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Why controllers do not define the 5200


TJSLAPSHOT
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In reading everyone's comments on the "hating on the 5200 thread", I felt compelled to respond to what I noticed was the overwhelming drawback / complaint. First, you probably all own a 5200 or you wouldn't be here right? I take pride in knowing I'm part of a very small and exclusive group of gamers that love the 5200. The bottom line for me is this...the controllers helped shape the 52 into what it was. In a way, it helped make the system unique! Only the boldest of individuals would dare collect for the system, right? We are drawn to it BECAUSE it's an outsider. BECAUSE it was a "failed" system. We know the truth though...there were some amazing games and the system is a sophisticated, classy beast. The controllers are what they are. Part of an awesome retro console and I personally can overlook them. (Except on the apple level of Pac Man...Jesus. Lol)

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It's interesting to read that, dude. I don't personally own a 5200 (and I actually have never seen one in person either), but I would like to see what the system is really like. I just think it has been such the classic thing to say that the 5200 sucks. I also don't think that AVGN's review was very fair. He should give the console another shot at it (like a James and Mike monday). Maybe that would bring mew light to the system? I don't know. I will try the system whenever I get the chance ☺

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There was nothing unique about the controllers. The Intellivision and Colecovision had similar layouts and their ergonomics were 100X worse than the 5200's. Personally I love the 5200 controllers after they've been modified to make them work as intended.

 

The big issue with the 5200 is that you forked over hundreds of dollars for a system and the controllers (starting with the fire buttons) took a shit within months. You can't overlook a flaw like that when it leaves your 5200 as useless as a doorstop.

Now you get to box them up and spend your money shipping them back to Atari for warranty repair and then wait for WEEKS to get them back (only to eventually fail the same way). After the warranty is expired, you can keep spending your hard earned money on new controllers instead of games or buy EXPENSIVE aftermarket joysticks which required Y-Adapters and your original joysticks leaving you with a Frankenstein mess. And good luck with those when your start and reset buttons failed.

As far as flex-circuit revisions...too little, too late.

 

To make things worse, you didn't even have to use them. Leave your 5200 sit for several months and the next time your fire it up, half the buttons are dead.

 

To a collector with today's resources, it's a great system.

To the average consumer back in the early 80s, it was a flawed nightmare. The Intellivision and Colecovision controllers may have been painful to use, but at least they worked.

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It's interesting to read that, dude. I don't personally own a 5200 (and I actually have never seen one in person either), but I would like to see what the system is really like. I just think it has been such the classic thing to say that the 5200 sucks. I also don't think that AVGN's review was very fair. He should give the console another shot at it (like a James and Mike monday). Maybe that would bring mew light to the system? I don't know. I will try the system whenever I get the chance ☺

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Turbo, I hear you, but for me I love it in spite of the flaws. Its like someone who collects old Jaguars (cars). Most people would never do it because the stigma is that the cars spend more time in the shop than on the road. Maybe, but people love them anyway. Good point about today's collector vs. 80's gamer and resources. For me, ill just buy the controllers that I need when I need them. Game on!

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Controllers really were that bad.

A childhood friend worked all summer and saved for the system.

But in the end he returned it because of the controller issues.

And he loved Atari like it was family.

 

30 years later and we have the luxury of having rebuilt controllers and adapters.

So the system is more forgiveable. Lucky us.

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Without a Wico, for me, the 5200 would be unplayable.

 

I love the look and feel of the console and the cartridges. The cartridges really rock, IMO.

 

But without a controller alternative, to play its games, you're better off with any of the A8 systems and a 2600 controller.

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Yes, it has really become the in thing to bash the 52. Such a shame. If u get the chance u should check one out...if you love Atari, it will be your new favorite system. Thanks for the reply.

 

It has nothing to do with being in. The 5200 is an amazing piece of technology (especially because it stems from the A8 computers which I love to bits! All 8 of them to be exact!) but you can't steer the Titanic with a broomstick and for that reason, with the controllers it came with, made it a shit system to play on. Building up an entire library of 5200 games for years to finally get some new controllers and it was one of the biggest disappointments I can remember and literally sold everything related off in a matter of weeks to focus on my other Atari-related interests.

