Connecting old school joysticks to the Arduino and more from VintageGamer

The fab-o-lab blog was my new brainchild this year, but I blogged already since a few years, one of my most popular posts on that blog was ‘Connecting old school joysticks to the Arduino’. So it’s no bad idea I think to repost it here. More vintage gaming stuff here 

So you’ve got some old school joystick with a DB9 connector lying around, time to connect it an Arduino board.

The pin out’s for the joystick connector (male connector) I took from the original Atari pin out, as we see later on this pin layout is the most generic one and works with joysticks from Atari, Commodore, Sega, Quickshot, …

Pin’s 1 to 4 are up/down/left/right

Pin 6 is the fire button

Pin 8 is the GND

If you need to support more button’s then there’s some bad news every manufacturer seems to did his own extra button wiring, so for simplicity I took a one button configuration. We simply need to connect these pins to the the Arduino digital pins. I choose pins 3 to 7, you can choose other configurations but for me it was more easier to choose 5 pins next to each other as I reused an old serial switch box to recuperate the DB9 male connector on it, so I simply cut the wires from it.

Next I soldered the wires comming from the male DB9 to the  pins as in the picture. Pins 7 -> 3 Up/Down/Left/Right/Fire

A soldered 1 pin to the GND wire.

Then it was time to test this setup, I used an Arduino Decimilla for the test, with a small sketch.

 Joystick test Sketch

 Reads the digital direction and button state from Atari compatible joystick.
 Some code reused from the Sparkfun joystick shield test sketch.
//Variables for the buttons
char buttonUp=7, buttonDown=6, buttonLeft=5, buttonRight=4, buttonFire=3;
void setup(void)

 pinMode(buttonUp, INPUT);
 digitalWrite(buttonUp, HIGH); //Enable the pull-up resistor
pinMode(buttonDown, INPUT);
 digitalWrite(buttonDown, HIGH); //Enable the pull-up resistor

 pinMode(buttonLeft, INPUT);
 digitalWrite(buttonLeft, HIGH); //Enable the pull-up resistor
pinMode(buttonRight, INPUT);
 digitalWrite(buttonRight, HIGH); //Enable the pull-up resistor

 pinMode(buttonFire, INPUT);
 digitalWrite(buttonFire, HIGH); //Enable the pull-up resistor 

 Serial.begin(9600); //Turn on the Serial Port at 9600 bps
void loop(void)
 Serial.print(digitalRead(buttonUp)); //Read the value of the button up and print it on the serial port.
 Serial.print(digitalRead(buttonDown)); //Read the value of the button down and print it on the serial port.
 Serial.print(digitalRead(buttonLeft)); //Read the value of the button left and print it on the serial port.
 Serial.print(digitalRead(buttonRight)); //Read the value of the button right and print it on the serial port.
 Serial.println(digitalRead(buttonFire)); //Read the value of the button fire and print it on the serial port.

 //Wait for 100 ms, then go back to the beginning of 'loop' and repeat.

Then I did  some testing with joysticks and gamepads I had lying around:

Quickshot standard, original from my C64 works exactly like the Atari.

Atari joystick

Atari gamepad with button 1 & 2 both buttons trigger the same fire button but can be wired different to get both working.

Sega Master System gamepad, only button 1 works.

Sega Mega Drive gamepad, only button B works.

We can conclude that all support the directional buttons and fire button but the extra button’s are a different story maybe for another blog post ?

Finally I hooked the joystick up to my Uno/Gameduino setup, that’s why I didn’t used pin 2 as it’s used by the Gameduino.

I remapped the pins in the Gameduino Asteroids sketch and the whole thing runs perfectly. Although the Asteroids game doesn’t use the fire button.



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