Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Atari Punk Console

So I've decided to finally get cranking on my supposed "career" as a DIY synth builder. I have a lot of experience designing, analyzing, and breadboarding circuits because of school, but I've only occasionally actually had to solder stuff together and fit it into a box. So that's why I've decided that my first synth project should be one that's "for beginners".

The Atari Punk Console is a very simple oscillator circuit that utilizes the ubiquitous LM555 Timer IC. It consists of something like 3 resistors, 3 capacitors, and 2 LM555s, and that is seriously it, meaning that the circuit components cost about twenty-five cents whereas things like the plug and knobs cost two or three bucks.

I like the idea of me getting to know the LM555 well. It is one of those components that are seen almost everywhere, and every circuit designer knows how to use them, but few know exactly what is going on inside. I feel like I could greatly better myself by learning how the internals actually work. All I know is that it's basically two comparators and a flip-flop.

The Atari Punk Console is a monostable multivibrator that is driven by an astable multivibrator--both multivibrators implemented using the LM555. By changing the time delay on the astable multivibrator, the frequency is changed, and by changing the time delay on the monostable multivibrator, the pulsewidth is changed. The brain interprets frequency as the sensation "pitch" and puslsewidth is related to the sensation of "timbre".

Anyway, I just ordered enough parts for me to make five of them. I will probably start adding features to them after making two or three. I have in mind a "tone" knob like you would find on an electric guitar, or I could use a higher-order filter like the one in this video:

Anyway, expect a bunch of posts detailing what I learn!

To know more, read its Wikipedia article or this how-to guide by the original designer, Forrest M. Mims III or simply wait for my upcoming posts.

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