Have you ever tried to play Pong, Tempest, Breakout, Kaboom! or any other spinner game on your computer? If you have, you may have noticed something. These games suck with the mouse, and are even worse with the joystick. So, something else needs to be used.

There are several ways to hook yourself up with a spinner controller. I will detail those ways below.

First you can simply buy a new spinner and PC trackball interface kit from Happ Controls, www.happcontrols.com (the trackball kit works for spinners as well, although they don't bother to mention this on the website). You should also buy a few buttons as well.

Parts to order

58-9100-L   LONG HORZ PB RED W/.187 MS & NUT (3 of them)          $   4.95
                                                          TOTAL   $ 181.35

But this method is really expensive. There are cheaper ways of doing things.

The Atari method

One method is to hack an Atari 2600 paddle. This is fairly straight forward. You will need a set of Atari 2600 paddles, and one of those very cheap analog PC joysticks. It is of utmost importance that you get one of those really cheap joysticks (like one of those $5 models), more expensive ones may not be truly analog, and they may have more complicated wiring.

Start by cracking open the PC joystick, and locating the two pots (knob like spinny thing) near the bottom of the unit. These will either be attached with 3 wires, or will be soldered to 3 points on the PCB. Unsolder, or remove these, and then wire them back up with a couple of feet of wire. Then plug your stick back in and see if you can still trigger the movements by turning the newly rewired pots by hand. If so, then it is time to move on to the next step.

The stick part of the joystick should have 3 or 4 wires coming out of it (more if the stick has more than 2 fire buttons). Cut these, and then extend them with several feet of wire. Touch them together one at a time to see which ones trigger which button press. (you will only need to be able to trigger two buttons for this project).

Now take the screws off the Atari paddles and open them up. Remove the pots from each one, and replace them with the ones you have wired up to the joystick. Then cut the wires from the button and wire that up to the two wires that trigger a button press on the joystick you are hacking. Repeat this for the second paddle. Then replace the backs, and you are in business. (Two paddles on one joystick port for less than $20).

The real arcade spinner method

Now how about a real arcade spinner? Ok, first you have to locate one (I got mine from Ebay for $5). It doesn't matter what type you get, only that you get one.

Now you can either interface it to a joystick (if so, follow the Atari paddle instructions, but you will have to get your own buttons. I reccomend the same buttons you would have bought from Happ Controls for the expensive method), or hack up a mouse.

First make a box to house your spinner (wood is fine, or you could mount it directly into your desk if you are really cool). Now each spinner is going to be different, but all of them have the basic effect of turning a shaft underneath. For the Atari method,you want to attach that shaft to the pot from the joystick (and then wire up a button or two as well).

Now for the mouse interface hack. First locate a second mouse that will work at the same time as your primary one (this may take a little testing, but I have gotten serial with PS2 to work, and PS2 with USB (never tried serial with USB). Then crack one of the mice open. Now this is the tricky part (as all mice are different), you are going to have to locate the little encoder wheel for one of the axis' and make the spinner turn that somehow. (I have done it by drilling a hole through the mouse case in the appropriate place, and using superglue to affix the encoder wheel to the spinner shaft.

Now for the buttons. Each mouse button should trigger a little switch that is soldered in either 2 or 3 places. Unsolder each one of these switches, and solder nice long wires in their place (touching the right wires together should trigger mouse clicks). Wire these up to your arcade buttons, and you will be good to go.


The expensive method is easiest, but produces almost identical results to the much cheaper "mouse hack". The Mouse hack (and expensive method), do have the best feel, but the joystick hack will work in more applications (I am thinking both Arkanoid on a Nintendo emulator, and of possible uses in FPS games when I say this).

Good luck, and feel free to send me a /msg if you get stuck.

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