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Bally/Astrocade - Arcade Controller


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While I’m finishing up the ICBM Attack controller that I’ve been working on (waiting on the last of the parts and finalizing the joystick bits, should be done this weekend), I got started on, and have now finished, my Arcade Controller for the Bally Home Library Computer / Bally Professional Arcade / Bally Computer System / Astrocade.  So allow me to present my:


Bally Computer System Edition – VVG Enhanced Controller




As the purpose of this project was to create for myself, a full-featured, true arcade type controller for the Bally/Astrocade system, (not a “game-specific” controller like I’m working on for ICBM Attack), I stylized this controller in the general likeness of, and matched the aesthetics of, the original consoles and their hand controllers.  So, like the vintage consoles themselves (expect for the white ones of course), it features woodgrain panels on the front, and on both sides…and has a black top/control surface, with gold accenting.  The console that I personally own, happens to be the Bally Computer System variant, so I included a matching logo from the cartridge storage cover, onto the front face of the controller. 






The upper portion of the controller includes an 8-way Joystick and a Trigger button (for games requiring only these controls), and the lower portion includes a control Knob and a duplicate Trigger button (for games requiring only these controls).  My initial thought regarding this project, was that there were going to be a few games that wouldn’t play well with this controller, as it would be very difficult to manipulate the Joystick with one hand, manipulate the Knob with a second hand, and somehow figure out a way to also manipulate a Trigger button, when necessary, with a third hand…for games like Gunfight and/or Missile (and a couple of others).  One possible solution, would be to use a joystick with a top-fire button, so that my two hands could manipulate all three controls.  But top-fire joysticks are fairly rare, and require an extraordinary mounting depth, due to the 5th switch being mounted below the joystick.  Personally, with tabletop/laptop arcade controllers like these, I really prefer to fully rest the palms of my hands on the control surface, and only use my finger/thumb tips to manipulate the controls.  But with top-fire joysticks, they really feel/play best, when you completely fist-grab the lever/ball knob, so that your thumb is free to operate the top button.  So, for these reasons, I opted not to install a joystick with a fire button, which I felt would sacrifice ergonomics. 


But then, when I was shopping for a potentiometer to use for the Knob control, I found out that there are a few models currently available, with a momentary push-button built into them; very much like the pressing/snapping downward of an analog stick, on a modern control/game pad (like those for Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo consoles).  So I ordered and installed one of these potentiometers with a built-in momentary switch, and topped it with a molded reproduction Atari Tempest knob that I have painted brown, to mimic the look of the knob on the original Hand Controllers.  Then, rather than “assigning” the controller knob a port number, like 1/2/3/4 (like the original Hand Controllers), I added a black text over gold background disc, with the Bally logo, into the recessed top surface of the knob.  Thus by using my left hand on the Joystick, and my right hand on the Knob w/ built-in Trigger button, I can play any game that can be played with an original Hand Controller, with this arcade controller.    




So there you have it, my take on a full-featured arcade controller for the Bally/Astrocade consoles, and below are the specifications of the control hardware:


** Hammond 14" x 8.25" aluminum sloped top enclosure (braced, reinforced, & weighted)


** iL Eurojoystick2 8-way joystick (Sg - 2-1/16), w/ Cherry microswitches, w/ threaded shaft (short), w/ 32mm black ball knob


** iL PSL-C Super Short Concave pushbuttons, w/ Cherry microswitches (D41X), (2) black


** TT Electronics potentiometer w/ momentary pushbutton, w/ Atari Tempest knob (molded reproduction)


** Rear-mounted cord cleats for cable management, w/ 10’ custom crimped controller cable


** Bally Computer System console inspired, CPO artwork



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Absolutely beautiful man, this coming from a long time Bally / Astrocade collector 😉


I had the Computer System Model as well as a teen, so I can dig your choice.


Bally / Astrocade controllers are hands down the best of the best of the best, hands down, but I bet this beast would give them a run for their money.

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13 hours ago, 128Kgames said:

Absolutely beautiful man, this coming from a long time Bally / Astrocade collector 😉


I had the Computer System Model as well as a teen, so I can dig your choice.


Bally / Astrocade controllers are hands down the best of the best of the best, hands down, but I bet this beast would give them a run for their money.

Thanks...it came out beautifully...and it plays incredibly well too.  


The black with gold accenting aesthetics (matching the console), is also very reminiscent of the gorgeous Pontiac Trans Am Special Editions, and the John Player Special Lotus F1 cars of the same era...so it's all very era correct. 


The front logo could just have easily been any of the others (Home Library Computer, Professional Arcade, Astrocade), but like I said, the Computer System variant is the one that I have, so I built this one to match my console.  

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