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Homemade Cigar Box Arcade Controllers


Would you be interested in purchasing a homemade cigar box joystick?  

19 members have voted

  1. 1. If yes, how much are you willing to spend? (Price in USD)

    • Not Interested
      5
    • Less than $50
      5
    • $50-$75
      6
    • $75-$100
      3
    • More than $100
      0
  2. 2. Preferred Joystick Layout

    • Right Hand Joystick
      3
    • Left Hand Joystick
      10
    • Ambidextrous (dual button) (+$10)
      6
  3. 3. Preferred Joystick Type (click all that interest you)

    • Atari 2600 One Button
      6
    • Atari 7800 Two Button (+$10)
      11
    • "SMS Plus" (works with VCS, SMS, and "extra button" VCS homebrew) (+$10)
      8
    • Star Plex (all button)
      0


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Update 6-24-2017:

Update: I have decided to venture out into a new direction. Since the original run of cigar box joysticks have not sold well, I've decided to retire from up-cycling cigar boxes.

 

Instead, any future controller boxes I build going forward will start with ready made woodcraft boxes and will be stained and finished prior to sale. I think it will benefit my business to move away from tobacco advertising and result in nicer finished product. I recently received a commission from for a custom Starplex controller from Sramirez2008 and the controller turned out so nice, I really didn't want to send it off.

 

 

= = = = = = = = = =

 

Introductory video:

 

post-33189-0-52227400-1472530062.jpg

 

Hi guys. I am creating this thread to gauge interest to see if anybody is interested in buying homemade Cigar box joysticks. I found a supplier from a local cigar shop who sells cigar boxes for peanuts. The boxes are made from premium wood, are very sturdy, and each one is unique. I would like to convert these pretty boxes into functional joysticks to sell to the AtariAge community. Initial run will probably be about 10 or so custom joystick controllers. I haven't decided on a base price yet but the bill of materials is probably about $30 for a one button 2600 controller and goes up from there, not counting shipping. I don't work for free.

 

I can produce the following configurations in either left or right handed variants:

 

  • Atari 2600 one button
  • Atari 2600 ambidextrous (dual fire with 7800 support) (+$10)
  • Atari 7800 two button (+$10)
  • "SMS Plus" (VCS, SMS, and VCS "extra button" homebrew compatible) (+$10)
  • Starplex (+$15)

 

Each joystick will come with a 6 foot detachable cable and black joystick knob by default.

 

Add-ons (subject to availability)

 

  • Additional 6 foot extension for 12 feet total (+$5)
  • Hard Candy transparent or opaque joystick knobs (+$7.50)
  • 10Hz Turbo fire switch install (for standard one button joystick and Starplex only; turbo function may not work properly on non-Atari systems that do not supply VCC to pin 7) (+$30)

 

I will not be accepting payment for anything until the joysticks are ready to ship. Shipping will probably be around $15 domestic USA but is subject to change as I will get a final estimate later on. I may consider Canada but it will be expensive. As I use lead based solder, these joysticks are not RoHS compliant, and therefore I can not and will not ship to Europe or PAL territories.

 

If interest is there, I may produce a small run of up to 10 joysticks in varying configurations and post them for sale here. If they sell out, I'll consider making more.

 

***Also be advised that these joysticks will be assembled in real used cigar boxes which were used to transport and sell cigars at retail. There may be slight cosmetic damage or imperfections to the box as the result of past handling as well as necessary modifications I must make to the box (ie drilling holes for components). Also as they were used to transport tobacco, they all have varying degrees of odor. I try to let them air out in the garage by storing them with the lids open, but the smell will not go away completely. As a non-smoker myself, I respect that certain people may have objections or sensitivities towards the scent of tobacco or incense. I do not find the odor disagreeable or overbearing but if you or a family member are sensitive to such smells, I suggest you do not buy one. There will be no refunds for "stinky joystick." :razz:

 

 

Edit: I added a 6th question to the poll. Should I paint them or leave them with their original graphics intact?

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Since you can open them you could make those joysticks bottom switching 4/8 way if anyone desires .

