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Harder Drive: Hard drives we didn't want or need

suckerpinch · Youtube · 266 HN points · 4 HN comments
HN Theater has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention suckerpinch's video "Harder Drive: Hard drives we didn't want or need".
Youtube Summary
In this video we make and evaluate several hard drives that we didn't want. Drawing some inspiration from vexing current events, we find that creative, structured thought on adjacent (but frivolous) problems is a sort of digestive act, and one that is ultimately laxative.

Paper, source code, ringtones (and for a limited time, the data and viewer from pinging the whole internet):

Errata (thanks to all pedantic viewers who catch this stuff):
- I got the escape velocity off by a factor of 1000! It's 11 km/sec, not 11,000 km/sec. I think the other calculations are correct; I just mistook a period for a comma in my bleary-eyed late-night editing.
- I got the size of the genome wrong due to a very silly bug from bleary-eyed late-night programming. It is 29903 base pairs, which can be stored in an economy-sized 7476 bytes.

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Hacker News Stories and Comments

All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this video.
Jun 14, 2022 · alexb_ on The Floppotron 3.0

Harder Drive is one of my favorite videos.

Seems like it may be a decent "harder drive".
Reminds me of a guy who stored data in ping messages
I watch these things and I begin to realize I'll never be as intelligent as someone like this. It's good to know no matter how much you're grown there is always a bigger fish.
I agree that there will always be smarter fish, but you can definitely be this smart it just takes the proper motivation ( or weird idea ) to wiggle its way into your brain.
What part of the video discusses this? :D So far it’s about juggling chainsaws

Edit: OK, I see where this is going. Lol

Back in the day, when protocols were more trusting we would play games by storing data archives in other people's SMTP queues. Open the connection and send a message to yourself by bouncing it through a remote server, but wait to accept the returning email message until you wanted the data back. As long as you pulled it back in before it times out on that queue and looped it back out to the remote SMTP queue you could store several hundred MB (which was a lot of data at the time) in uuencoded chunks spread out across the NSFNet.
This article is wonderful, I love the working knowledge. A lot of the idea feels similar to the recent Tom7 Harder Drive video:

I had never seen some of this IP charting and stuff and in his video he does a lot of similar stuff.

Apr 10, 2022 · 266 points, 41 comments · submitted by davidfactorial
Can anyone recommend other hidden gems like Tom's channel? I've been following him for years and still have not seen a merrier hacker. George Hotz's livestreams ( were as good perhaps, but the format is quite different, and he doesn't do them anymore.
Adding a few I didn't see in the other replies

- Alpha Phoenix, a combination of physics and simulation. Thermite art, optimizing gerrymandering, growing large single crystal ice, practical demonstration of the speed of electricity, etc.

Here is a list of some channels (in no particular order) that are similar to Tom's, in the knowledgeable host talking about niche/complex subjects :

- Huygens Optics[1] : Retired Philips' research scientist that worked on OLED development and makes highly detailed videos on different subjects, all relating to light (eg: Making optical logic gates using interference, DIY photolithography, Making a Mirror with a Variable Surface Shape).

- Marco Reps[2] : German guy doing electronics videos, usually about precision/exotic instruments (eg building a CERN open source 8.5 digits voltmeter, High speed thermal camera, Detecting cosmic rays with a raspberry pi). Has the same type of humour as Tom7

- Styropyro[3] : Laser hacker, creating stupidely powerful lasers (think 100W continous handeled laser)

- CuriousMarc[4] : Guy working on restoring old 60-80s electronic/computer equipment. Is most known for his ~25 part series on restoring the Apollo Guidance Computer. As a sidenote, Ken Shirriff, which writes die reverse-engineering articles at (which frequently pops up on HN), frequently appears in his videos.

- Scanlime[5] : Highly detailed reverse-engineering/hacking/explanations videos. Sadly she isn't that much active anymore.

