Fresh PCBs For The Quickshot II And II Plus Joysticks

The Quickshot II was released by Spectravideo in 1983 for the Commodore 64 and compatible systems, with the Quickshot II Plus following the next year. After decades of regular use, it’s quite understandable that these old-timers may be having some functional issues, but as long as the plastic parts are still good, [Stephan Eckweiler]’s replacement PCBs may be just the thing that these joysticks need to revitalize them for another few decades.

What may be a matter of taste is that these replace the nice tactile clicky switches on the QS II Plus with SMD push buttons, but compared to the stamped metal ‘button’ construction of the original QS II, the new board is probably a major improvement. As for the BOM, it features two ICs: a 74LS00 latch and NE555 timer, along with the expected stack of passives and switches, both through-hole and SMD.

The PCB contains break-off boards for the switches within the joystick itself, requiring a bit of wiring to be run to the main PCB before soldering on the DE-9 connector and connecting the joystick for a test run to a Commodore 64. All one needs now is a 3D printable enclosure version to create more QS II joysticks for some multiplayer action.

Exploring The Hall Effect For Haptic Feedback PS4 Joysticks

Modern gaming console controllers aren’t without their annoyances — Joy-Con drift, anyone? The problems might stem from design deficiencies, but we suspect that user enthusiasm and the mechanical stress it can introduce might play a significant role as well. Either way, [Marius Heier] decided to take a look at what would be required to build a better joystick and came up with some interesting results.

The first video below lays the basic groundwork, with a bunch of experiments with 3-axis Hall effect sensors, specifically the Texas Instruments TMAG5273 and TMAG5170. They’re essentially the same sensor with different interfaces — SPI for the 5170 and I2C for the 5273. Using just one of these sensors, he was able to build a joystick with the usual X- and Y- axis control, but also with a rotary axis. What’s more, he built a motorized version using two NEMA 17 steppers to mechanically drive the stick back to center.

The joystick is bulky, but it looks like he’s got plans for a much smaller one with [Carl Bugeja]-style PCB motors that should fit into a PS4 controller. That’s the subject of the second video below, which uses a different Hall sensor — an Allegro A1304 — and is mainly concerned with getting the output of a non-motorized but considerably miniaturized joystick stick talking the language that the controller expects. It’s not a simple process, but it seems to be coming along nicely, and we’ll be watching progress closely.

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2022 FPV Contest: A Poor Man’s Journey Into FPV

FPV can be a daunting hobby to get into. Screens, cameras, and other equipment can be expensive, and there’s a huge range of hardware to choose from. [JP Gleyzes] has been involved with RC vehicles for many years, and decided to leverage that experience to do FPV on a budget.

Early experiments involved building a headset on the cheap by using a smartphone combined with a set of simple headset magnifiers. With some simple modifications to off-the-shelf hardware, [JP] was able to build a serviceable headset with  a smartphone serving as the display. Further work relied upon 3D printed blinds added on to a augmented-reality setup for even better results. [JP] also developed methods to use a joystick to fly a real RC aircraft. This was achieved by using an Android phone or ESP32 to interface with a joystick, and then spit out data to a board that produces PPM signals for broadcast by regular RC hardware.

[JP] put the rig to good use, using it to pilot a Parrot Disco flying wing drone. The result is a cheap method of flying FPV with added realism. The first-person view and realistic controls create a more authentic feeling of being “inside” the RC aircraft.

It goes to show that FPV rigs don’t have to break the bank if you’re willing to get creative. We’ve seen some great FPV cockpit builds before, too.

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A schematic explaining the workings of the Commodore 64's joystick port

Bluetooth Interface Adds Rumble Feedback To Commodore 64 Games

Nothing says “1980s gaming” like a black joystick with a single red fire button. But if you prefer better ergonomics, you can connect modern gamepads to your retrocomputers thanks to a variety of modern-to-classic interface adapters. These typically support just the directional pad and one or two action buttons, leaving out modern features like motion control and haptic feedback.

That’s a bit of a shame, because we think it would be pretty cool to feel that shock in our hands whenever Pitfall Harry drowns in quicksand or Frogger gets hit by traffic. We’re therefore happy to report that [Ricardo Quesada] has decided to add rumble functionality to the Bluetooth-to-Joystick-port interface that he’s been working on. He demonstrates the feature on his Commodore 64 in the video embedded after the break.

Naturally, any software needs to be adapted to support haptic feedback, but a trickier problem turned out to be the hardware: joystick ports are input-only devices and therefore cannot send “enable rumble” signals to any connected gamepads. [Ricardo] found a clever way around this, using the analog inputs on the joystick port that were typically used for paddle-type controllers.