I'm using the Paradise Arcade joysticks. They have a restrictor plate taht can be set to 4-way, but requires a phillips screwdriver to reposition it. The joysticks available with rotating actuators are a lot more expensive and would increase the cost. I want to have a cheaper option than a lot of the professionally made sticks out there, with an "artsy" feel to them, being repurposed cigar boxes.

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I like the idea of a wood box that opens. :thumbsup:

It's perfect for those who have no woodworking skills or lack the tools to make a box of their own.

 

I'm a bit of a wood snob though, and I really do not like paper stickers or advertising. I'd like to see what these wooden boxes look like with the paper removed, sanded down and stained with a little 50%-50% mix of turpentine and linseed oil.

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Great idea!

 

(though, I don't want one)

And that's perfectly fine. I need feedback to see whether this idea is viable. It would be a shame to try and build a bunch of boxes then stuff them with components and try to sell them on AtariAge or Etsy if nobody wanted them.

 

I like the idea of a wood box that opens. :thumbsup:

It's perfect for those who have no woodworking skills or lack the tools to make a box of their own.

 

I'm a bit of a wood snob though, and I really do not like paper stickers or advertising. I'd like to see what these wooden boxes look like with the paper removed, sanded down and stained with a little 50%-50% mix of turpentine and linseed oil.

What every joystick needs is an enclosure. Parts are readily available. True most people lack the woodworking skills or tools. I have basically three woodworking tools, a circular saw, a plug in handheld drill with no torque limiter, and a router. Cutting panels accurately with a circular saw designed for fast rip cuts on a job site is a pain. I have to build a rip guide, line up the wood, clamp the work piece to an immoble object such as a table. So building a box can take hours of work. I've made some nice controllers for myself, but woodworking, even if I had access to a woodshop, would be time consuming.

 

What I see is people selling custom made arcade controllers online from anything from wood to rolled steel, typically with professionally printed marquees and acrylic tops. They are also outrageously expensive! Not everyone can get the arcade classics 7800 prosystem for a whopping $255! I want the budget-minded gamer to have something he or she can use.

 

The cigar box largely fits the role of suitable enclosure. While they aren't plywood strong, they should hold up to light or medium use fairly well, and are lighter than a plywood or mdf box. My Atari 7800 controller was built of 3/4" mdf and weighs a ton. It feels so solid and tank built that it could probably stop a bullet, or feels like it.

 

Getting back to the cigar box, it serves the role of providing a sturdy enclosure, and by using Japanese style low profile joysticks, they are the right size to house a stick and one or two buttons. These were made for a single purpose, for storing, transporting, and selling cigars, before being discarded. So at least one tobacco store in my area sells them to artists, hobbiests, and collectors because they're "too good" to throw away.

 

As for the boxart, that is an aesthetics thing. I do remove the surgeon general warning and any UPC or price stickers but leave the rest. I'm going for a kind of art vibe with these by not refinishing them. I could sand the boxes down and paint over it, but prefer not to. Since I would be essentially scavenging the boxes, each one is unique and different. That makes each controller box a one-of-a-kind functional piece of art. I could see them going to both art collectors and gamers. So while I don't plan on "giving them away", I'm also not looking to earn a huge amount.

 

Repurposing found objects is not a new concept. Look at all the guys making airplanes out of beer cans, or welders making sulptures out of scrap metal. I could see gamers who also appreciate art wanting these.

 

EDIT: I added a 6th question to the poll. Paint them or leave the original finish intact?

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While I like the cigar box look I don't know how well one would hold up to even light duty as a controller.

 

Of course you could make a frame out of heavier stuff to go in the box to take the physical stress and since the box is the decorative bit that people would see the internal frame wouldn't have to be pretty just functional.

 

Cool idea I made arcade sticks bitd but I had access to a workshop and the parts cost enough I made very little on it.

 

Oh yeah I voted about? 100, ambidextrous (sp), mastersystem compatible with dual button 2600 support., leave the cigar artworkx(maybe clearcoat) and no probs with smell. I actually like cigar smell.

Edited by Video
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While I like the cigar box look I don't know how well one would hold up to even light duty as a controller.

 

Of course you could make a frame out of heavier stuff to go in the box to take the physical stress and since the box is the decorative bit that people would see the internal frame wouldn't have to be pretty just functional.

Very true. I only have access to handheld power tools I bought with my own money and it is a PITA to make accurate cuts on a circular saw.

