In ye olden days before the widespread proliferation of 3D printers, Altoids tins were the go-to electronic project enclosures. The more you could cram into an Altoids tin, the higher your hacker street cred. Now it’s easy to 3D print a beautiful enclosure custom fit to your project, but that doesn’t mean Altoids tin devices aren’t still impressive. FATCAT manages to fit an entire chiptune production station into that tiny tin, and that’s certainly worth some hacker cred.
Dejan Ristic built FATCAT as an exploration of what’s possible on a scale that small, and the kind of creativity it forces a musician to exhibit. The entire design is based around an ATtiny84 microcontoller, and the only controls are a few buttons and a little patch bay. A single digit 7-segment LED display is the entirety of the visual output, and the music is played through a small piezo speaker or dynamic speaker.
But, FATCAT manages to do a lot with that limited hardware. It’s an 8-bit wavetable synth and sequencer that’s a mix of a drum machine, base synth, and arpeggiator. The user can create loops and beats by altering table rows one at a time, and then modify them on the fly with the patch bay. As you can hear in the video above, remarkably complex chiptunes can be created on FATCAT. Best of all, it’s built on a stripboard PCB, so you can make your own at home.