu.github.io/screentunes/

From here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8856829

I have seen a lot of stuff like this already, but never saw any source code.

The music MIDI-to-CNC converter is open:-


I have tested it, it works! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7Zben7GJcA

Now try to get recognizable speech. Now that would be creepy.

(Unfortunately, I don't think it's possible without "deeper" control.)

I use a CNC plasma cutter at work and I wrote some G-Code to make it play Carol of the Bells.

Here's an article I wrote about it: http://jefenry.com/main/CNCMusic.php

Bohemian Rhapsody on a zoo of old hardware: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ht96HJ01SE4

singing tesla coils! Also known as zeusaphones or thoramins.


Wish someone came up with this like 20 years ago when these printers were prevalent. Imagine a virus that would make printers do this. Where is my time machine.

What makes this really funny to me was that it was always Steve Ballmer's theme song to be played whenever he took the stage.

Next step: something that can scan the ink printed to the page and recreate the music that the printer played when printing!

An interesting way to encrypt a message...

Can anyone determine the printer model?

It's an AEG Olympia NP 80-24 (more video here: https://vimeo.com/57960146)

So they're driving the motors and pins using custom equipment; it would be more impressive to pull this off through the existing data interface.

Looks like Okidata Microline printer to me, not sure of the exact model, they don't show enough of it.

The printer ribbon says 7753 which is an epson model.

Level Next: make it speak. Chose an appropriate text like some philosophical speech by Bender ;)

>> Ink-redible stuff!

What's the deal with modern dot matrix printers? I very, very rarely need to print anything. What I want from a printer is somewhat legible text and ultra-reliability with low operating costs.

A couple years ago my consumer grade b/w laser printer died after five years of rather infrequent use. I decided I'd rather just take a USB stick to commercial printers than ever shell out for some consumer grade piece of crap again. Might a modern dotmatrix be cheap and super reliable? Like, I can buy it and plan on it working for the next 20 years?

The only downside to dot matrix is the noise and low resolution - otherwise they are extremely reliable, high-throughput printers that are still used extensively in various industrial and other niche environments. The ability to print lines or even individual characters as the data comes in and use continuous feed paper is not possible with inkjets or lasers.

Operating costs are relatively low but they are definitely NOT cheap to purchase.

Occasionally, you can find one on craigslist or at a yard sale for a couple of bucks. They're pretty much indestructable, and printer ribbons can be found online.

I used to work as a service rep at an airline. We used these things extensively for printing airline tickets. These tickets had four red carbon-copy type pages that needed to be printed at once, and a dot-matrix printer is the only thing that handeled this well. It was a small office and we had just a rickety old Star Gemini II printer, but I must have printed thousands of tickets with it before it was decomissioned when e-tickets made their entrance.

I'm seeing, like, $160 for a consumer BW laser and $330 for a dot matrix. Considering the BW laser will probably die inside four years for no good reason, and refills will be about $60, the dot matrix doesn't strike me as expensive if it will last.

How about daisy-wheel printers? They're slower, but they produce much nicer text.

Okidata Microline is what you're after.


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