Most of us have beheld the sonic glory of an Atari Punk Console, that lo-fi synth whose classic incarnation is a pair of 555 timers set up to warble and bleep in interesting ways. Very few of us, however, have likely seen an APC built from 555s that are made from vacuum tubes.
It’s little surprise to regular readers that this one comes to us by way of [David] at Usagi Electric, who hasn’t met a circuit that couldn’t be improved by realizing it in vacuum tubes. His “hollow-state” Atari Punk Console began with the 18-tube version of the 555 that he built just for fun a while back, which proved popular enough that he’s working on a kit version, the prototype of which served as the second timer for the synth. With 32 tubes aglow amid a rats-nest of jumpers, the console managed to make the requisites sounds, but lacked a certain elegance. [David] then vastly simplified the design, reducing the BOM to just four dual-triode tubes. Housed on a CNC milled PCB in a custom wood box, the synth does a respectable job and looks good doing it. The video below shows both versions in action, as well as detailing their construction.
As cool as a vacuum tube synth may be, we realize that not everyone goes for the hot glass approach. No worries — plenty of silicon Atari Punk Consoles to choose from here. There’s one built into a joystick, a circuit sculpture version complete with mini-CRT, or even eight APCs teamed up with MIDI control.
Continue reading “The Atari Punk Console, Now With More Vacuum Tubes”
What’s better than an Atari Punk Console synthesizer? How about four Atari Punk Console synthesizers. And what better way to present them but as brass wire art sculptures. We’d have forgiven [iSax] if he’d stopped at four brass wire synths, but he took things to another level with his kinetic sculpture that does double duty as a mechanical sequencer. Called the Cyclotone – The Mechanical Punk Console Sequencer, it features wood, brass, brushes, and 555 timers. You can see the demonstration in the video below the break.
If you’re not familiar with the Atari Punk Console, it’s a circuit first described as a “Sound Synthesizer” in Forest Mims’ “Engineer’s Notebook: Integrated Circuit Applications” first published in 1980. It utilized two 555 timers in a single chip, the 556. Later dubbed the “Atari Punk Console”, the circuit has stood the test of time and is still quite popular among hackers of all sorts.
[iSax]’s build adds a sequencing element that allows the synths to be played automatically. The synthesizers are skewered 90 degrees from each other on a square dowel, which is turned at a variable RPM by a stepper motor controlled by a knob at the base of the sculpture.
On either side of each synth is a commutator that contacts salvaged rotary tool brushes which provide power through the hexagonal brass supports. Each synth retains its own speaker and controls and has its own segmented numeral displayed with discrete LED’s that light up when each synth is played.
We applaud [iSax] for a well executed and imaginative build that successfully meshes circuit scultpure, kinetic sculpture, classic electronics and even blinkenlights. If you enjoyed this build, you should also go have a look at a free form Atari Punk Console build and another one built into a joystick. If you come across a project of any kind that catches your fancy, be sure you let us know about it via the Tip Line!
Continue reading “Kinetic Synth-Kebab Sculpture Plays Punk Sequentially”
This stunning piece of art is [Emily Velasco’s] take on the Atari Punk Console. It’s a freeform circuit that synthesizes sound using 555 timers. The circuit has been around for a long time, but her fabrication is completely new and simply incredible!
This isn’t [Emily’s] first rodeo. She previously built the mini CRT sculpture project seen to the left in the image above. Its centerpiece is a tiny CRT from an old video camera viewfinder, and it is fairly common for the driver circuit to understand composite video. And unlike CRTs, small video cameras with composite video output are easily available today for not much money. Together they bring a piece of 1980s-era video equipment into the modern selfie age. The cubic frame holding everything together is also the ground plane, but its main purpose is to give us an unimpeded view. We can admire the detail on this CRT and its accompanying circuitry representing 1982 state of the art in miniaturized consumer electronics. (And yes, high voltage components are safely insulated. Just don’t poke your finger under anything.)
With the experience gained from building that electrically simple brass frame, [Emily] then stepped up the difficulty for her follow-up project. It started with a sound synthesizer circuit built around a pair of 555 timers, popularized in the 1980s and nicknamed the Atari Punk Console. Since APC is a popular circuit found in several other Hackaday-featured projects, [Emily] decided she needed to add something else to stand out. Thus in addition to building her circuit in three-dimensional brass, two photocells were incorporated to give it rudimentary vision into its environment. Stimulus for this now light-sensitive APC were provided in the form of a RGB LED. One with a self-contained circuit to cycle through various colors and blinking patterns.
