Refining The Greatest Joystick Of The 1980s

The Competition Pro joystick is often considered to be the pinnacle of input devices, at least as far as the 1980s gaming goes. But the design isn’t perfect, and time hasn’t been kind to certain aspects of its mechanism. For example, the large rubber disc used to keep the stick centered on early generations of the hardware will invariably be hardened up on any surviving specimens. Looking to return these classic controllers to their former glory, and then some, [mageb] has released a number of 3D printed modifications for the Competition Pro that should be of great interest to the vintage gamer.

The new microswitches

First and foremost is the deletion of the original rubber disc for a new spring mechanism. Even if this is the only modification you do, [mageb] says you’ll already have a better and longer-lasting joystick to show for it. But if you want to continue with the full rebuild, be aware that there’s no going back to stock. Once you start cutting the original parts, you’re committed to taking it all the way.

Assuming you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty, the next step is cutting the metal contacts from the bottom of the face buttons so they’ll work with the new microswitch array he’s designed. Each button gets its switch, and four handle movement of the joystick. You can try out different switches to adjust the feel of the joystick, but [mageb] assures us that he’s already done the research and put the best quality switches in the bill of materials.

The end result is a Competition Pro joystick that looks more or less the same from the outside, but is considerably improved internally. That’s always a win in our books, though we’re sure somebody out there is going to get mad that the brittle old rubber disc wasn’t sent to the Smithsonian.

23 thoughts on “Refining The Greatest Joystick Of The 1980s

  1. If you want to restore a rubber part (assuming it’s not badly damaged already) try soaking it in brake fluid over night. I picked this tip up from some motorcycle restoration folks, it’s worked well the couple of times I had deal with a hardened/brittle piece of rubber unobtainium.

  2. I never understood the hype around the Competition Pro. Yes, they were sturdy and precise, but my hands always hurt after playing for a while. My favorite was the QuickShot II. Yes it was flimsy and broke after a few months (or days when playing Summer Games), but it also only cost CHF 10 (IIRC).

    1. Every time I had to replace a microwave switch they had gone sticky. The switches can get stressed if they don’t get opened and closed in the proper order. Never open the microwave door when its in heating mode, tiny delays between switch closures seem to accelerate wear and tear. I never see them go bad when this is done.

    1. Tac-2 silver edition, bought with my own hard earned money, still have the original box for that one. I also have the competition pro red/see through and had quickshot 2 (broke). We also had the Terminator (the grenade looking one), but that broke too.

    2. I read this article and just thought, on what planet did Tom Nardi grow up where it wasn’t the TAC-2 that was the pinnacle of 1980s input devices? It was an alternative-timeline sort of feeling.

    3. +1

      When I occasionally bring out my old C64 I never play with anything other than a Tac-II.

      Still remember sitting on the floor, holding the joystick with my left hand, stabilizing it with my right foot and wiggling in back and forth like crazy when I was playing Track & field.

  3. I spent a lot of money on joysticks back in the day including almost all mentioned here, but I could never improve on the responsiveness of a good ‘ol Atari joystick. Sadly, the plastic stick inserts that actuated the switches alway eventually broke.

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