Atari 2600 Joystick

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The Atari 2600 joystick.

The Atari 2600 Joystick is the original joystick controller for the Atari 2600. It was created by Atari and released on 1977-09-11 along with the release of the console. It features a 4-directional joystick (8 directions are inferred) and a fire button. Although the joystick was made for the Atari 2600, Atari wisely made their Atari 8-bit home computer line compatible with them.

No doubt because the Atari 2600 was so popular, Commodore used the same pin configuration for their joysticks, so the Atari 2600 joystick works with the VIC-20, Commodore 64, and Amiga computers. You can also plug an Atari 2600 joystick into an MSX, Master System, Atari 7800, Atari ST, and Genesis, but it lacks the necessary number of buttons to play most games properly. Adapters were even made which allowed the Atari joystick to be used on the Apple II, IBM PC, and TRS-80 home computers.

Despite being woefully outdated now, the Atari 2600 joystick has become an iconic symbol for the early era of video gaming, and is even recognizable by many gamers who never used them.

The Atari bundle my parents bought from a garage sale had several joysticks. This was the very first video game joystick I ever got my hands onto, so I have a special affinity to it. I have played hundreds of hours of games using this joystick.

Variations

Image Released Model Description
Atari 2600 - CX10 Joystick - Logo.jpg 1977-09-11 CX10 The original CX10 model was designed by Steve Bristow and shipped with the first batch of Ataris. The top of the joystick had an indentation where an aluminum hexagon disc could be inserted which had an Atari or Sears logo. This disc frequently fell off and most surviving controllers do not have them intact. Internally, it used four springs on the joystick contacts giving it a stronger centering feedback, but it was also more expensive to build. Due to its rarity, a working CX10 is considerably more valuable than a CX40, especially if it still has the original logo disc.
Atari 2600 - CX40 Joystick - Orange.jpg 1978-??-?? CX40 The CX40 was designed by James Asher as a more affordable replacement. The visual differences are the removal of the logo at the top of the joystick, the word "top" added to the raised ring to denote which way the controller should be held, and a plastic ring was added around the joystick cover to prevent it from being removed as easily. The internals were changed to use cheaper components, but these joystick were still quite rugged.
Atari 2600 - CX40 Joystick - All Black.jpg 1982-??-?? CX40 In order to bring the joysticks inline with the new all-black "Darth Vader" style 2600, the orange paint on the raised ring around the joystick was removed.
Atari XE - Joystick.jpg 1987-Q3-?? CX40 A model with a gray shell was created to fit the theme of the the Atari XE console. Unlike the black plastic, this gray plastic was prone to discoloration from UV light.

Review

Good

  • Both models were particularly rugged. Many of them made in the late 1970s are still working today.

Bad

  • With only a single button, it just wasn't possible for game developers to make any complicated user interactions with their games.
  • The joystick wasn't very comfortable to hold for a prolonged period of time, and it was especially uncomfortable for left-handed gamers.
  • The rubber sheath could be pulled off without too much force. The CX40 model was a bit harder to remove, but, once it was, it could only be put back in place by unscrewing the base.
  • Both models had some mechanical flaws that caused them to fail over time.

Ugly

  • Nothing.

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