The Atari Punk Console, a name that Kaustic Machines dubbed, is an astable square wave driving a monostable oscillator. This was done with two 555 timer ICs, typically. The output was sound that resembled those produced by the old Atari 2600. It’s origin lays in a 1980 Radioshack book called “Engineer’s Notebook: Integrated Circuit Applications.”

This image, above, is the typical setup for the Atari Punk Console. (Image credit: Wikipedia)


In this project, I thought I would attempt to reproduce the sound using a BBC Micro:bit. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s fairly close. Two potentiometers will control this device too.


The software works as follows:

- Power it up, it immediately produces tones.

- Potentiometers are read, and the tones adjusted.



First, let’s gather all the necessary components you’ll need to build this project.

1x BBC Micro:bit

1x Kitronik Inventor’s Kit

2x Half-Breadboards

Project Wires Female - Male

2x 10k Potentiometer

1x Piezo Buzzer (Alternative option - Powered speaker.)

1x 5v 2A power supply


Video demonstration of the project:



Load the code onto the Micro:bit.


I am providing the hex file you need to drag and drop onto the Micro:bit, and the python code as two separate files. For the below process, just use the hex file.

Plug the MicroUSB cable into the Micro:bit, and plug the other end of the cable to a PC or MAC.


At this point, you are going to copy over the code to the Micro:bit. I am providing the program (code) in this post that needs to be copied over. When the Micro:bit plugs into a computer, it shows up as a USB flash drive. All you have to do is copy the file over to the Micro:bit, like it’s a USB Flash Drive, and the Micro:bit will reset, and the program is active.


You can remove the Micro:bit from the computer at this point. The program will start running, and without the rest of the circuit, it will not function.

A little bit about the code:


This is the section of code where all the magic happens. Reading the values at the analog pins is pretty easy.


The rest of the code is commented fairly well if you want to see what is going on in it.




I used the breakout board for this project. It’s great for testing and setting up where space and reliability isn’t an issue. It also helps to quickly get at the pins on the Micro:bit.

One small breadboard is recommended for having some space and stability for the potentiometers.



Lay the Micro:bit and Kitronik Inventor’s Kit on a table. Insert the edge-card end of the Micro:bit into the Inventor’s Kit socket and stick a breadboard to the bottom part of the Inventor’s Kit.



Wire up the schematic to the breakout board.

Note: The wipers of the potentiometers, the middle pins, are connected to the signal pins 1 & 2 on the Micro:bit.





Plug USB 5V power to the Micro:bit.


You should hear some sort of sound coming out of the piezo buzzer or speaker.

The system will start with a single tone melody.


Button “A” switches between modes for the potentiometer.

POT1 and POT2 control “distance” and “pitch” of the sound. Press “A” and the potentiometers control “duration” and “envelope.”



Button “B” will add a note to the sequence up to 10 notes.



This is the first step to creating something like the Atari Punk Console circuit on a Micro:bit.

It isn't a basic square wave generator as the regular 555 timer version. But, it will produce a clearer sound.


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