Raspberry Pi VCR plays full-length movies on a single floppy disk

JC Torres - Dec 29, 2020, 10:21pm CST
Raspberry Pi VCR plays full-length movies on a single floppy disk

There have been a lot of retro projects and products over the years, especially on crowdfunding platforms, that try to bring the past forward to the present. A few of those let you actually relive that past as it was back then, but even fewer actually let you use technologies and objects long gone. That is one of the things that makes this “LimaTek Diskmaster” project intriguing and, to be honest, hilarious as it tries to cram a feature-length film inside an ancient 3.5-inch floppy disk.

To be clear, you won’t really enjoy watching these movies. A 3.5-inch floppy disk only has space for 1.44 MB of data, barely enough for even a 1-minute 720p video. Reddit user GreedyPaint needed to do some compression and codec magic to make a film like Shrek fit.

GreedyPaint used a custom codec that shrank the film into a grainy and extremely low-res 120×96 video. Even then, it barely fit the disk at 1.37MB. The video could only run at a painful 4 fps, meaning four frames (or pictures) every second.

That, however, wasn’t the only hack that had to be done to bring the LimaTek Diskmaster to life. Unlike some PCs, inserting a floppy disk movie should automatically load the video, just like VHS systems of old. To do that, GreedyPaint had the Raspberry Pi continuously check if there’s a floppy disk inserted into the drive.

It definitely sounds like a rather convoluted process to recreate an experience that wouldn’t have been possible decades ago anyway. Nonetheless, it’s also an impressive project, especially one that takes advantage of both the modern Raspberry Pi and an ancient but also iconic piece of technology.


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