- der8auer EN [6] : German guy doing mostly videos about CPUs/motherboards (think insane overclocking, etc). However he has a few hugely detailed gems, such as demonstrating how 7nm chips are troubleshooted, by probing them under a SEM[7]. Also as a sidenote, he shoots all of his videos twice, once in german and once in english, instead of just dubbing over them, which is an insane dedication imo.

- Applied Science [8] : Relatively well known channel, describing various experiments that he does in his home shop, like : Building a LCD, Silicon wafer etching, DIY mass spectrometer, etc.

- Cathode Ray Dude [9] : In-depth technical videos about mostly vintage video gear, which at first glance you wouldn't typically find interesting. Same kind of nerdy humour as Tom7

- Technology Connections [10] : Hard to describe the style, mostly videos about technical subjects, going much more in depth than you though was possible, with a really nerdy/dry humour.

I might have missed some, but those are the main ones that comes to mind.











On a sidenote, to build the list I had to comb through my subscription and load the relevant channels (and go over their videos a bit), and since doing so my YouTube recommendations are significantly better, with recommendations of small technical channels in the same spirit as Tom7's
I was recently pleasantly surprised by the YT algorithm and was recommended Tech Time Traveller's video about Miniscribe, which just blew up for this guy for reasons unknown to mortals. ;-)

The Channel:

Videos mostly about retro computers and companies from the 70s and onwards.

It's amazing how high quality the videos are and how much effort this guy puts into them even thjough he only got about 2k views per video up until the latest vid. Seems the persistence finally payed off.

> Technology Connections [10] : Hard to describe the style

To the contrary, it is very easy to describe: it is an entire channel dedicated to the latent heat of water.

(For those who haven't seen it, he goes into refrigeration and heat exchangers a lot and this topic constantly comes up, becoming a running joke)

Not very hidden, but Matt Parker (Standup Maths):

Thanks a lot everyone for your recommendations, really appreciate them!
Dunno how "hidden" some of these are, but here are my list of interesting hacky or explainy channels with a twist:

Applied Science: Unusual chemistry / physics / misc engineering

NileRed: Unusual chemistry experiments

Styropyro: Lasers

Inigo Quilez: 3D rendering and mathematics

Mike's Electric Stuff: Weird equipment teardowns and electrical engineering

Captain Disillusion: VFX / hoax debunking and education

Retro Game Mechanics Explained: Technical dives into old-school console hardware and software

Tantacrul: Video essays on music topics that sometimes go completely off the rails

I haven't finished the video just yet, but so far what he's describing is strange, weird, fanciful versions of Delay Line memory

Same thought, and also I remember hearing about the idea to misuse buffer memory in routers as storage somewhere.

I always get a kick of delay line memory. The Mercury memory also mentioned on the Wikipedia page, which I've seen in person (but sadly not in operation) at the Computer History Museum, is literally sound waves in liquid metal. How much cooler than that can memory get...

Though the nearby (and at their time quite popular) "storage tubes" that were effectively CRT screens with very long image persistence are cool, too, and one of the fewer dynamic storage technologies where you can see the individual bits. The actual ones, not just a representation:

My favorite glowy storage device is the Dekatron:

In action:

Beautiful. Bonus points for also being a counter.
When I think of "hack", these are what I have in mind. Completely bending something to a purpose never intended. Utterly bonkers. But the fact that he offers multiple concepts, implements them, and documents them in an ELI5YE (explain like i'm a 5th year engineer) is a true sign of genius.
Why limit ourselves to ping, when all of DNS is available for exploitation.

If we are willing to run an authoritative DNS server, we can simply find open DNS resolvers, then query TXT records from our own domain, with a suitably near-infinite TTL. It's free real estate^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H storage.

Perhaps that's not hard enough for harder drives. We can do the same thing, except use NX records from an arbitrary domain as the storage medium. We can query e.g., which will produce an NX record in the resolving DNS server. We can later "read" this data by issuing the same query and seeing that the TTL is not the original NX TTL of This is a destructive read process, so we will need to immediately write whatever we read, but suitably altered to avoid a collision, e.g.

