What The Hell Do I Do With Atari Paddles And Joystick Without An Atari


Jul 17, 2010
BC, Canada
I picked up a set of Atari 2600 paddle controllers and a joystick for $1 from a garage sale, but I don't even have an Atari to use them on. Instead of getting an adapter for my computer, I'm just going to wire the joystick onto a cheap usb gamepad. I can just trace the buttons over to a pin on the IC and solder the connections there, cut out a section of the controller for a serial port to fit in, and plug the controller in there. Might find  a serial port at the electronics store downtown. This would also work for Master system and Genesis controllers, which is great. My gamepad isn't very good anyway. The analog stick feels scratchy, the buttons are too loud, and its easy to accidentally press on the wrong direction.

I opened up the Atari controllers and there aren't any parts except for the buttons/potentiometers. All buttons share the same ground pin, and each have a separate pin for themselves. The potentiometers have two pins.

As for the paddles, there isn't really anything I could do with them. Any suggestions? I could use the cases as enclosures for something, or use them to control an RC car, I don't know. My gamepad has analog sticks, but I don't know if I could wire potentiometers in the paddles to them. I don't know if it would work. An RC controller with analog controls would work, though. I could use them to control the brightness of some LEDs.

Anything you think I should do with this junk?
Here's what I did with four Atari paddles:


Probably not what you're looking for though. If you run MAME on your PC, it would be worth grabbing a USB conversion kit from retrousb.com. Not that many games require a paddle control, but the ones that do, really do. I plan on throwing together some kind of USB paddle control for Pandora.
I think it should be possible to wire the paddles to the axis of the USB Gamepad, just not easy. Obviously the paddle potentiometers would need to have roughly the same resistance as the ones inside the analog sticks (a quick google says Atari pots had 1MegaOhm), so you'll probably need to exchange them (no idea how much resistance these USB Gamepad pots have, but probably less), which would require finding some pots that have the same form factor as the paddle ones.

I'd go about it differently however, without tearing up that USB Gamepad. Remember the good old gameport? Even if your PC doesn't have one, there are USB adaptors cheaply available. Unlike modern USB controllers that have their own analogue - digital converters, the pots of gameport devices were wired directly to the gameport. One Axis had 100 kiloOhm, so you can't just wire your paddles to a gameport directly. You still have to find a 100 kiloOhm pot that fits inside the paddle. You're not going to find an exact match, but with a dremel, hot glue and some skill, it should be possible to fit a generic pot in there. Then just wire it to the Gameport connector (you can find the pinouts on the Wikipedia, it is a DA-15 connector). As the gameport supports up to 4 axis, you could connect 4 modified paddles.

TL;DR if you want to use the paddles with a computer other than an Atari, you'd have to exchange the potentiometers. Connecting those to a gameport would save you hacking around with that gamepad.
You could give/sell them to somebody who *does* own a machine which can use them, and won't consider them 'junk'?
I actually might sell them to someone who could put them to better use. I actually use Stella on my PC, but I don't want to buy an adapter because I am saving up for something. If I sell them for $5 all together, I would make a profit of 2 dollars... yay. I actually don't mind "tearing up" my gamepad. I wouldnt really dammage it, just add some functionality. It would be a cool project. Maybe I could re-sell my modified gamepad.