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Discuss Intellivision, Atari, Colecovision, Nintendo, and More! » The Atari Section » The Atari Forum » Atari 5200 Controllers

Atari 5200 Controllers

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1 Atari 5200 Controllers on Thu 19 Jan 2012, 6:14 pm

Rev

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The controller prototypes used in the electrical development lab used a yoke and gimbal mechanism that came from an RC airplane controller kit. This simple design gave very nice smooth linear control and was highly reliable. The production controllers were quite different and a great disappointment to the electrical and software development teams. The design of the analog joystick, which used a weak rubber boot rather than springs to provide centering, proved to be ungainly and unreliable. They quickly became the Achilles' heel of the system because of their combination of an overly complex mechanical design with a very low-cost internal flex circuit system.[4] Another major flaw of the controllers was that the design did not translate into a linear acceleration from the center through the arc of the stick travel. The controllers did, however, include a pause button, a unique feature at the time. Various third party replacement joysticks were also released, including those made by Wico.

Atari Inc. released the Pro-Line Trak-Ball controller for the system, which was used primarily for gaming titles such as Centipede or Missile Command. A paddle controller[5] and an updated self-centering version of the original controller[6] were also in development, but never made it to market.

The primary controller was ranked the 10th worst video game controller by IGN editor Craig Harris.[7]


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2 Re: Atari 5200 Controllers on Fri 30 Mar 2012, 10:21 pm

sloan

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5200 controller is unfairly dissed by many. Refurbed and used on a console that has been properly calibrated, and these controllers are nice to use. My only complaint is the side mounted fire buttons that tend to fatigue the hand during longer playing sessions.

3 Re: Atari 5200 Controllers on Fri 01 Jun 2012, 1:53 pm

sloan

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For anyone interested, I offer refurbishing service on the 5200 stock controllers. All I charge is for parts through Best Electronics, and my labor is donated.

When I am done, they will work like the day they were new.

4 Re: Atari 5200 Controllers on Tue 17 Jul 2012, 7:41 pm

onthinice

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I have been lucky so far with my 5200 controllers. But it is nice to know someone can fix them when the time happens that they no longer work.

5 Re: Atari 5200 Controllers on Tue 17 Jul 2012, 8:29 pm

sloan

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The key to refurbing 5200 stock controllers is calibration. It is almost better for the user to calibrate the refurbed controllers to his/her console pots. Each 5200 console can be out on its x and y directional adjustment and even perfectly calibrated controllers will not work properly until the console adjustment pot is tweaked. Three main games that I use for calibrating the controllers and console pots are Breakout (need full horizontal range of motion), Missile Command (need to be able to cover the full x and y directions across your TV screen with the MC cursor), and Gyruss (needs to be capable of rotating the Gyruss ship around its intended range of motion with no stopping points). I also usually make sure that newly refurbed controllers work properly with Popeye. It is a quirky game that will not give full range of motion for the Popeye character even while all other games seem to work fine. I don't know why, but Popeye on the 5200 can be a bear for controller calibration.

6 Re: Atari 5200 Controllers on Tue 17 Jul 2012, 8:37 pm

TrekMD

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The only problem with the 5200 controllers is that they do not self-center; however, they are not bad controllers to use. You just have to get used to them. I exchanged mine for the gold upgrade that is sold on one of the Atari web pages (I just blanked which one).

Sloan, how do you do the calibration?


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7 Re: Atari 5200 Controllers on Tue 17 Jul 2012, 9:18 pm

sloan

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Actually, the later 5200 stock controllers had a rubber boot around the stick that helped with centering. Still not perfect, but lots better than the earlier ones with no boot.

As for calibrating the 5200 controller range of motion, I start always with Missile Command and the controller with the top casing half removed. Basically, I am looking into the guts of the controller and can see the two directional pots. Since I have the top controller housing removed, I have to use a paper clip or similar item to arc the start button location on the flex circuit. Once the game starts, I use the two directional arms to move the Missile Command on-screen cursor back and forth. If, for instance, the horizontal movement is limited to the right side of my TV screen, then I force the plastic pot arm right by a little bit and try the range of horizontal movement again. As you can see, it is trial and error until I get the full left to right horizontal range of motion with the lower (closest to the player) controller pot. Then, I basically duplicate the process with the top controller pot and the vertical range of motion. Ideally, the top (vertical movement) pot should have the pot armature located at 9 o'clock with the on-screen Missile Command cursor visually centered. Also, again ideally, the lower (horizontal movement) pot armature should be located at 6 o'clock with the Missile Command on-screen cursor centered visually. Sometimes, this is all the calibration necessary. However, I always follow by testing the controller next with Breakout. If the Breakout cursor will not move att the to the right or left sides of the screen, then it is necessary to nudge the lower controller pot armature to either side to make that possible. Finally, I test the controller with Gyruss. The trick with Gyruss is that you need the calibrated controller reassembled and the Gyruss ship need to move fluidly through 360° of motion with no stops or hitches. If that does not happen (and the controller still works great with Missile Command and Breakout), then it is time to take the 5200 console case apart and make slight adjustment to the directional movement pot. After adjusting to get the full fluid range of motion with Gyruss, make the controller still operates Missile Command and Breakout with no hitches. Last one to check is the quirky Popeye. Need to make sure Popeye can run the full screen from left to right, and can run up and down all the staircases. if not, the it is necessary to tweak the console movement pot, and even possibly the controller pots one last time.

Lots of wordiness, but I hope this description helps.

8 Re: Atari 5200 Controllers on Wed 18 Jul 2012, 5:10 am

onthinice

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Brilliant choice of games to use!! Cool Those seem to cover all the bases.

It is funny I have three 5200 controllers and I noticed that on one Popeye was a hard game to control. It makes sense now!

Thanks!!

9 Re: Atari 5200 Controllers on Wed 18 Jul 2012, 4:21 pm

TrekMD

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Wow, quite the process to get the controllers properly calibrated! Thanks for posting this!


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