 

You may have a point regarding durability but they seem sturdy enough. Also where can you get a wooden boxed enclosure for less than $5? Unfortunately I dropped the 1878 (classic Atari) box on the floor when woodworking and one of the bottom corners dinged. My previous arcade projects (links in my sig) were made out of plywood and/or MDF with spray paint. They weigh a lot and have been banged around and rebuilt with little to no signs of wear. My personal banger 7800 stick is made of 3/4 inch mdf and I've jokingly said it was bulletproof. I dount it would stop a bullet but would take a pretty powerful blow to break it. It's fallen off a dresser, etc with zero visible damage. My big sticks have Happ Competitions in them but I'm using low profile Japanese style sticks with light actuation pressure for these.

 

The black squarish 1878 box (classic Atari) is beautiful though. Also the Jabak (Starplex) didn't take well to routing out the hole for the 9-pin. An inside rear panel loosened slightly but fortunately it stays put without need for glue. The lid is now warped slightly on the Starplex such that the right side doesn't sit flush, but it was straight before I started drilling. The 1878 lid is flush but after placing rubber feet on it, I noticed the bottom has a slight wobble to it. However gaming with the lid closed and sitting on a table or lap, I think they would be okay.

 

Cool idea I made arcade sticks bitd but I had access to a workshop and the parts cost enough I made very little on it.

Do you have online picks of your past arcade sticks? I'd like to see them. :)

 

I tabulated the BOM (bill of materials) by placing mock orders at Paradise Arcade Shop purchasing 5 Japanese style joysticks, buttons, and knobs, then divided by 5 to get $18 per controller for one button standard. $5 for the cigar box. $3-4 each for six foot Genesis extension cables at console5.com. (if customer believes a six foot cable is too short, I could throw in another for +$5). They get cheaper when you order 10. The female Dsub headers are $3 at Radioshack but I could get them cheaper from a parts supplier like Mouser, Digikey, or Jameco. Wire and solder are negligible as I have spools of those. Rest of the tools I can reuse.

 

Anyway the BOM totals about $30 for a single button controller. So how much do I charge for my labor? I felt I should at least charge equal for labor and parts. This would set the base price at $60. Shipping will be $10-$15 most likely as I have to also have to buy packing material and boxes in addition to postal fee. So total around $75 shipped. Then I pay transaction fees of 2.9% for Paypal (if I sell here), an additional 10% for eBay (9 dollars or so which would reduce my $30 comission after costs down to $21 :razz: ). Etsy would be a better marketplace as they carter to handmade goods but I imagine they take a similar cut compared to eBay. Then I always run the risk of building items and not sell it.

 

Anyhow the "under $50" option before shipping will probably never happen but I included it in the poll to gauge what it's worth. Just looking into the business aspect gives me greater appreciation for those who sell handmade goods to any collector hobby, whether it's fine art, woodworking, video game repros, or whatever. If I should decide cigar box controllers aren't a viable endeavor, I may do an instructable or something.

 

Oh yeah I voted about? 100, ambidextrous (sp), mastersystem compatible with dual button 2600 support., leave the cigar artworkx(maybe clearcoat) and no probs with smell. I actually like cigar smell.

Thanks for taking the survey. Surprised there's actually interest in the homebrew compatible SMS. Seems most folks would simply use a Sega Arcade stick. I need to build a prototype! ;-)

 

I am a non smoker but don't mind cigar smell actually. Secondhand cigar smoke I actually find far less offensive than cigarettes. The boxes did reek a bit when I got them but leaving them sit in the garage for a week to air out helped. No I cannot smell them closed anymore and it's only faint when I open them and inhale. Kinda like being beside someone who just returned from a smoke. However I'm aware some people have legit sensitivities so any odor however small may be an issue for some.

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Unfortunately no pics it was the late 90's so probably less interest back then. Should have kept one. You could even buy molded 9 pin cables back then instead of the modern screw cables you get now. About $75 was what I expected for a base controller though. Most people that voted less probably don't consider the expense of the parts and I assume don't think of labor at all. With access to the shop it still took timer to make the boxes and roughly double the parts was what I intended to charge. Back then you had real money options instead of paypall only so shipping and fees were more reasonable.

