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doubledown's Custom Controllers - Part II


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So a few years back I had started a thread detailing all of the custom controllers I was building at the time.  That thread got pretty long, and went on for about a year and a half...so I figured I'd start a new thread now that I'm back around, and have the time for some new builds.  

 

I have previously built several twin-stick controllers, for a myriad of consoles, themed for myriad of games, but I've always used the large 17" x 11.5" or 20" x 11.5" Hammond enclosures for these.  I wanted to try out a "smaller" enclosure, what I would consider medium-sized, to see how it felt/played in this smaller form factor.  So presenting my:

 

Robotron: 2084 Cabaret Edition - VVG Enhanced Controller

 

YieQwS.png

 

This was built into a 14" x 8.5" Hammond enclosure.  As this was going to be a smaller controller, I duplicated the artwork from the Robotron: 2084 cabaret arcade cabinets...as they were the medium sized cabinets...versus the large full-sized uprights and the small cocktail tables.  The original arcade cabinets used WICO Heavy Duty leaf-switch joysticks, and leaf-switch pushbuttons...all which are silent...as they should be.  But for this build I tried a new joystick made by QANBA, their Gravity Silent joystick w/ Cherry switches.  The key with this joystick, is that it uses key-switches...not microswitches...so they are silent...as they should be.  Additionally the joystick comes with both a square and round restrictor plate, so the round plate was installed, to match the round operation of the WICO originals.  Then for the iL pushbuttons, I installed Rollie Leaf-Switches...so they are silent as well.  These types of buttons don't have any sort of "factory" illumination options, as normally they were illuminated with some lighting source below the panel.  Sometimes in arcade cabinets this was done with a small florescent lighting fixture below the panel, and sometimes it was done with several strategically placed incandescent bulbs near the buttons.  Over the years there have been a few LED light options available at arcade parts suppliers, but they never seem to stay on the market too long.  They might be available for 6 months or a year, then they're gone, and something new is out...it's a bit annoying.  So I created a new LED lamp holding system for use with these types of buttons that I don't have to worry about them being discontinued, and included them here in this build.

 

WxDzL7.png

 

So the latching pushbutton in the upper right corner of the control panel surface is the On/Off switch for the LEDs.  As the ColecoVision does not provide power at the controller ports like the Atari consoles do, I have in the past installed a small battery pack for LED operation when needed.  In this instance, I simply wired the LEDs to the controller port, so the LEDs can only be illuminated when connected to an Atari (not a ColecoVision)...as I didn't want the extra expense and machining/installation time with this particular build.  And as the ColecoVision and Atari consoles (2600/8-Bits/7800) all share a standard joystick and 1st button wiring scheme, this controller can be used on twin stick games for basically any of these consoles.  The details of the controller/hardware are:

 

** Hammond 14" x 8.50" aluminum sloped top enclosure (braced, reinforced, & weighted)

 

** (2) QANBA Gravity Silent, w/ Cherry MX switches, w/ 2X springs, w/ GGG Hand Candy arcade red ball knobs

 

** iL PSL pushbuttons, w/ Rollie leaf switches, w/ VVG lamp holder w/ LED bulbs

 

** C&K 2PDT latching pushbutton switch, as On/Off switch for the LED illumination

 

** Rear-mounted cord cleats for cable management, w/ twin 10’ custom crimped controller cables, w/ port ID labels

 

** Robotron: 2084 cabaret arcade cabinet inspired, CPO artwork

 

Enjoy!

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You can send me a PM and let me know what you're interested in, and we can discuss.  FYI, my full portfolio of controllers is available on my website...linked in my signature. 

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Another twin-stick controller I made recently (for those that don't follow all my posts around AA):

 

Crazy Climber Edition - VVG Enhanced Controller

 

ITmsXZ.png

 

I made this one for the Bally/Astrocade homebrew port of Crazy Climber, as it is the only port of Crazy Climber, to my knowledge, that allows for an arcade accurate control scheme, on a contemporary console.  But as there is also a port of Crazy Climber for the ColecoVision/ADAM, one could also be built and wired for the ColecoVision/ADAM. Additionally, as the Bally/Astrocade wiring is all simply contact closures, and 1 potentiometer, with 2 short/simple cable adapters, this controller can also be used directly with a ColecoVision (or Atari and others), with 2 joystick and 1 button operation...which is all that is needed for the Coleco port.  Here's a LINK to the original post, detailing the build and the installed hardware.  