These two projects neatly bookend the range of roles brass rods can take in your own creations. From a simple frame that stays out of the way to being the central nervous system. While our Circuit Sculpture Contest judges may put emphasis the latter, both are equally valid ways to present something that is aesthetic in addition to being functional. Brass, copper, and wood are a refreshing change of pace from our standard materials of 3D-printed plastic and FR4 PCB. Go forth and explore what you can do!
Continue reading “Freeforming The Atari Punk Console”
The Atari Punk Console (APC) is a dual 555 (or single 556) based synth. Designed by the famous (and somewhat infamous) Forrest Mims in 1980 and originally simply named “Sound Synthesizer”, the circuit gained it’s more recent popularity when re-dubbed the “Atari Punk Console” by Kaustic Machines. The circuit however doesn’t bear much relation to the Atari 2600 which didn’t contain a 555 timer chip. However we assume the 2600 produced a similarly glitchy square wave audio output.
The circuits operation is easy to grasp and uses only 9 components. This ease of design and construction has allowed builders to focus more on the aesthetics of its construction, hacking it into interesting, and often unlikely enclosures and systems. One such hack is the “Atari Punk Bucket” (shown here) where the APC along with a simple amp was hacked into an old rusted bucket. The APC was built up on strip-board along with a simple amp and reclaimed speakers. [Farmer glitch] has used this as a prop in live sets and it both looks and sounds awesome. Continue reading “The Ubiquitous Atari Punk Console”
[Atdiy and Whisker] aka [The Tymkrs] have created a MIDI controlled 8 note modular synthesizer. (YouTube link). The project was designed to highlight some of the modules they have available at their Tindie Store. Essentially, the synthesizer is 8 classic Atari Punk Console (APC) tone generators. Each APC is made up of two 555 chips, rather than the 556 used in the original design. The APCs are tuned to a Pentatonic scale, with the 8 notes covering 1.5 octaves. [Whisker] added a single potentiometer which controls all 8 of the monostable oscillators at once. Tweaking this knob gives the synth that classic Atari Punk Console sound we’ve all come to know and love.
The 8 APC outputs are routed to once side of an AND gate. The other side of the AND gate is connected to a 74hc595 shift register. A Parallax Propeller processor converts MIDI note data into a serial stream that can be daisy chained across several ‘595 shift registers. The outputs of the 8 and gates are mixed to a single combined output, which goes out to [The Tymkrs] studio amplifier.
Like many [Tymkrs] videos, this one ends with a MIDI driven jam session, outlining how the circuit would sound in a song. Click past the break to see it all in action!
Continue reading “Modular 555 Synth Is Controlled By MIDI”
From simple buzzers to an Atari Punk Console, the simple 555 timer chip is the foundation of a whole lot of interesting lo-fi synth projects perfect for beginners. [Steven] put together a great tutorial for using the 555 timer in a rudimentary synth, and even went so far as to build a simple electronic player piano able to play a song from a sheet of paper with punched holes.
The basic 555 oscillator circuit is very simple – just a few caps and resistors and powered by a few batteries. [Steven] built the simplest 555 circuit, but used a line of graphite drawn on a piece of paper for the resistor controlling the frequency. It’s basically a drawdio built on a breadboard, and easy enough to build for even the most neophyte electronic tinkerer.
Going one step further, [Stephen] drew a long thick line of pencil graphite on a piece of paper and mounted eleven wire loops attached to the circuit over his improvised resistor. After cutting a few holes in a piece of paper, he was able to create a simple player piano with his 555 synth. It worked well enough to play Greensleeves, and is the perfect project for the budding electronics hacker.
Continue reading “A 555 Player Piano”
The Atari Punk Console, a tiny synthesizer based on the ubiquitous 555 timer chip, is the first build de rigueur for any budding electronic wizard wanting to build musical devices. With just a handful of caps, resistors, and a pair of pots, the APC is a fabulously fun and easy build made even cooler by [Pat]’s addition of a joystick.
The circuit of the Atari Punk Console consists of a 556 chip – basically two 555s put into the same package – and a pair of potentiometers to control the frequency and output of this very basic synth. Since most joysticks are just two pots arranged on an X-Y mount, [Pat] thought it would be cool to control his APC without twiddling knobs, and instead sweeping a joystick around.
After acquiring an old Microsoft joystick from his local Goodwill, [Pat] wired up his Atari Punk Console to the joystick, using the ‘fire’ button to turn the output on and off. The result is everything between a low machine gun-like tone to a nasal square wave that will hopefully keep pace with your chip-based audiophile friends.
Continue reading “Atari Punk Stick Puts A Synth In A Joystick”