 

I need to see if I could find my blueptints for the controllers. They were just Ambi single fire controllers so they weren't complicated. I sold theme for $50 but then lots of stuff was less then

 

Anyhow goodluck with your project. Look forward to seeing more pics.

Edited by Video
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I'll just leave this here...
post-33189-0-11713000-1473913502_thumb.jpg

Hi XXXX XXXX,
Thank you for shopping with Paradise Arcade Shop!

Order details
Order: XXXXXXXX Placed on 09/14/2016 22:50:04

Payment: PayPal Pro
Reference Product Unit price Quantity Total price SE-LB-35-Y Seimitsu LB-35 Yellow $2.75 1 $2.75 LB-39-S Seimitsu LB-39 Smoke $3.75 1 $3.75 LB-39-R Seimitsu LB-39 Red $3.75 1 $3.75 SE-PS-14-GN-K/Y Seimitsu PS-14-GN-K/Y $3.75 1 $3.75 SE-PS-14-GN-K Seimitsu PS-14-GN Black $3.75 4 $15.00 SE-PS-14-GN-K/W Seimitsu PS-14-GN-K/W $3.75 1 $3.75 SE-LB-35-W Seimitsu LB-35 White $2.75 1 $2.75 PS-14-DN-K-R Seimitsu PS-14-DN-K Red $3.25 2 $6.50 PS-14-DN-K-S Seimitsu PS-14-DN-K Smoke $3.25 2 $6.50 PAS-BlackTop Paradise Black Top $9.50 8 $76.00 Products $124.50 Discounts $0.00 Gift-wrapping $0.00 Shipping $19.50 Total Tax paid $0.00 Total paid $144.00
Shipping
Carrier: Domestic USPS Priority

Payment: PayPal Pro

:D

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Bump. Joystick parts came in yesterday. However the 24mm buttons I planned on using for the dual button joysticks are a bit smallish for my liking, so I'm ordering full size 30mm buttons for the two-button sticks, at no additional cost to the buyer. I am building these with the same level of care as if they were for my own use so I'm only using the best parts. Initially I was concerned about space but I checked and there is plenty of room for a pair of 30mm buttons with the wider boxes. The 24mm buttons I previously ordered will be saved for future use in my own personal projects...

 

Assuming nothing goes wrong with the project builds, I will be offering a total of 8 joystick boxes for sale:

 

5x classic single button Atari (3 left + 2 right)

1x ambidextrous Atari (7800 internally wired)

2x two button sticks (one right handed, one left handed - customer can choose between 7800 or Sega wiring)

 

Pricing will be $60 + shipping for any of the single button sticks, and $70 + shipping for any of the dual button sticks. Cables are 6 feet long, +$5 for extra 6 foot extension (12 feet total). I even ordered colored balltops to match the colored buttons on four of the sticks, at no additional charge to the buyer! These should fit fine in a medium flat rate USPS box with plenty of bubble wrap padding; I'll only need to unscrew the balltop to ship it.

 

I can't say when they'll be ready, but I'll start a thread in the Marketplace forum when they are all done. Wish me luck... ;-)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I made my third and final cigar box "prototype" over the weekend.

 

post-33189-0-08069100-1474949168_thumb.jpg

 

This joystick uses a DPDT toggle switch to select between Sega and Atari pinouts. I used the schematic I created last year and can confirm it works flawless with SMS, 7800, and VCS homebrews that read the "extra button." Due to the fact that 7800 buttons do not use a common ground, it was necessary to add a third button for Sega support.

 

The important purpose for building this third prototype is it proves that my previously untested Sega schematic works as intended. Controllers offered for sale will not have a toggle switch or 3rd button and will be permanently wired for Sega or Atari wiring (user decides). K.I.S.S. design principal. |:)

 

Sega pinout will work for the vast majority of joystick compatible Atari VCS titles, but a tiny minority may have compatibility issues when paddle inputs are high. Harmony users will need to hold Fire upon boot to properly navigate the menu.