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  • 2 weeks later...

Back in 2019...I started making arcade/joystick controllers for the ColecoVision.  I gave this original model line, the moniker, "VVG Joystick Controllers."  These were built into re-purposed Hori HSS-09/12, Sega Saturn fighting stick enclosures, and were assembled with all new control hardware, and custom themed artwork.  The biggest problem with these, was that the donor controllers started to get a bit harder to find, and a little pricier, so after building around 30 of those, I started working with the larger Hammond aluminum enclosures, as they are purchasable as new, factory-made enclosures.  But I've still always wanted to have something in my lineup, like those original Joystick Controllers, in a medium-sized molded plastic enclosure, and now...I do.  So unveiling my:

 

Coleco Red Edition - VVG Joystick Controller, Mk. II

 

YJ2p6C.png

 

The enclosure used here, is a Pac-Tec, PT-10 Kit (Black), that is very similar in size to the Hori enclosures that I previously used, at approximately 11" wide x 7.9" deep, and it features a 15° sloped top.  The enclosure itself is a 2-piece, molded-ABS assembly, with the Keyboard Panel (control surface) and I/O Panel (rear panel) as separate aluminum plates...which makes them removable, and very easy to CNC machine...as 2 simple flat plates.  Additionally, the enclosure's assembly screws, thread into brass inserts in the upper half of the enclosure, and the keyboard panel screws, thread into steel Tinnerman nuts...so there's no fear of plastic screw bosses breaking, or plastic holes stripping out...with use...for any reason.  

 

The control hardware used in this build, features a Seimitsu LS-32 8/4/2-way joystick and iL PSL-C super short pushbuttons, and my previously, custom designed VVG ColecoVision PCB w/ Keypad, with C&K D6R key switches.  The joystick, as it comes from the factory, is a "clicky" microswitch joystick, with repositionable gates that allow for square 8-way, clover 4-way, or vertical/horizontal 2-way restriction, and there are optional gates available, that can provide circular 8-way and octagonal 8-way restriction...depending on the desired feel/throw.  As an homage to the original/vintage Midway Pac-Man arcade joysticks, this joystick was finished off with a 1-3/8" textured red polypropylene ball knob, and the chrome-ish shaft, was covered with a black, 14mm od shaft sleeve.  Aftermarket springs are also available for this joystick, to firm up the centering force/resistance if one prefers.  The iL pushbuttons, have era correct concave plungers, and also feature a true "clicky" microswitch operation, with several switch options available from several different brands, offering lighter/stronger actuation forces/feels.  The keypad buttons are soldered directly onto my custom ColecoVision PCB, and I adopted the original Hand Controllers' 10/2 coloring scheme, albeit red/black in this instance, vs. Coleco's standard gray/black scheme.  The keypad key legends, are printed directly onto the CPO, and are in the upper left corner of each printed "keypad square," above and left, of the physical round keypad button keys (hard to see in the picture above).

 

Now there are some of us, who do not need, to hear our controls go CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, to believe that they are working...and some even, who prefer, and even welcome, silence.  So as an alternative, there will also be a STEALTH version of this controller available. 

 

yGuPNT.jpg

 

Above left, is a Seimitsu LS-32 joystick and iL PSL-C pushbuttons, all with "clicky" microswitch operation.  Above right, is a QANBA Gravity Silent joystick and Ultimarc GoldLeaf pushbuttons...both of which make use of silent keyswitches...meaning no CLICK, CLICK, CLICK...when operating.  All depends on preference of course, but both options are available, (pushbutton color choices vary by manufacturer).

 

Now I realize, that as a ColecoVision controller, the obvious color scheme for this controller would be gray & black, but as a ton of 3rd party controllers back in the day used the black & red color scheme (WICO, Coin Controls, Amiga...others)...I find that it looks very era appropriate in black & red.  Of course a console matching gray & black version can also be created...built with a black ball knob, gray buttons, and 10/2 gray/black keypad buttons.  

 

That's the news for now.  I've already got a few other ideas/concepts for a couple of more variations of this new controller model.  I'll need to spend some time designing the artwork and deciding on the control hardware, but more on those soon.  Enjoy!

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  • 3 weeks later...

