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 and a fire button. Although the joystick was made for the Atari 2600, it was also used for all models from the Atari 8-bit home computer line, and is compatible with the VIC-20, Commodore 64, Atari ST, and Amiga. It can also be plugged into the MSX, Master System, Genesis, and Atari 7800, 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.

Despite being woefully outdated now, the Atari 2600 joystick has become an iconic symbol for the early era of video gaming, and is even recognizable to many gamers who never used them.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, and, for several years after that, I played hundreds of hours of games with it.

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.
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 rubber sheath could be pulled off without too much force, and, for the CX40 model, 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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