If you're old enough to remember the Atari, then you probably remember all those "high tech" tones that it produced. Those beeps and whines were the very lifeblood of our favorite old school games. While a mint condition Atari may be hard to find these days you can easily recreate the sounds of an Atari using only a few parts stuck on a breadboard.

The Atari Punk circuit gets it's name because it produces similar sounds to the old Atari game systems. This design has been around since the 70s and often still goes by it's original name of a Stepped Tone Generator.

In this guide I'm going to run through how to make two different Atari Punk setups on a breadboard. One that uses variable resistors to control the sounds (turn style knobs) and one that uses light sensitive resistors (CDS Cells).

Step 1: Parts

The parts you need for this setup are rather common and decently cheap to buy.

Required Parts

Jumpers (You can make your own)
9V Battery
9V Battery Clip
556 Timer Chip (You can also use two 555 timers as well)
8 Ohm Speaker
1K Ohm Resistor
(2) 500K Ohm Variable Resistor (Potentiometer)
5K Ohm Variable Resistor (Potentiometer)
(2) 0.01uf Capacitors

(2) Light Sensitive Resistors (CDS Cells
(2) 0.22uf Capacitors
Blue LED
470 ohm resistor

Total Time: 20-30 minutes
Total Cost: $10 (More if you need a breadboard)

The optional parts are used if you want to make the circuit light sensitive, or if you want to add an LED for fun filled lighting. You could also ditch the 5K Ohm Variable Resistor and use a set resistor, but then you'd have no volume control.

Alternately you could always have one Variable Resistor and one Light Sensitive Resistor in the circuit. The nice thing is you can easily swap both types in and out, which is the nice thing about a breadboard.

Most of these parts can be found at any electronics hobby store. If possible, avoid Radio Shack and you'll pay three times as much as you really need.

All Electronics and Electronic Goldmine have most everything you need. If you'd like to save yourself some trouble and get everything in one nice little kit, why not try my fun filled website BrownDogGadgets.com. We have a ready to go Atari Punk Kit that even comes with some fancy knobs to impress your friends and family. 72% of all sales go to all natural doggie chew toys.