 

= = = = = = = =

 

In other news, I am in the process of building the controllers now. and have drilled out four controllers and populated them to test for mechanical fit (nothing wired yet). They are coming along well:

 

post-33189-0-49538700-1474950175_thumb.jpg

 

I do not like the way silver screws clash with the matte black boxes, so I ordered some #8-32x3/4" black oxide button top screws from albanycountyfasteners.com There will be no charge for these. ;-)

 

The black boxes are also a bit dirty and have some smudging and sawdust still on them but will be cleaned up before I sell them. Otherwise they are gorgeous! :lust:

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I could see myself being interested in a cheap 7800 solution. Those Edladdin joysticks are nice, but I'm not looking to pay a lot for something I will barely use. Maybe these cigar box controllers could be viable, cheaper alternatives to other joystick options. I'd be curious about the price.

 

*edit - Read the rest of the thread, didn't realize you made this weeks ago and already talked about price.

Edited by Austin
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Wow! I'll admit that I wasn't entirely sold on the idea of using cigar boxes for joystick housings at first, but those Java Toro boxes look fantastic! They seem big enough to sit comfortably in your lap and I know they'll look great with black oxide screws. How secure are the lids on them when playing? I'm still looking for a lap sized dedicated Atari 2600 stick, and your offerings sure would be a lot more economical than what I was planning on building myself.

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Wow! I'll admit that I wasn't entirely sold on the idea of using cigar boxes for joystick housings at first, but those Java Toro boxes look fantastic! They seem big enough to sit comfortably in your lap and I know they'll look great with black oxide screws. How secure are the lids on them when playing? I'm still looking for a lap sized dedicated Atari 2600 stick, and your offerings sure would be a lot more economical than what I was planning on building myself.

Thanks for the kind words Jin. They are pretty stable actually. The Java Toro boxes have 1/4" MDF lids rather than plywood if that matters. If anything, the joystick mounting plate will help to stabilize it. Those large rectangular labels took a lot of effort to pull off and clean the adhesive without damage to the finish. There's a tiny speck of damage to the finish on the right-hand box (with the gray buttons) near the joystick screw hole which I will need to touch up with black hobby paint.

 

I have one more black box wide enough to be used for an additional two button controller (fortunately there's no large decals on this one) and several more smaller wooden boxes that I can use for single button. I initially bought enough boxes to build eight sticks, but I've since purchased 4 more and made an additional prototype from one of them. I have enough sticks for 8 controllers before I have to order more parts, but I'll see if I can build and sell some of the existing stock before I order more parts.

 

I could see myself being interested in a cheap 7800 solution. Those Edladdin joysticks are nice, but I'm not looking to pay a lot for something I will barely use. Maybe these cigar box controllers could be viable, cheaper alternatives to other joystick options. I'd be curious about the price.

 

*edit - Read the rest of the thread, didn't realize you made this weeks ago and already talked about price.

No problem. I will continue to bump this thread whenever I have updates, and there will be a for sale thread when the sticks are ready. ;-)

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  • 1 month later...

Bump.

 

I got off my tush and finished the wire harnesses during Thanksgiving holiday. The controllers are all complete now and tested working. I will have 8 total cigar box Atari controllers available for sale starting Monday in right and left hand configurations. Five single button 2600, one ambidextrous (7800 internally wired), and two dual button 7800 controllers. Base price is $60 single button, $70 dual button, plus medium flat rate USPS Priority shipping. US and Canada residents only (shipping to Canada will not be cheap). A thread will be created in the marketplace section with photos when they are available for purchase.

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  • 6 months later...

Update: I have decided to venture out into a new direction. Since the original run of cigar box joysticks have not sold well, I've decided to retire from up-cycling cigar boxes.

 

Instead, any future controller boxes I build going forward will start with ready made woodcraft boxes and will be stained and finished prior to sale. I think it will benefit my business to move away from tobacco advertising and result in nicer finished product. I recently received a commission from for a custom Starplex controller from Sramirez2008 and the controller turned out so nice, I really didn't want to send it off.

 

Here's some before and after shots:

35436614406_52a970b571_h.jpg

35089987240_7cecd1ddfc_h.jpg

35089944700_db91eab881_h.jpg

35309558572_5f49455e89_h.jpg

34666594063_ef1c543780_h.jpg

 

 

Stain I used is Minwax Ebony (advertised as black but in practice is really, really dark brown, and shows off the grain very well), paired with Minwax Polyurethane satin finish. I could also get small cans of lighter stain colors if desired. The exact darkness of any stain varies and is determined partly by the number of applications, the duration it sits before it is wiped away, and the specimen of wood used.

