Atari Punk Console part 1: the breadboard

Before entering experiment 19 of Make: Electronics and the ‘realm of pure digital electronics’ I decided to do an analog project first. I want to make a Stepped Tone Generator aka Atari Punk Console. This piece of electronic is a very basic synthesizer, probably the simplest that one can create. The circuit was first published in 1980 as Stepped Tone Generator and later renamed as Atari Punk Console. The name Atari Punk Console or  APC stems from the circuits ability to generate sound similar to the old Atari 2600 console. It is relatively easy to build and fun to play with.

There even was a dedicated website of the Atari Punk Console with shows a wide variety in both electronic circuits and enclosures (

The circuit is similar to some of the circuits in experiment 17 especially the ones shown in figure 4-28 and 4-30 of the book, two circuits I haven’t built yet. The Atari Punk Console consists of two 555 chips that are chained. The first 555 chip is in astable mode and drives a second 555 in monostable mode (compare this to figure 4-28 where a 555 chip in monostable mode drives a 555 in astable mode). Each chip has one potentiometer connected to the pin 7. These potentiometers function as the user interface of the simple synthesizer.

In this first step I have built the APC on a breadboard. I used the schematics and components shown below except for the potentiometers which are 500k in my case. The result is satisfying because your able to play with the console and generate some decent sounds with it.

Schematics of Atari Punk Console
Breadboard with APC circuit
Close-up of APC with two 555 chips in the middle.
Another close-up of the circuit

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