yes! thanks I was looking for a simple atari punk demo. still working on the permanent housing with Legos
I made it, had so much fun I even transferred it to a pcb for permanent us in our basement game room. thanks for posting this , very good instructs
<p>Kind of a Frankenstein, had a FM radio kit laying around and used a few pieces such as the speaker and the board to hold the pots down.</p><p>Wanted to fit this into an actual Atari 2600 cartridge but there's several tabs that will need to be cut out to let the circuit board sit lower inside and will try to wire in a micro USB (phone charger) and a head phone jack.</p><p>But hey, &quot;I Made It&quot;. :D</p><p>W</p>
<p>Thanks for the Instructions! Now to add that Line out. </p>
<p>Hi! Thanks for the instructions, they were great and it worked out fine for me. I was wondering, is there a way I can build a second circuit on the same breadboard, so I can have, for example, the .22 capacitors on one side and the .01 ones on the other side, for low- and high-pitched sounds to be playing simultaneously?</p>
<p>Thanks a lot for that nice instructable. Super easy to do with your step by step instruction!</p>
<p>Made it using two 555s instead of the 556 timer, had to search for and compare both chips' pin diagrams in order to guess were I should connect the jumpers. I also connected the LED's resistor into the same output as the speaker in order to make it blink. Shame about the potentiometers I had around, had to operate them with screwdrivers or toothpicks :D</p>
<p>how did you make it with 2 555s? I am trying to do the same, but cant figure it out.</p>
<p>I used this image - http://www.555-timer-circuits.com/images/555-and-556.gif - as a guide. I had to make some guesses about wiring 555 A to 555 B, but after a couple of tries it worked.</p>
<p>I managed to make it after about 6 attempts and one blown up potentiometer (it was quite exciting. Sparks and smoke.) All thanks to your great instructions.<br>I believe you are missing +9v to pin 4 in them though!</p>
<p>Any tips on wiring the output jack instead of a speaker? I haven't got a speaker, I want to go straight into a guitar or something and skip the speaker stage altogether. </p>
<p>Accidentally ordered 50k pots and it sounds really squeaky. In fact it frightened the cat. Going to chuck the 500k pots in there and swap the capacitors for some gruntier ones and see what happens.<br></p>
<p>Well made it, then changed the pots from &quot;B&quot; to &quot;A&quot; type Linear to Log as you can hear it does make a difference. will try to change some other parts too. Worked a lot better than my attempt at the Dub Siren .. </p>
hi, great instructable! is there a way to add both, the pots and the photocells and to add a switch, so you could choose what you use? could you maybe make a diagram for it? I am not skilled enough to figure it out myself. thank you!
Had to add pins to the potentiometers to get them to fit in the breadboard.
theres no way these potentiometer legs will fit in a bread board. :(
<p>Cheers for this instructable. I've been trying to get beavisaudio's version going this weekend without much luck. This one worked first go. Swapping 0.01uf Capacitors for the 0.22uf Capacitors makes for nicer deeper tones. I also only had B100K pots not sure what difference they would make though.</p>
this is Mr Zvulun!
<p>Thnx for the great instructions! I made it work and love the screeching sound it makes! </p><p>Only one problem, it only appears to work when I touch the capacitor linked to pin 12 with my finger. Why is this happening and how can I fix this? </p>
<p>Nice job putting together this very clear Instructable. I too am working with a group of middle school students to build circuits using the 555-timer. How would you adjust this circuit to utilize two 555-timers instead of the 556?</p>
<p>I was putting together a circuit bent toy, and, after 5 days of spray painting, I accidentally fried the board. So, I trashed the electronics, and I'm getting things set up to put this APC in instead. Here's everything on the breadboard (working), and I just soldered everything onto a perf board (also working), and I'm going to finish it all up tomorrow by attaching it to the buttons and battery pack of the toy.</p><p>Thanks for the clear instructions!</p>
<p>Great instructions. I made this with a light and a few mods:</p><p> - added a 3rd 500K pot in place of the 1K Ohm resistor.</p><p> - added a stereo jack out in place of the speaker. It's really loud and I need to fix that.</p><p> - replaced one of the capacitors</p><p>Now I'm looking for ways to add some further mods.</p>
I must try this - looks a great project.<br><br>Only issues is it might be a little redundant - I still have my original Atari! It now plays through a 42&quot; LCD TV, but it plays (&amp; sounds) just as good as ever!
<p>You should, It's very fun.</p>
I have an old Atari hooked up to a 40&quot;. Gotta love retro games on high tech TVs.
<p>Thanks for the concise instructions. Below is the Atari Punk Console I made. It's still on the breadboard. Will move to perf and an enclosure next. </p><p>I might make another one using photoresistors as I have two 555s.</p><p>I added a power switch to mine, and I will add a power LED next. I used Fritzing to make a diagram of the Punk Console. </p>
<p>I added some leds and some push-buttoms instead of the volumen variator. </p>
<p>Great proyect! thanks</p>
this is true a instructable, tanks
hello are the value of condensator are right for the astable and monostable, because in others cheme they are always with a ratio 10:1 ?
Is it possible to replace the potentiometers with standard resistors? I'm working a project and I really only need one potentiometer for tone, the other two I would like to keep static.
Thanks so much for the pics and step-by-step! I have built a few oscillator circuits, but I'm still having problems reading schematics. So when I tried to add the line output, the IC started getting hot. Am I somehow wiring the ground wrong? <br>
Hmmm... doubtful. Thats really really weird. I've never had that happen to me before.
Hey, I only have an SYB-120 breadboard. http://www.surplus-electronics-sales.com/Zencart/images/products/113-1001%20700point%20breadboard%202.jpg <br>Im sure it has a ground but don't know where it is. If there is not one... what should I do? I bought a lot of 3 of these for cheap.
It doesn't have a &quot;ground.&quot; You just pick a rail that you want to be your &quot;ground.&quot; It doesn't matter which one you pick.
Here's a real blast from the past. The first time I made a similar circuit I had to use 2 555s because either the 556 didn't exist yet, or Radio Shack didn't stock them. That was all back when Atari was just getting in business. I'm pretty sure Atari just divided the video oscillator to make their noises back then though.<br> <br> Having made an awful lot of circuits like the one here I'll add that I always thought it sounded best if I used polystyrene capacitors with it.<br> <br> I should dig up the schematic for this if you like photocell noise makers:<br> <br> <a href="http://i.imgur.com/aMhhJ.jpg" rel="nofollow">http://i.imgur.com/aMhhJ.jpg</a><br> <br> It is fun to leave in a refrigerator, then when someone opens the door and the light comes on it howls at them. But it does vary in pitch depending on the intensity of the light that hits the photocell. A single cell battery went between the two copper plates to the left, then a speaker hooked up to the two wires in the middle.
Ha! That is awesome! A true photo cell bomb!
would it still work if I tried hooking up a MP3 instead of a 9V battery? <br>
Thank you so much for giving us full info...
I do what I can.
Just used this to build my first APC and all it took was one exploded capacitor!! (don't ask, I really don't know) so thanks immensely!
Great project, if Im using the two 555 How would I connect the volume pot? Plus, I am not using a speaker.
Shoot, I honestly don't know off the top of my head.... luckily this link will give you a good diagram.<br><br>http://library.thinkquest.org/16497/gather/cgi-bin/projects/1.gif
Thanks for the easy instruction and great photos. The pictures really made this project easy for a newbie !!
Great photos. :D
Its amazing what a few white pieces of paper can do. That and the auto &quot;enhance&quot; of iPhoto.

About This Instructable




Bio: I used to teach middle school science, but now I run my own online educational science website. I spend my days designing new projects for ... More »
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