Great idea, and pretty much exactly how DNS tunnels work (only there you want the TTL to avoid caching--through an explicit 0 TTL or changing names--because you want to exchange every packet only once except for retransmits).

However, I'm not sure it's fair to talk about "limiting ourselves to ping", as I'd argue that there are vastly more generic hosts replying to ICMP echo than there are open DNS resolvers (which I know includes all openly available nameservers). I believe the video also has shown that the number of pingable hosts pretty much approaches the number of hosts with an external IPv4 in the first place, at least the map he's shown looked lighter than dark to me.

I had a large collection of hard drives that had caused uncountable grief, we would relieve the stress by abusing the drives. Unfortunately they have long since been disposed of, but the collection included:

* subject drive to 100t press (it got thinner!)

* immerse drive in acid (little change) or base (drive dissolves!)

* subject drive to industrial guillotine

* warm drive with oxy torch

* drop from 300 ft tower (little change)

and so on. All good fun.

I always wondered how "thin provisioning" works behind the scenes. You learn something new every day.
That was some twist ending.
the Blockchain is a scam and people need to know that.
There's some prior art for the ping-based storage: , but the tetris storage is amazing.
The effort put into this video I’ve only seen matched by on YouTube by “Stuff Made Here”

While I can’t say I understand everything that’s going on, I am simply amazed by the creators talent and knowledge.

> The effort put into this video I’ve only seen matched by on YouTube by “Stuff Made Here”

Captain Disillusion is definitely up there. His Flight of the Navigator video is one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen on the internet.

That’s true. The way he blends in special effects just looks so seamless that you often forget that he basically recreated the video in blender in order to rotate and split it.
The escape velocity on the surface of the Earth is approx. 11.2 km/s, not 11000 km/s. Factor of 1000x error. But nice video :)
Tom's really mastered his skill of casual misleading, he adds these "wait, what?" moments to every video. A more notorious example will be his explanation of how optical reflection works, check out his "30 Weird Chess Algorithms" ( around 10:20.

Edit: spelling.

Its.. a delay line?

This is a weird way of implementing one, but it's using multiple ICMP queries, each acting as their own delay line.

I see you haven't gotten to the part about the other harder drives yet.
This video is hilarious, he has got such great sense of humor, I will be chuckling for a week... "harder drive"

And also infect all my peers.

Could anyone provide a text summary?

>6 Conclusion

>In this paper, we decided that sometimes it’s more fun to do things the hard way, and then did so. Using several different techniques and some needless digressions, we created block devices that could support small filesystems, which then could host a fitting file. Each filesystem was bad when considered as a regular hard drive, but good when considered as a Harder Drive. We also compared these drives to the most popular cryptocurrency. The idea was to make the point that cryptocurrency is so egregiously bad that it resembles a “SIGBOVIK joke gone wrong” more than something one would make on purpose. This part may not have been as fun.

You need not waste electricity to maintain a consensus network. For those who made it to the end.
BTC spends a lot of electricity to write data. Writing is a pretty key component of a hard drive or a harder drive.
However, it just so happens that all the most successful ones do.
Tom7 is brilliant for anyone that hasn't seen him before. His Reverse Emulation video ( and Weird Chess Algorithms ( are a must watch. His dead pan delivery coupled with the ridiculous amount of effort he puts into things that don't _really_ matter is honestly inspiring.
I think the Reverse Emulation was one of the most technically impressive hacks I've ever seen.
I'm anticipating his video every April 1st, and was already fearing he might have skipped this year when it wasn't uploaded in time. One of the people with the perfect mix of funny, smart and bat-shit crazy.
We first enjoyed his AI based video game players... they're also really good!
Stumbled upon his work on HN with "Uppestcase and Lowestcase Letters":

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