 

The woodcraft box I used for the Starplex is sold individually at Hobby Lobby stores or online as a set of four boxes which presumably ship nested inside one another. The one I used above is the smallest of the four boxes. The next largest could probably be used as an enclosure for Fight sticks, but the rest are just too big to be practical. Maybe the jumbo one would make a mean Robotron if it was shallower. Unfortunately finding a local source is not without supply issues. Since they come as sets, Hobby Lobby won't restock the small boxes until they sell off the bigger sizes. :P

 

Anyway, these small rectangular grooved boxes would make great two button controllers in either right hand, left hand, or ambidextrous configuration. I also found some awesome rustic looking square boxes (without grooves) that would make great single button 2600 controllers. There were also a couple boxes I found at Micheals that would work (smooth lids).

 

Finishing does take extra time and materials, so I would have to factor in labor and increase the price slightly. Base price would be about $80 for single button. I really don't make much off these as it is but I enjoy the building process. Drying time factored in, it would take about as long to stain and finish one as it would to do six at once. But if business is slow, I don't want to sit on completed controllers for six months or more.

 

So once again I would like some community input to see if this idea is worth pursuing. If I can sell a few on AtariAge, I may open shop and start selling on Etsy as well. Take care.

 

Hopefully soon the mods will let me edit the first post to close the polls and update the info.

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I feel this is probably a better direction for you to move in. I think the idea of a cigar-box set might be off putting. People might think, "Man, I don't want something that's going to smell..." (even though it might actually not). I don't know. I think you're going in the right direction though. Good luck with the new builds. :thumbsup:

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I feel this is probably a better direction for you to move in. I think the idea of a cigar-box set might be off putting. People might think, "Man, I don't want something that's going to smell..." (even though it might actually not). I don't know. I think you're going in the right direction though. Good luck with the new builds. :thumbsup:

Thanks. The scent thing was more of a disclaimer than anything.

 

They do have a mild odor for the first couple weeks to a month or so after I removed them from the cigar shop. Honestly the remaining cigar boxes have been sitting now for over 7 months so any detectable odor is long gone. Some of them smelled kind of nice actually even when the odor was present. There was never a "smokey" scent because the tobacco inside was never lit or consumed, and IMO cigars tend to smell sweeter than common cigarettes anyhow.

 

None of that really matters though. For the last couple years, I've been bombarded by anti-smoking advertisements like thetruth.com or whatnot, and tobacco has just gotten a very negative stigma in society, which I find ironic in some ways considering the fact that marijuana comes one step closer to legalization every year. I do drink on occasion but I've never smoked and don't plan to start.

 

And honestly, that bit of extra effort to stain and finish woodcraft boxes seems worth it in the end and results in a better more professional looking product. It has been a learning experience for me for sure.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I had no idea you were makinging joysticks until I saw Austin's unboxing on youtube. I love what I see! You've posted a lot in one of Kevtris' Analogue NT Mini threads, which is where I started on Atariage. I have a question: Do you have any plans on doing a NES/Analogue NT mini build? Something with 8 input buttons and a direction pad, like the 8bitdo controller that comes with the system? Or even a standard NES joystick to use with the NT Mini. Something like either of those would be great for all of the NT Mini retro cores. I'll definitely be keeping a pulse on what you are doing with your new boxes and look forward to supporting you.

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I had no idea you were makinging joysticks until I saw Austin's unboxing on youtube. I love what I see! You've posted a lot in one of Kevtris' Analogue NT Mini threads, which is where I started on Atariage. I have a question: Do you have any plans on doing a NES/Analogue NT mini build? Something with 8 input buttons and a direction pad, like the 8bitdo controller that comes with the system? Or even a standard NES joystick to use with the NT Mini. Something like either of those would be great for all of the NT Mini retro cores. I'll definitely be keeping a pulse on what you are doing with your new boxes and look forward to supporting you.

I can definitely hook you up with an NES controller. The schematic is fairly simple, one logic chip, the CD4021. If I build one, it will be all new parts, ie not harvested from an NES controller.

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