Atari Punk Console - Conductive Ink & Your Body




About: I help run makerspaces / hackerspaces, love learning new tools and technology by building and documenting projects, and enjoy exploring the world with my wife ; )

Build a simple Atari Punk Console that uses conductive ink and your body to change the sound! The circuit here was modeled off of Joshua Zimmerman's wonderful instructable. The original design for the APC, or "Stepped Tone Generator" is credited to Forest M. Mims III. This project should be doable for ~$25.00. Less if you happen to have random electronics floating about : )

Changes we have made from Zimmerman's Instructable:
a) We've used fritzing for showing the steps instead of photos.
b) We utilize conductive paint and our bodies to adjust the sound

Supplies Needed & Approximate Prices:
1 x $6.00 - Breadboard (Half Size w/Voltage Rails)
1 x $1.00 - 556 Timer ( NE556N )
2 x $0.25 - Capacitors ( .01uF / 103 )
1 x $0.25 - Resistor ( 10k, Brown Black Orange )
2 x $0.10 - Super Long Wires (6", 22awg)
6 x $0.10 - Long Wires ( 3", 22awg )
6 x $0.10 - Medium to Short Wires (2 to 3", 22awg)
1 x $0.10 - Super Super Short Wire (1", 22awg)
1 x $1.50 - 5k Potentiometer
1 x $1.50 - 500k Potentiometer
1 x $1.00 - 9v Battery + Battery Snap
1 x $1.95 - Speaker ( 8 Ohms )
1 x $9.99 - Container of Bare Conductive Ink / Paint
2 x $0.10 - 3x5" Index Cards (Or something ~3" x 5" that you can put your conductive ink on)
1 x $0.10 - Thumb Tack

Other Helpful Things:
- Good lighting
- A clean workspace
- An hour of your time
- Someone awesome to work with

Missing Things?
- Check out for a local place for tools, supplies, etc.
- Near Ann Arbor, MI? We have everything you need at All Hands Active!
- Radioshack, AdaFruit, SparkFun, and Jameco are a few popular resources for parts.

Step 1: Pad Time!

If you have already built an Atari Punk Circuit, there is a good chance you can simply build the Conductive Pads and wire them up in place of one of your potentiometers. 

If you haven't built an Atari Punk Circuit, this is a fun first step!

These pads can be used for other low voltage connections to interesting affect, ie: LED dimmer, analog input for an Arduino, etc.

Gather your tools & materials:
2 x 3x5" Index Cards, or something similar.
2 x Super Long 22awg wires, somewhere between 6 and 12" in length
Thumb Tack
Wire Strippers
Bare Conductive Paint/Ink

A) Strip about 1/4" off one end of both your super long wires.

B) Strip about 1/2" off the other end of your super long wires.

C) Use the thumb tack to put two holes towards the top center of your index card. See the two red dots in the second image. The holes should be about a quarter inch apart from each other. You could use this image as a printable template, but standard printer paper is a bit too thin for comfort on this project. 

D) Put the 1/2" end of one of your wires through the two holes of one of your cards. The side of your card that we will be coating with conductive ink should have the mid section of the wire showing. See the third image above for reference.

E) Repeat steps C & D on another card.

Continue on to the next step!

Step 2: Laying Down the Ink

You should have two cards roughly the size of an index card, with a wire sticking out of each one. Now it's time to apply the conductive paint!

It's important that our wire makes a good connection, so make sure to apply ink thoroughly in this area. See the animation above and note how the ink is applied to both sides where the wire makes a connection.

Copy our random design, or experiment with your own using one, three, five or more circles is fine. Or you could have a single line of varying thickness. Have fun!

it will take a few minutes for the ink to dry, go ahead and get started on the next step!

Step 3: Orientation!

We've found it easiest to follow along if you orient everything the same way you see it on the screen. Also, electronic parts can be a bit of an adventure. Many different manufacturers make Breadboards, LEDs, IC (Integrated Circuits), Potentiometers, etc. You might  end up with something that looks a bit different! 

a) Note how the breadboard is positioned. Column #1 is on the left side, 30 on the right side.
- Breadboard? That’s the big white hunk of plastic. The holes contain wires that run inside. Since we are showing you this diagram sideways, we’ve confused the columns and rows. Just go with it : )

b) Look at your 556 Timer. It has a “U” shaped dimple on one side, and a dot in the corner.
- The dot marks pin #1 on the chip. Most IC (integrated chips) like this should have this to help you orient your chip.

c) Place your 556 Timer on the far right hand side of your Breadboard, with the U dimple on the right side.
- Make sure that the Pins from the Timer go in Columns 24 through 30, and Rows E and F.
Careful, it's easy to bend one of the legs of this chip when inserting!
- The whole thing should fit snugly in place against the breadboard.

Step 4: Resistor & Capacitors!

a) Resistor: Place one end in Column 30, Row H. Place the other end in Column 25, Row H.
  - Resistance is measured in “Ohms”. The > ohms, the slower electrons pass through your circuit.

b) Capacitor 1: Place one end in Column 25, Row J. Place the other end in the blue voltage rail above.
- Your capacitor may look different. If you can find the text "C103" on it, you're good.

c) Capacitor 2: Place one end in Column 22, Row J. Place the other end in the blue voltage rail above.
- Capacitors are capable of holding an electric charge, similar to a battery, but faster!

d) Review your connections.
 - It's easy to make a mistake, and catching them now means it's simple to fix!

