So much technology is now created to be throwaway, designed to simply be tossed in the trash when it is inevitably superseded by something better. But that needn’t be the case. Both old and new technology can be used in ways not originally imagined, such as making music. It may not boast the sweetest voice but tech hardware can perform recognizable covers of classic songs.
We’ve already seen a list of the best music videos featuring floppy disk drives, and now it’s time to broaden our horizons a little and bring more tech hardware into the mix. It’s amazing the variety of machines and old gadgets that can be reimagined as music-making instruments. Everything from an old ZX Spectrum to a new 3D printer feature in the genius videos that follow.
Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
This is an absolutely fantastic cover version of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. It uses an Atari 800XL, a 3.5-inch hard drive, a floppy drive, a tape drive, a scanner, and two oscilloscopes, amongst others, to recreate the classic rock song in perfect detail. This may be the best video on the list, hence its position at the top. If you don’t appreciate this then you’re unlikely to appreciate anything that is still to come.
The Imperial March – CNC Machine
This is The Imperial March played on a CNC machine. This particular song makes several appearances on this list because, for some reason, that’s the song of choice for many people setting out to create music from technology. I have only featured a few instances but a quick search on YouTube will reveal just how many there are. Be warned, you will not be able to get this song out of your head for a long time to come if you go down the rabbit hole.
Nude by Radiohead
Radiohead once held an online contest to find the best remix of Nude from the In Rainbows album. Many of the official entries were disappointing to say the least, which led one geek to create his own version of the song using a collection of old tech hardware. It’s not exactly like for like with the original, but it was never meant to be so. This surely has to be considered art; art created by a Sinclair ZX Spectrum, an old printer, an old scanner, and 10 old hard drives.
Funkytown by Lipps Inc.
Time for some classic disco now, with a remix of Funkytown by Lipps Inc. created using “computers from the early 1980’s that were destined for the Junk Yard.” Hence the title change to Junkytown. The hardware on display here includes a Commodore 64, a Ti-99/4A, and an old modem. All of which are items many of us will have thrown away in our time (except I still have a Commodore 64 hidden away somewhere) but which are clearly still good for something.
The Imperial March – 3D Printer
The second version of Darth Vader’s Theme on our list is successfully performed by a 3D printer. It sounds loud on the video so I’m guessing it was a cacophony of noise for anyone actually in the room. Someone on YouTube has commented the suggestion we should actually see what this set of instructions ends up printing. If Darth Vader’s head emerged at the end then I suspect most people would run away screaming. I know I would.
Bad Romance by Lady Gaga
Love or hate Lady Gaga it’s still amazing to hear her hit Bad Romance being performed by two NetComm Voice Modems with a little help from MATLAB. This is in no way a perfect cover of the song, but if you were expecting anything approaching perfection with such basic hardware then you were getting your hopes up a little high. It will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has every heard the original, however, which is surely most people gifted with the ability to hear.
The Imperial March – Hard Disk Drive
The third and final cover version of the most-memorable song from Star Wars now, with The Imperial March played on a single hard disk drive balanced on someone’s knee. This is a self-built HDD speaker which gives the tune a haunting quality I swear will stay with me forever. Instructables has a guide on how to create your own HDD speaker which makes it look so easy that even I could probably manage it.
The House Of The Rising Sun by The Animals
We end as we began, with the same person responsible for Bohemian Rhapsody returning with The House Of The Rising Sun. This guy’s YouTube channel is well worth checking out, with robot musicians and other cool gadgetry featuring in addition to these covers. This song uses much of the same legacy equipment as the Queen cover, but the hard drive is especially cool to watch.
I love the idea of taking old, defunct hardware and turning it into something capable of playing music. And I’m clearly not alone judging by how many people are not only doing just that but also sharing their creations on YouTube. When the world is facing the issue of an over-consumption of natural resources, recycling of this sort should be applauded.
How long until tech hardware turns up on one of Simon Cowell’s many talent shows covering classic pop songs? I’d sooner vote for that than Susan Boyle. If you have seen any better examples of old gadgets being recycled, musically or otherwise, then please let us know in the comments section below.
Image Credit: Dan Zen