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For their new console, Microsoft came up with a design that combined the best features of the Playstation's upgraded Dual Shock controller and the Sega Dreamcast's more boxy unit. The Official Xbox Controller was included with every new console sold starting on November 11, 2001, and was also sold separately for $30. The controller, known variously as the Duke, burger, and other colorful names, polarised the fanbase as much as anything regarding the big black box did in the early days, and even Microsoft eventually had second thoughts and replaced it with the Xbox Controller S in shipped consoles.

The first impression one tends to make of the controller is that it's pretty beefy. It's somewhat wider and taller than the GameCube controller or Dual Shock, and much heavier. The massive handgrips, each containing a separate vibration motor, completely fill a naturally curled hand, instead of simply resting against the palm. This is a serious controller that will do serious damage when you die one time too many and hurl it at the wall. The real reason for the controller's larger size, as well as the justification for the extra space taken up by the logo in the center, is the presence of two expansion slots on the top of the unit, just like on the Dreamcast controller.

The controller features 2 analog sticks, 6 face buttons, two triggers, and a D-pad as well as Start and Select (renamed to Back) buttons. The layout is, again, more than a little reminiscent of the Dreamcast, as the left analog stick is above the D-pad and the buttons are arranged into a tilted diamond.

The two analog sticks are the primary method of controlling most Xbox games. The two sticks feature slightly different designs- the left stick has a large concave cup on top while the right stick has a more rounded top with a tiny concavity and a crosshair design. Most first person shooters for the Xbox use the left stick for movement and the right stick for aiming. Like the sticks on the Dual Shock, the Xbox's sticks can be clicked in to act as two extra buttons. The buttons on the face of the controller are divided into 2 groups- a set of 4 primary buttons and a pair of "alternate" buttons intended for optional or rarely-needed commands. The main buttons are labeled and colored A (green), B (red), X (blue), and Y (yellow), while the alternate buttons are white and black and are placed above and to the right of the main cluster. Unlike most of its competitors, the buttons are quite bulbous and made of a transparent plastic that makes them look like some sort of candy. All the buttons can sense 256 levels of pressure, although this is less useful than it is on the PlayStation 2 because of what's on the back of the unit- A pair of analog triggers, one under the face buttons and one under the left analog stick. The controller's D-pad is oddly shaped - a perfect circle with four smooth lumps in the cardinal directions - and rarely needed for games but, again, this is less important due to the flexibility dual analog control allows. The Back and Start buttons are unremarkable.

On the top of the controller are a pair of expansion slots. The lower slot can accept memory cards or third party peripherals, the top slot in addition to those items can also accept the Xbox Live communicator (the module and slots are keyed so that the communicator will not go into the lower one). Inserting the communicator adds a mute button for the headset and a place to plug it in.

The controller communicates with the console using a modified USB port (the wire protocol is the same, but the plastic jack is changed to ensure that only licensed peripherals can be inserted). The cord has an inline safety release, so that a hard yank will disconnect it from the console instead of pulling it down onto the floor.

The most common criticism directed at the controller is that it can only be used comfortably by a person with freakishly large hands. While this is of course a highly subjective statement, Microsoft was eventually convinced of its truth, and discontinued the original Xbox controller in favor of the smaller model that was originally intended for the Japanese market only. I personally have no trouble using either the original Xbox controller or a GameCube controller, its opposite in almost every way, so neither side of this argument may have much merit.
Sources:
Inspired by the excellent writeup for Dualshock analog controller.
http://www.xbox.com
http://www.xbox-scene.com
http://www.axess.com/twilight/console/

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