How to Make the Atari Punk Console





Introduction: How to Make the Atari Punk Console

About: Im 16 and love electronics! I love music; writing music and playing piano. I have fun with microcontrollers and playing with other stuff too. There's always new things to learn.
So talking with a friend I decided to make a synth, a basic but nice one. So I thought why not? So I'll add my contribution to the APC history!
The Atari Punk Console has a long history so you can check it here. 
I can tell you it was designed by the most famous Forrest M. Mims III.
It is called the Atari Punk Console because of the stepped tone generated is like the sounds emitted by the original Atari video game system. 

Step 1: Materials

The electronic components you will need are: 
  • X2 555 Chip (You can also use a 556 Chip but for sake of simplicity I will use two 555)
  • X1 1K resistor
  • X1 .01 uF ceramic capacitor
  • X1 .1 uF ceramic capacitor
  • X1 10 uF electrolytic capacitor
  • X1 Female stereo jack 6,3 mm
  • X1 DC female jack
  • X2 50K (or 500K but I will use 50K because it seems to me the correct stepped tone sound)
  • X1 Switch (any really)
  • X2 Knobs (optional)
  • X1 Prototype board for soldering (I bought the smallest and cheapest)
  • X1 Enclosure (optional, I used a plastic ipod touch one)
  • X2 8 pin sockets (optional)

Other things you'll find around the house:
  • Soldering iron
  • Screwdriver
  • Tweezers
  • Wire
  • Wire stripper 

Step 2: The Schematic

So it's actually very easy. 

First 555
Pin 1 goes to ground.
Pin 2 goes to .01 cap that goes to ground.
Pin 3 goes to pin 2 on the other 555.
Pin 4 goes to 9 Volts.
Pin 8 goes to 9 Volts.
Pin 7 goes to the pot and the resistor.
Pin 6 goes to the resistor and to pin 2 on the same 555.

Second 555
Pin 1 goes to ground. 
Pin 2 goes to pin 3 on the other 555.
Pin 3 goes to output.
Pin 4 goes to 9 Volts.
Pin 6 goes to .1 cap that goes to ground.
Pin 7 goes to the pot.
Pin 8 goes to 9 Volts.

Pretty easy, huh!

Step 3: Making the APC Circuit

So you just have to wire everything up. I did this in 20 minutes and it finished pretty well.
I attached some pictures! Using sockets protects your IC from getting burnt. 

You can add a switch by connecting for 9 Volts to ground.
You can add a DC jack, check polarity using a voltmeter.

Step 4: Enclosure

Make sure everything is working well and then you can go ahead and make the enclosure for your APC.

Make holes using your drill for:
  • Switch
  • Potentiometer
  • Output Jack
  • DC Jack

Step 5: Wrap Up

Finally add some knobs for the pots and it should look really cool! Have fun and tell me in the comments what you did! :)

Watch a video here: 

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Please be positive and constructive.




Most of the time the APC uses a nine-volt battery. Hope this helps! :)

I'm looking at doing a similar project and I'm curious as to what is the amperage on your power supply

circuit said 500K pots but you're using 50K? Also wouldnt attaching pin 2&3 burn out the pot? Why didn't you solder pin 3 to bottom of pot?

would a joystick be able to be used as the potentiometers

Hi! I built this circuit but I don't have 500k and 50k pots. I only have 100k, 10k, and 5k pots. Can I use any of these pots? Any help would be appreciated!

Hello there, i followed the instructions, but i really dont know how to connect the potentiometers, y tried many ways but it doesn´t sound like it must do.... any help? I guess that input(Pin2) and voltage(3pin) are conected to the positive side (6V-9V) and ground (Pin1) is connected to pin 7 from the 555 chip.... but it doesnt work.... HELP!!!

thank you

NVM. fixed it. I used a 50k pot on the monostable and used a 500k and 50k pot in series for the astable. now my only problem is the volume pot, it suddenly jumps from real quiet to loud. I used a 10k pot foe thw volume.

1 reply

Just a guess, but you're probably using a linear pot for the volume. Humans perceive "loudness" in a logarithmic manner so you will need a logarithmic 10K pot. They are generally around the same price and would be labeled with an A. Ex. A10k ( log ) vs B10k ( linear ).

hi, I just finished making my apc, but mine is powered by a 9v/500ma wallwart. I used a 10uf/160v capacitor and 1k resistor I found somewhere. I also used a 16ohm speaker, I can't find any 8ohms lying around.

for some reason it can't finish a whole octave, or the apc can't? or is it because of the parts I switched in?

here is a couple of photos.


Just a quick question, what wattage are your pots rated at? I tried to build one using cheap variable resistors, and the second pot (Controlling the Monostable oscillator) kept burning up. I believe mine are rated at only .20 A, or 200 mA. I bought a second breadboard so I can have plenty of real estate, I think it just might have been because everything was crammed so tight that a short happened somewhere.

1 reply

KINDA-SOLVED: I tried a different of same idea, the APC using the 556. From collin's lab:

Well 1) It might have been a problem here as well, I realized I had the 1k resistor going only to pin 6 (because I placed the resistor between the pins). So at least when I plugged in the battery, I got no smoke.

But 2) I started playing around, at the lower values (~1k according to my multimeter) it started glowing. No smoke like last time, but still scary. Makes sense, due to I=V/R. Small res, big current….. So just my recommendation, look for something that has at greater than 200mA rating. Anyone have an idea?

If I want to put a switch, where should I put in it?

1 reply

If you want a switch to turn on - off, you could solder it to the power jack. Hook ground to ground on the jack a 5 Volts on the jack to the other pole on the switch.

Never mind, I used a breadboard and played around with different configurations. Leg 2 of pot to +9v, Leg 3 of pot to pin 7 of 555.

1 reply

Yes, and also remember to attach Leg 1 with Leg 2 as we are not using any logical values.

Awesome instructable! This is my 3rd electronics project. My 1st was a simple LED, the second was a composite A/V mod and power switch repair on a Colecovision. I have a question about wiring the pots. The photos aren't clear, do you use legs 1 & 2 on the pots? I'm guessing the +9v goes to leg 1 and pin 7 on the 555 goes to leg 2. Is this correct?

Using two 555 timers is nice. Try using a single 556 if you can find one, it makes things a tad easier to wire up. (In my opinion.)

You can also use a CDS (photo resistor) instead of the variable resistors (knobs). Then you have a light controlled circuit. My students loved that.

Also, if you only have a single 555 chip you can always make a stripped down version of this. An ease project for those just starting out.

3 replies

I will do a version with a 556, it was cheaper for me to get to 555.
Yep, I also tried it with some CDS, really cool. You get a nice atari theremin console!

Nice tutorial! I had a go myself but used a 556 instead. I found changing the capacitors can really change the tone!


nlatocha, Can you tell me more about how you changed the caps? Like using a 50uf instead of a 10uf or what? I am very new at this, so any help will be appreciated!