Atari Punk Console

If you’re not familiar with the Atari Punk Console, it’s a name given to circuits based on the Stepped Tone Generator circuit by Forrest M. Mims III. It’s based on the 555 timer chip and uses two oscillators to create a single square wave output.

How to make an Atari Punk Console

This Atari Punk Console (APC) uses a 556 timer chip. It’s built onto a small breadboard and includes a power supply circuit. This keeps it smoothly running at 5 volts and doesn’t require a 9 volt battery. Here’s a picture of the components used:

Step 1 – Put your power supply circuit in place. Ensure you’ve put it on the correct side so the positive and negative terminals match. Mine is switchable to either 3.5 or 5 volts so I’m choosing 5 volts here

Step 2 – Position your 556 chip in place. You’ll see there’s a notch at the top of the chip which shows which end is which. Pin 1 is to the left of the notch. Mine is positioned starting on row 3 to give some space around the chip.

Step 3 – Insert your potentiometers. Put your B5K potentiometer at the top of the breadboard, and the two B500K potentiometers on the bottom. It should now look something like this:

Step 4 – Take your 1k resistor and connect between pin 1 and pin 6 of your 556 chip. I’ve trimmed my resistor so it’s flat on the breadboard.

Step 5 – We are going to connect our capacitors. Connect pin 6 to negative for the first, and pin 12 to negative for the second.

For this build we’re using ceramic disc capacitors, which can be connected both ways round, unlike other capacitors. We now have most of our components in place and our breadboard should look like this:

We’re now going to patch more of our circuit together, mostly now patching the above elements together…

Step 6 – Connect the middle pin of the top potentiometer to positive. Connect the adjacent pin of the potentiometer to pin 1.

Step 7 – Connect pin 2 to pin 6. Your breadboard should now look something like this:

Step 8 – Connect pin 7 to negative.

Step 9 – Connect Pin 14 to positive.

Step 10 – Connect pin 14 to pin 10. You’ll now have something like this:

Step 11 – Connect the middle pin of our second B500K potentiometer to positive.

Step 12 – Connect the adjacent leg of the second B500K potentiometer to pin 13.

Step 13 – Connect pin 13 to pin 12. Your breadboard should now look something like this:

Step 14 – Connect the outside pin of your B5K potentiometer to pin 10.

Step 15 – Connect pin 5 to pin 8.

Step 16 – Connect one speaker wire to the middle pin of your B5K potentiometer. Connect the other speaker wire to pin 9.

All you now need to do is connect your power, and if everything is in the correct place you should here your device. The end result should look like so:

Here’s an Atari Punk Console I made and used to create an ambient track. The sound is complemented by the addition of Valhalla SuperMassive, a great VST reverb plugin. The video was created using OBS to capture the performance footage, and then processed using an old copy of Resolume Avenue.

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