The analog-to-digital converter inside the computer works by applying a pulse signal to the analog port and measuring the time it takes to discharge a capacitor. The modern gamepad interface simply detects whether these pulses are present; they can be enabled or disabled through software by toggling the analog readout on the joystick port. This way, the joystick port can be used to send a single bit of information to any device connected to it.

[Ricardo] developed patches for Rambo: First Blood part II and Leman to enable rumble functionality. He describes the process in detail in his blog post, which should enable anyone who knows their way around 6502 machine code to add rumble support to their favorite games.

The adapter works with a variety of retro systems that use the Atari-style joystick interface, but if you’re an Apple II user, you might want to look at this Raspberry Pi-based project that interfaces with its nonstandard joystick interface. If you’re into wireless gaming in general, be sure to also check out our history of wireless game controllers.

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Building A Modular Joystick For Star Citizen

Joysticks are great for gaming, but sometimes it’s hard to find one that suits your personal playstyle. [Nixie] developed the TinkerJoy to suit their own needs, while giving it a modular design to make it easy to customize as well.

It’s built around a metal core, with 3D printed panels attached to the user’s liking. In addition to the body panels, parts like the trigger assembly and button panels can be moved around and adjusted to suit different games or different players.

A test unit has been built in a right-handed configuration, featuring four buttons and two switch sliders. In addition to the main X and Y axes, it also has a Z axis activated by twisting the joystick, as well as an analog brake. There’s a trigger, too, as every good joystick must have. For now, the electronics is not integrated. Instead, a STM32 BluePill board sits on top of the stick to read all the controls and talk to a PC. The test setup looks to work well, with [Nixie] putting the gear through its paces in Star Citizen.

The benefit of building your own hardware is that you can often do ergonomics better yourself. After all, companies often have to build for the 5th-95th percentile for reasons of economics and scale.

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Odd Inputs And Peculiar Peripherals: A Joystick Like They Used To Make

With the rise of the gamepad courtesy of several generations of game consoles, the joystick has become an almost forgotten peripheral, sidelined into the world of flight simulators with its design tending towards copying that of aircraft joysticks. Classic joysticks from the 8- and 16-bit eras were far more workaday devices, more suitable for Space Invaders than Microsoft Flight Simulator, and it’s one of these that [Rob Smith] has recreated in 3D printed form.

The design he’s come up with bears a strong resemblance to the Zipstik, a classic stick that he already owned. It’s a fairly simple device that uses microswitches for all contacts, and is thus very tough. He’s produced a 3D-printed shaft but didn’t trust its strength, so copied the original by using a metal shaft with a pair of circlips. We remember our Zipstik as having a steel shaft; he replaces that with aluminium. A handy jig and a hacksaw allows him to create grooves for circlips, resulting in a sturdy ZipStik clone that should satisfy any retro gamer.

The stick is wired for an Amiga and includes a 555-based rapid-fire circuit, but that’s not the end of the electronics as he’s also created a USB interface for Amiga joysticks to go with it. Not everyone has a classic machine, so now everyone can enjoy the retro peripheral experience! Both builds can be seen in the videos below the break.

This isn’t the first Amiga joystick we’ve brought you, but it’s more sophisticated than some previous designs.

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A pair of purple PCB-based game controllers on a solderless breadboard

Odd Inputs And Peculiar Peripherals: The GameBug Turns Your Breadboard Into A Game Console

What’s more fun than playing video games? Designing your own video game hardware, of course! If you’ve followed these pages long enough you’ll have seen dozens of great examples of homebrew hardware, and perhaps been inspired to try such a project yourself. This often starts with assembling the basic bits onto a solderless breadboard, which is fine for programming but not so great for testing: squeezing pushbuttons into your breadboard works for basic debugging, but is not very user-friendly or reliable. A better solution can be found in [Dimitar]’s GameBug: a set of breadboard-compatible joypad-like controllers.

The GameBug’s design excels in its simplicity: a miniature analog joystick, four buttons arranged in a diamond pattern, a shoulder button and two sliding switches are sitting on a neat purple PCB. On the bottom are two rows of pin headers to ensure a snug fit on your solderless breadboard. There’s even a little vibrating motor for haptic feedback.

Interfacing with the GameBug is simplified by the integrated readout electronics. A Schmitt trigger-based debounce circuit ensures clean signals from all the pushbuttons, while a motor driver chip provides stable current to the haptic feedback system. An RGB LED can be used as yet another user feedback device, or simply for decorative lighting.

All design files are available on [Dimitar]’s GitHub page, along with an Arduino sketch to help you try out the GameBug’s functionality. Having a proper gamepad might come in handy with breadboard-based game systems like Tiny Duck Hunt or this impressive mess of wires that makes up a Colecovision.

A pair of purple PCB-based game controllers