Joystick-Synth Based on the Atari Punk Console

Introduction: Joystick-Synth Based on the Atari Punk Console

About: my name is Joe Wozniak and I sing, play guitar, mandolin, keyboard, and various circuit-bent things in the band Rooftop Ridicule. It's very likable stuff and the circuit-bent things are used very tastefully,...

First of all, what's an Atari Punk Console? Well in a nutshell it's a simple noise making circuit with two knobs, one for the frequency of  square wave pulses and one for the length of the pulses. When you turn the knobs it makes rad video game-like noises, which is how it got it's name, coined by Kaustic Machines. It was originally published in a Radio Shack Engineers Notebook booklet written by Forrest M. Mims III and was called a "Stepped Tone Generator." Since then it has become an extremely popular circuit for hobbyists. Many people add cool features or build them into coolthings.

So what makes ours unique? Joystick control!

Classic joysticks have two pots inside (variable resistors,) one for up and down, one for left and right. I made these control the APC circuit. Not only does this joystick have trim controls so you can tune the note you hear in the center, but the added switches change the range in tuned musical steps. This is an APC ready to play along with a band!

If this has been done before, I haven't found any with such capabilities. But in an effort to be open source I would like to guide you though what it took to build it, that you may possibly expand upon it and break further ground, and the whole human race can noisily benefit.

Behold: The Joey-Stick® by Wozn of Rooftop Ridicule

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Step 1: Find the Joystick

I bought mine when I was a kid, probably in the early nineties. Now the best place would probably be at a thrift store. try to find one with a lot of travel and range of motion. If there are trim controls even better. It's a good sign if the cable has a standard analog 15 pin PC joystick plug. Here's a good one.

Get creative and gut the analog stick from an old game controller like a PS1 or a Game Cube. Same deal inside. I once found a great joystick that stuck out the front of the radio on an '88 Chrysler LeBaron.

Step 2: Test the Circuit With Your Joystick

Build the circuit on a breadboard and run wires out to your joystick.

For the schematic go here or here.

Both the pots may not be the same value, so try each of them in both places.

Step 3: Build It in There

As you can see from the pictures, there was too much to cram into just the joystick case. I have a horrible habit of choosing cases for projects that are much to small to fit everything into, which you will also see. I think it gives this project a certain bonus sci-fi feel. The shiny rectangle with the 1/4" jack in it was added later, it already had a 1/8" jack in the joystick body, but we were sick of using adapters. It has a external power supply jack too. I'm thorough.

I swear I planned this out before I built it, but I also wanted to challenge myself to use what I had and avoid buying new parts, I'm a fan of the charm of scavenged things. The upper box is from some military RF thing. All the wiring is point-to-point on perf-board, kinda like an old tube amp.

Step 4: Join a Band

That's how we did ours, show us how you did yours! Does that sound dirty?

This has been Wozn from the band Rooftop Ridicule. Here's a video of our song Head Rest with the intrepid Jon Martino playing the Joey Stick® as we call it. We often hand it off to someone in the audience to play for part of the song too.

and yes I did put blinking lights in my guitar.

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    8 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Where did you buy the breadboard

    Robot Lover
    Robot Lover

    9 years ago on Introduction

    Actually your breadboard is a digital analog trainer worth around 150 bucks new!

    Great instructable!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Your atari punk console is unique bcause it's built into a joystick?

    Do you know what the first apc was built in? Let me give you a clue...


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I've seen this several times. I've had this joystick for my Atari.

    Do you see the knobs in the corners? Atari joysticks were just four switches and had no degree of control. This joystick cannot replace the function of the knobs and control the sound in that fashion. That's why I said:

    So what makes ours unique? Joystick control.

    I'm not saying I'm the first to do this, it would be cool to see one that predates mine, I just haven't. I've seen a couple joystick-synths on you tube but they all either weren't APCs or had no degree of control. But nice try my friend. :)

    Someone should beat me to the punch at making one with a gamecube joystick. That's what I want to try next, since I could get it really small.