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Atari 2600 jr: Controller Maintenance

I'd purchased two controllers from Holland (Game Over? in Amsterdam) and had received two more when I picked up this Atari from the rubbish dump. I have finally gotten a game worth playing and thought I'd test them all out.


The game is Bezerk.. and it literally is just that. Think of a 'top-down' Space Invaders. You're a human, you're in a maze and there's robots who want to shoot you. If they (or you) touch a wall then you're dead. Your goal is to knock them all off and enter the next room. It's really quite challenging for such a simple concept.

This game is only playable if your controller works! It turns out that only one of mine had problems. This specific controller would not happily move left/right. Up/down and the buttons worked... but I couldn't get my guy out of the way reliably on the X axis. A little more testing realised a cable fault! If I put pressure on the cable, right where it enters the controller, then I could move in all directions... the cable must be internally fractured.

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Pulling it open, you can see the cable come in from the top. It then slaloms through the plastic pins to keep any unwanted pressure/tension off the solder joints on the PCBs. Too much flexing, over time, has ruined the cable. The only method was to cut it and shorten the cable.

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The cutting, pairing and soldering was quite painless. I unsoldered an existing wire and then soldered on the new wire, matching colour-for-colour. The end result was a perfectly working controller! It turns out you can even shoot diagonally in Bezerk!

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Two of the four controllers I've acquired used to have the screw-in joyticks. One of the other two actually still had the joystick in place! For the ones that have been snapped off, I grabbed a screwdriver and applied enough pressure to have the phillips-head torque the plastic left-over out of the thread.

Now to find a suitable replacement screw-in joystick!

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