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Intellivision controller membrane replacement



Other than my main Atari 7800 console, the other (retro) console that gets a workout in my household is the Intellivision. 


I've always found the controls frustrating, especially the disc. Since I have two systems, I can actually compare what they are supposed to be like since one seems to have the controls working properly.  The unit that's a bit more beat up cosmetically is the one that seems to function better.  So I'd like  to get the main unit we use working in the same way. 


I searched for replacement controllers, considering building my own out of arcade parts, and even debated about swapping the controllers.  In the end I came across RWAP's replacement membranes.  Interesting enough, I found the original thread here at AA after purchasing them.


I have an Intellivision I, made in Hong Kong circa 1979 so I figured perhaps over the years the component degraded and worthwhile doing the replacement.




I ordered mine and about a week or so they arrived from the UK.  May have arrived sooner but with Covid-19 I wasn't really going to the mailbox every day.


The pair of membranes look in pristine condition and pretty much identical keypad buttons.






Here we are in 2020 and one can get amazing parts for an old system. 


Having done replacements in various Atari controllers, the Intellivision version takes more patience and I personally found it tricky.


Unscrewing the controllers shows the simple (non-)mechanical nature of this controller.




The trick to get these out is to slide the side buttons up.  The 5 layers should come off easily.




My circuit boards said REV E 1 and 2 for each of the controllers. 










The Replacement Process


  1. Open the controller by removing the four screws
  2. Once open take out the disk and the spring.  Keep track of the plastic thin disc that goes between the two controller layers.
  3. Slide up the two side buttons.
  4. Pull out the entire plastic circuits.  Nothing should be attacked or glued to the controller.  I suggest you make a note of the order.
  5. The replacement pieces come gently pre-folded.  On the two shorter keypad pieces do a proper fold on the two sides.  The better you fold it, the nicer it will sit snugly on the controller.
  6. On my controller, the attached foam pad ended up being too thick.  I used the replacement pad provided.  Peel the thicker pad gently.
  7. Fold the longer membrane with the clear piece sitting in between.  DO NOT fold it too much or you may break the circuit lines, fold in the clear sections to keep its shape.  No that the disc contacts are set lower than the keyboard, so you will need to.
  8. There should be two plastic pins above and below the keyboard that allow you to guide the mylar replacements and provide alignment.
  9. The tricky part will be to replace it.  Align the longer parts focusing on the keypad section.  Place the two smaller keypad pieces above it.
  10. Push the two side button sections in and put the buttons back in.  You may need to push the sides in a bit more although I found the action of putting the buttons back helped.
  11. Make sure the disc section sits centrally.  Place the white disk between the clear and the bottom layer.
  12. Place the spring and the plastic disc controller over the circuit.
  13. Screw the controller case back in.


I should note that the first time I installed it, I skipped the plastic thin disc and nothing worked properly.  That's when I also noticed the bulge due to the thicker pad.



Layer Order


The layer with the circuit contacts with the foam attachment goes to the very bottom, while the gold keypad will be the top layer.  The transparent long piece will go in between the two longer circuit membranes.







It's a tricky set-up and takes patience.  Before this I never bothered to see how the internals of the Intellivision worked.


It's great that RWAP included the thinner variety of the foam pad.


For Snafu or Space Armada, I can notice the difference.  For Pac-Man and Lock'n'Chase it's pretty much the same, so I'm guessing it's the game or my skill.


I will probably order another pair just to have the parts.


I'd love to find replacement brand-new side buttons or disc just to spruce things up a bit.


Overall I'm very happy with the replacement part.


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