Lap joystick

The Atari 2600 joysticks were pretty much shot, so I picked up a couple of arcade joysticks and buttons thinking I’d build a couple of new ones to use with the Ataris.

My initial plan was to use a project enclosure to build a new joystick out of, but it turned out to be a bit too small and felt awkward. Then I looked around and saw an old lap desk that I wasn’t using anymore and thought “Oooh, that might work.”

The lap desk was originally designed to have a little pouch for carrying things like paper and writing implements in. Perfect for containing the wiring and components. The innards of the lap desk was accessible via a few zippers (two “pouches” contained inserts with styrofoam beads for padding and a middle pouch for stashing things in). Used a hole saw to make a few holes for the joystick controller and two buttons so that the “lap joystick” could be used left or right handed.

Joystick controller installed on the lap desk
Joystick controller installed on the lap desk

The joystick controller and buttons went in very nicely.

Buttons added to the lap joystick
Buttons added to the lap joystick
Buttons added to the lap joystick
Buttons added to the lap joystick

To wire everything up, I started with a piece of copper clad PCB hot-glued to the back for a base. I thought some MeSquares would make good spots to wire up the joystick and buttons to the cable that connects to the Atari. A terminal connector was used for the common connection. I was originally going to just solder the common connections to the copper clad, but my soldering iron turned out to be too puny and ineffective for soldering onto a copper clad heat sink. The cable from one of the dead joysticks was used to connect to the Atari console.

Getting the joystick and buttons wired up
Getting the joystick and buttons wired up

The wiring is pretty ugly and I’ll probably re-do it at some point to make it neater but the lap joystick works perfectly with the Atari, and it’s actually pretty comfortable to use. The cable out to the console ended up being kind of on the short side (it’s not that long to begin with), so the console has to be pretty close to play. When I re-wire everything, I’ll see if I can extend that out a bit.

I’ve got one more joystick controller and will need to get a couple more buttons to build a second lap joystick. I think I’ll see if I can find some shorter buttons to use.

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