Step 5: The Wire Parade

a) Long Black wire: Place one end in Column 30, Row G. Place the other end in Column 13, Row F.
- Wires are also referred to as conductors. They allow the passage of electrons.

b) Long Black wire: Place one end in Column 29, Row D. Place the other end in Column 5, Row F.
- In this circuit, different colored wires (or their insulation) are used to help see what goes where
- Electrons do not care about the color of their insulation : )

c) Long Black wire: Place one end in Column 26, Row A. Place the other end in Column 9, Row D.
- Conductive material isn't limited to just copper, but many wires are made of it.
- Why is this?

d) Review your connections. Seriously, we weren't joking about it being easier to do so now : )

Step 6: Additional Wiring

a) Medium Red wire: Place one end in Column 15, Row G. Place the other end in the Positive Voltage rail above.

b) Medium Red wire: Place one end in Column 7, Row G. Place the other end in the Positive Voltage rail above.

c) Long Red wire: Place one end in the Positive Voltage rail on the bottom left.
 - Place the other end in the Positive Voltage rail on the top left.

d) You are reviewing, right? 

Step 7: More Wires!

a) Short green wire: Place one end in Column 24, Row J. Place the other end in the negative voltage rail above.

b) Short red wire: Place one end in Column 29, Row I. Place the other end in Column 25, Row I.

c) Short red wire: Place one end in Column 30, Row A. Place the other end in the positive voltage rail below.

d) Don't forget!

Step 8: Potentiometer Time

a) 500k Pot 1: Place in Columns 3, 5, 7, Row J. The knob should be facing away from the middle.
- Potentiometers are called “Variable Resistors” because you can vary the amount of resistance!
- By changing the flow of electrons through this Pot, you are able to affect the sound this circuit creates.

b) 5k Pot: Place on in Column 5, 7, 9, Row A. The knob should be facing away from the middle.
 - By changing the flow of electronics through this Pot, you can change the volume.

Step 9: Pad Time Again!

The ink on your pads connected to your super long wires should be dry!

a) Connect a wire from a Pad to Column 13,  Row J,

b) Connect the wire from the other Pad to Column 15, Row J.

These two pads will do nothing by themselves. They need something to complete the circuit!
 - You get to be part of the circuit. By placing a finger from your left hand on an inked part of the left pad, and another finger from your right hand on the right pad, you complete the circuit!

Doesn't work yet, just a few more steps!

If you have some Pad Thai, eat some now. If you don't know what Pad Thai is, find out! Maybe there's somewhere nearby that you can order some from? 

Step 10: Almost There

a) Short green wire: Place one end in Column 30, Row C. Place the other end in Column 26, Row C.

b) Long green wire: Place one end in Column 26, Row J. Place the other end in Column 24, Row C.

c) Long green wire: Place one end in Column 22, Row I. Place the other end in Column 28, Row B

d) Note: If you click through the image above twice, you can access very high (large) resolution versions of the images. If you are having trouble seeing what goes where, check it out!

Step 11: Final Countdown!

a) Speaker: Place one wire in Column 7, Row C. Place the other wire in Column 25, Row C.
 - Don't worry about wiring this part backwards. Either wire is happy in either location.

b) Battery Connector:
Disconnect the battery if it’s connected!
Connect the red wire to the bottom positive voltage rail.
Connect the black wire to the negative voltage rail on the top.

c) Super Super Short Wire: Place one end in Column 29, Row A. Place the other end in Column 28, Row A.

Step 12: Give It the Power!

Video (w/sound) and photos coming soon!

a) Connect the 9v Battery, you might hear a faint click initially.

The circuit is NOT complete, and shouldn't make any further noises until it is complete, aka "closed". You can do this by placing one finger from both hands onto the conductive ink on both pads. You are now part of the circuit : )

b) Experiment!
1) What happens if you just barely touch the conductive ink?
2) What happens when you touch one pad, a friend touches the other, and you poke each other?
3) What happens if you use your toes?
4) TELL US YOUR SECRETS. Do something different, and let us know how it goes in the comments!

Wait, something is broken. This sucks, I can't hear anything. End of the world! Try the following:
1) The bottom (5k) pot is a volume knob. Try adjusting it.
2) Battery Connected to the Battery Holder?
3) Wires from Battery Holder properly connected?
4) Speaker wires connected properly?
6) Take one minute, walk around. High five your neighbor.
 - Seriously, bathroom/food breaks have probably saved the world a million times over.
7) Go over step by step starting with Step 1. This takes TIME, but only a few minutes!
8) Still not working? Find a neighbor / staff member to help you diagnose!

DIY Soundhack Contest

Second Prize in the
DIY Soundhack Contest

Battery Powered Contest

Participated in the
Battery Powered Contest

Pocket Sized Electronics

Participated in the
Pocket Sized Electronics



    • Pets Challenge

      Pets Challenge
    • Fandom Contest

      Fandom Contest
    • Frozen Treats Challenge

      Frozen Treats Challenge

    7 Discussions

    Luigi Pizzolito

    5 years ago

    Could you post a fritzing file(.fzz)? I would like to try making a pcb using fritzing.

    1 reply

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Nice I'ble! I like the fritzing pics, they're nice and clear.

    Can you post a video (with audio :-)) of the finished project? I'd like to hear the sound.


    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! I will post a video tomorrow! It sounds very similar to Joshua Zimmerman's version, maybe a little higher pitched.