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Wow some of you must be really hard on your controllers. I think people were used to beating the hell out of their 2600 controllers...yanking them on every turn, mashing the button, throwing them, slamming them... I even had a buddy that used to bite them!! Literally chew the boot off the controller. That doesn't fly with the 52. Gotta be more gentle, precise... Its analog... You dont chug a fine wine...u savor it. I dont think people cared to try and change their playing style back then. They just wanted to bang on the sticks like an ape. Err org me like PONG...Like any new game or console, most require time to adapt. I personally think the controller issue is way overblown. And yes, imo its totally IN to bash the system because of its controllers. But, to each his own. I dont mind. Thanks for all the replys!

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No, the standard 5200 controllers really were that bad. It had very little to do with people mistreating the joysticks, it had to do with the technology used by Atari and specifically the use of carbon dots in combination with the flex circuits, leading to all sorts of (unforeseen?) issues. Read this webpage from Best Electronics for more information:

 

http://www.best-electronics-ca.com/cx52.htm

 

Few people in '82-'84 intentionally mistreated / mashed the Start or Reset buttons, yet they seemed to fail just as badly as the fire buttons. It was frustrating for all 5200 owners when all you wanted was to start a game of Mario Bros, but the Start button wouldn't register (and, even if it did, neither of the bottom fire buttons probably worked, anyway). It does not surprise me that most 5200 owners back in the day gave up on the system. Fortunately there are some alternatives available now (fixing the joysticks or using third party joysticks) which allow people to enjoy the system much more today vs. 32 years ago. It's easy to find four people willing to play Castle Crisis in 2016 with working controllers. It was much more difficult to find four people back in the mid-80's willing to play RealSports Tennis, learn an elaborate system for hitting the ball (only two keypad covers came with the game!) and cut off circulation to their thumbs by pressing these buttons down as hard as humanly possible (but still fail at getting them to register)!

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No, the standard 5200 controllers really were that bad. It had very little to do with people mistreating the joysticks, it had to do with the technology used by Atari and specifically the use of carbon dots in combination with the flex circuits, leading to all sorts of (unforeseen?) issues. Read this webpage from Best Electronics for more information:

 

http://www.best-electronics-ca.com/cx52.htm

 

Few people in '82-'84 intentionally mistreated / mashed the Start or Reset buttons, yet they seemed to fail just as badly as the fire buttons. It was frustrating for all 5200 owners when all you wanted was to start a game of Mario Bros, but the Start button wouldn't register (and, even if it did, neither of the bottom fire buttons probably worked, anyway). It does not surprise me that most 5200 owners back in the day gave up on the system. Fortunately there are some alternatives available now (fixing the joysticks or using third party joysticks) which allow people to enjoy the system much more today vs. 32 years ago. It's easy to find four people willing to play Castle Crisis in 2016 with working controllers. It was much more difficult to find four people back in the mid-80's willing to play RealSports Tennis, learn an elaborate system for hitting the ball (only two keypad covers came with the game!) and cut off circulation to their thumbs by pressing these buttons down as hard as humanly possible (but still fail at getting them to register)!

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No, the standard 5200 controllers really were that bad. It had very little to do with people mistreating the joysticks, it had to do with the technology used by Atari and specifically the use of carbon dots in combination with the flex circuits, leading to all sorts of (unforeseen?) issues. Read this webpage from Best Electronics for more information:

 

http://www.best-electronics-ca.com/cx52.htm

 

Few people in '82-'84 intentionally mistreated / mashed the Start or Reset buttons, yet they seemed to fail just as badly as the fire buttons. It was frustrating for all 5200 owners when all you wanted was to start a game of Mario Bros, but the Start button wouldn't register (and, even if it did, neither of the bottom fire buttons probably worked, anyway). It does not surprise me that most 5200 owners back in the day gave up on the system. Fortunately there are some alternatives available now (fixing the joysticks or using third party joysticks) which allow people to enjoy the system much more today vs. 32 years ago. It's easy to find four people willing to play Castle Crisis in 2016 with working controllers. It was much more difficult to find four people back in the mid-80's willing to play RealSports Tennis, learn an elaborate system for hitting the ball (only two keypad covers came with the game!) and cut off circulation to their thumbs by pressing these buttons down as hard as humanly possible (but still fail at getting them to register)!

