The first AxeSynths that were produced used the vintage Texas Instruments SN76477 Sound Generator integrated circuit. The SN76477 IC was the sound synthesizer used in the Space Invaders video arcade game of the late 1970s and early 80's, this fact prompted the AxeSynth to be nicknamed "the Atari" by some of its noted users.
Shaped like a guitar, with a neck and body, it utilizes two sensors as the user interface to produce synthesized tones. The main sensor, located on the "neck" is a Force Sensitive Resistor (FSR) similar to a ribbon controller.
Linear changes in resistance are produced when the FSR is touched at various positions along its length. This variable electrical resistance is similar to that of a common linear potentiometer and subsequently controls the oscillation of frequencies produced by the main synthesizer IC.
The AxeSynth also utilizes a photoresistor sensor, or CdS cell, whereby varying amounts of light received by the sensor is controlled by the musician's hand, resembling Theremin-like frequency control.