• Brandon Glover

Old Joysticks


Joysticks are like controllers, only they generally only have one button and a single stick. On the joysticks of the 80's and 90's you didn't have triggers or directional buttons, but instead two controls: Move and action (except for a lot of later ones). A lot of joysticks tried to be "revolutionary" and very few succeeded, most failed horribly instead.

Commodore made quite a few joysticks, both good and bad. One of the best is simply known as "C64 Joystick." It had two red buttons (both of which did the same thing) and a stick with a good amount of travel. The joystick was fairly durable and the buttons were functional. It came with the keyboard of the C64, both of which were fairly good. The joystick would plug into the keyboard, and then you could use it as a second controller (if the game was multiplayer) or you could use one them separately. Other companies reused the mold and made various different versions, all varying in quality.

Commodore also made the Quickshot. The Quickshot was honestly one of their worst joysticks. It broke easily and there was way too much travel, but it was fairly cheap. The buttons on the Quickshot were and the actual stick felt weirdly spongy. The Quickshot was designed to look to like the stick for a fighter jet. The Quickshot, thanks to its low price, was popular. It was so popular, in fact, that other companies like Nintendo and Amiga made their own versions of the joystick. That didn't help the fact that the Quickshot was a really bad joystick.

The most classic joystick of them all is the Atari CX40 joystick. A black box with a red button on the top and a functional control stick in the middle. The CX40 was the most commonly used joystick, and one of the best out there. And unlike previous Atari joysticks, the CX40 used microswitches (the same mechanics used in actual arcade cabinets) instead of the previous membrane switches (cheap, easily breakable mechanics). According to Atari Museum "the CX40 has been called 'the pinnacle of home entertainment controllers in its day.'"

Atari tried their hand at something else; a joypad (keep in mind joypads were useless at the time because most games only had four directions). This joypad, frankly, was crap. This joypad, being the Atari Paddle. It had a pad that barely worked in the middle and a rectangular button on the side. Thanks to the placement of the button, the controller is actually very uncomfortable to use. Despite this, it still sold well only because Atari made it. The Paddle was fairly durable, though.

Cheetah was a company known for making some of the worst joysticks out there (Cheetah also made the Quickshot). Enter the Turtle/Tortoise. The Turtle has three big red buttons, and some suction cups. The biggest problem was that there was no control stick. Cheetah, instead, expected people to put their hands on the back and tilt it to move in the game. This is a huge problem but the grooves on the turtle shell slowly hurt your hands. One of the selling points on the box was that it had "8 directional movement." This is basically a lie. It depended if the game supported 8-directional movement, and most of them did not.

Cheetah also made the Character Sticks. None of them worked good, all of them were licensed, and all of them were really uncomfortable to hold and use. They made versions for Atari, Commodore, Sega, NES, and Amiga systems. The Character Sticks were joysticks that were made to look like characters. All of which were licensed and all of which came with a game (unless you were playing the Sega of Nintendo version). These joysticks were also made for Sega, Nintendo, and various other systems.

Cheetah did make a few decent joysticks. One of the most popular was the Bug. The bug was bright green (it came in black as well) with a tiny stick in the middle. It has two buttons (that acted as eyes) on the front and an auto-fire feature. The way it was shaped also allowed for less hand strain. It even had microswitches. The biggest flaw, though, was the stick had way to much travel. The Bug, though, is a really solid joystick and is still reminisced by some today

Another decent joystick was the Cheetah Zipstick. The Zipstick was

designed to look similar to the C64 joystick, but the buttons are square. The Zipstick was black and yellow. It worked really well except for one thing. Instead of microswitches it had membrane switches. An interesting thing to note is that this joystick was popular in the UK. The Zipstick did not sell well in the Americas because the ZX Spectrum (the system it was originally made for) never came out in the Americas.

There was a company called Konix. Konix made joysticks and other peripherals for home computers. Most of these, however, were not too good. Like the Speedking. The Speedking is a small striped controller with a small control stick and two small buttons on the side. There were multiple issues with this controller: It was tiny, had too much travel, it was uncomfortable to hold, and the buttons barely responded. It did have microswitches, though.

Konix made another controller with almost the exact same guts,

but marketed it as something completely different. Meet the Navigator. The Navigator is shaped like a gun, and because of this, the button is the trigger. There is, yet again, a small control stick on the top with some arrows around it. Just like the Speedking, this controller has too much travel. The gun shape would make you think it would be comfortable to hold, but its not. Imagine using the control stick; that would just cramp your hands. The buttons are slightly more responsive, but that doesn't matter if the controller hurts to hold.

Believe it or not, Texas Instruments (yeah the calculator guys) made a joystick. A terrible joystick. Say hello to the TI-99. It had a barely functional stick and a large rectangular button above the stick. Thanks to that, the TI-99 was near impossible to actually handle. Something that didn't really help was how cheap it felt. Even the cord broke easily. Also, this was made for Texas Instruments Home Computer. A computer that flopped in the market because of how bad the games and system was, and not to mention this joystick.

There was a really good joystick for Amiga and Commodore systems aimed at "serious gamers." The Powerplay Cruiser was really nice to hold and it enabled smoother gameplay.The Powerplay Cruiser originally came in black but the black vanished from shelves and all that was left was this ludicrous pink and green joystick. No one really minded, though, because this was one of the best joysticks out there. The Powerplay Cruiser had microswitches, suction cups on the bottom, and a good amount of travel. It was also really durable. The Powerplay Cruiser is considered to be the best joystick of the time.

There are many, many joysticks out there. Some are absolutely amazing, then some are the complete opposite. For the developers of the controllers, it was just a war to see who could make the most unique controller so it would sell. Some joysticks stuck to the basics, while others were just ridiculous.

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