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Ive got to say... What the hell were they thinking involving the keypad in tennis?? That made me laugh dude. I never had problems with the sticks malfunctioning but some of the configurations were just whack. That whole serving with the stick, button key combination was just out of bounds.

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My memories of the 5200 are different from what I hear online. My cousin had the 5200 and we played the system and loved it. The neighborhood kids thought it was an amazing system because the graphics upgrade was startling compared to the 2600. I remember us showing 5200 Pacman and then 2600 Pacman and just laughing at the 2600. The 5200 controllers were different, but they didn't break on us and we didn't give up on the 5200 system. Atari gave up on us and slowed in supporting the system. When I got into retrogaming around 1999, I was shocked to hear all the negativity toward the Atari 5200 because I had such fond memories of it. I don't know, maybe we were careful with the controllers. To me the 5200 was an all-around upgrade to the 2600. The system came in this immense box, had huge nice looking cartridges, and the controllers looked futuristic compared to the one button 2600 ones. We still kept and liked the 2600 and played favorites like Yars Revenge and Boxing, but the 5200 became the go-to system.

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For the millionth time, no one is making up or exaggerating the failure rate of the Atari 5200 controllers. They were called out for issues back in the day and they're still called out for issues today. It's not just failure from usage either - no matter how much you baby them - they literally fail from NOT using them sitting in the box. The design is undeniably, fundamentally flawed and there's no way to sugar coat it.

 

Now, with that in mind, you can still like and appreciate the system for all of its other, positive attributes (including a trackball controller that actually was beautifully designed). That's fine. But let's not pretend that people are just being jerks about the controllers. You can like something - in fact, you can LOVE something - and still acknowledge its blindingly obvious flaws.

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My memories of the 5200 are different from what I hear online. My cousin had the 5200 and we played the system and loved it. The neighborhood kids thought it was an amazing system because the graphics upgrade was startling compared to the 2600. I remember us showing 5200 Pacman and then 2600 Pacman and just laughing at the 2600. The 5200 controllers were different, but they didn't break on us and we didn't give up on the 5200 system. Atari gave up on us and slowed in supporting the system. When I got into retrogaming around 1999, I was shocked to hear all the negativity toward the Atari 5200 because I had such fond memories of it. I don't know, maybe we were careful with the controllers. To me the 5200 was an all-around upgrade to the 2600. The system came in this immense box, had huge nice looking cartridges, and the controllers looked futuristic compared to the one button 2600 ones. We still kept and liked the 2600 and played favorites like Yars Revenge and Boxing, but the 5200 became the go-to system.

 

Are you my cousin? Because that is exactly my experience too, except I was the one owning the 5200 and my cousin would come over & friends to play it. I've shared a similar story (not a million times though..). I got the 5200 with PAC-MAN included. I have to wonder that the 2nd or 3rd production run might have had slightly higher building materials (different flex circuit? more rubber around the stick) because it wasn't until around 1999/2000 that I discovered the negativity. I had 2 close friends who also had 5200's. one poor sap was stuck with a b&w TV, he could only play Q*bert for so many levels before he couldn't tell the colors apart! But all 3 of us in the same PA area played and loved our 5200's and nobody's sticks failed , at least not more so than our 2600 sticks would fail. The stock 2600 sticks would certainly wear out and we'd have to press right (for example) really hard to get it to register. Of course, by 2000, my 5200 sticks certainly did need fixing.

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Is there a technical name for the style of controller we're talking about? That is, the 5200/7800/Coleco/Intellivison "stick up top, buttons either side of the stick, keypad stuck somewhere (except 7800)?

 

Ergonomically I find all controllers of this style to be severely lacking, even when having 100% functionality. And that's being nice.

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