So after making the Coleco Red Edition - VVG Joystick Controller, Mk. II (posted above), I wanted to make a "STEALTH" variant as well, that would make use of the silent controls option...a QANBA Gravity Silent joystick, and Ultimarc GoldLeaf pushbuttons.  I was trying to decide what sort of artwork to use for this new controller.  I had thought about a Coleco Grey Edition...matching the ColecoVision console and the Hand Controllers.  Then I thought about theming the controller for a specific game, as I have done with other controllers.  And then I had the idea, that as this line of controllers is my Mk. II series...why not make a continuation, or sequel of a previous controller made for the ColecoVision.  So I present my:

 

Questar "STEALTH" Edition - VVG Joystick Controller, Mk. II

 

dLacSo.png

 

ZohvFu.png

 

The original, and extremely rare, Questar arcade stick controllers for the ColecoVision, featured a Coin Controls arcade leaf-switch 8-way joystick, and 2 ambidextrous sets of leaf-switch pushbuttons, wired for the ColecoVision.  One would then use a Y-adapter, and a Coleco Hand Controller (or similar), for any needed keypad inputs, as necessary.  For my Mk. II version, I opted to add the keypad, and remove the ambidextrous pushbuttons...to make it a more comfortable, truly full-featured ColecoVision controller...while maintaining the look, feel, and sweet beautiful silence of the inspiration.  Of course this controller could alternatively be built, as a replica of the original (ambidextrous joystick and pushbuttons, and with no keypad), but for mine, I wanted the keypad functionality built directly into the controller.  

 

Previously I had been asked for a close up picture of the keypad, so that the printed key legends could be seen better, and here that is:

 

nmtFbl.png

 

Enjoy!

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Continuing on with the theme of sequels, of previous arcade controllers for the ColecoVision, allow me to present my:

 

Fire Command Edition - VVG Enhanced Controller, Mk. II

 

yGq2fX.png

 

WxIGBY.png

 

For the Questar edition controller, as the originals were built into plastic enclosures, so is mine.  As the Fire Command controllers were originally built into metal enclosures...also, so is mine.  This enclosure is from the same series of Hammond Mfg. aluminum sloped top enclosures I've used many, many times before, but this particular enclosure is from their 15° sloped series, versus the 10° sloped series I normally use.  This 15° series also offers this 10.5" wide enclosure size, that isn't offered in the 10° series.  This 15° series, also features a small flat top section at the rear of the control surface, versus the continuously sloped top on the 10° series.  This flat top section, is large enough for me to install my 6 x 2 keypad PCB that I've used before on a few other controllers...while still building the control section of the controller ambidextrously, like the original.  Which keeps the functionality and aesthetics of the original, plus, adds a full 12 key keypad, to provide for full ColecoVision functionality, built directly into the controller.  

 

To me, the most iconic visual aspect of the original Fire Command controllers, is the large 45mm base, of the top half of the original Suzo joystick, protruding up through the control panel.  This portion of these joysticks, was originally intended not to be visible, as it would normally be installed into a thick wood control panel.  If using them on a thin metal control panel, there was an adapter plate sold, so that it would drop mount the joystick, so that most of this 45mm base was below the panel.  The Fire Command controllers were built without the use of this adapter plate, thus the 45mm base sticks up through the control panel surface.  Now these original Suzo joysticks have not been made in years...so I was trying to figure out how to achieve this same-ish look, in a modern/available joystick.  Then I remembered about the existence of this:

 

KGXYrM.jpg

 

The currently available, Suzo HAPP compact top-fire joystick...shares the same basic base design, of the original Suzo joysticks.  So I removed the bottom 5th microswitch for the top fire button, cut off the molded bat handle, drilled and tapped the joystick shaft to install a 5/16"-18 grub screw, which leaves me with male threads, to then screw on a 1-1/4" ball knob...very much like the originals.  The originals joysticks on the Fire Command were too tall...ergonomically, due to them not using the drop mount plate adapter.  The way I've built mine, drops the ball knob down about 1/2" compared to the originals...making it much more comfortable for a controller that you are going to be resting your hands on when playing.  The original controls of the Fire Command controllers were leaf-switch controls, but as the current Suzo HAPP joystick I started with is a microswitch joystick, I just kept it as such, and installed iL PSL-C concave plunger microswitch pushbuttons to accompany it.  Of course this controller could also be built with joystick 1 side, center keypad, and 2 buttons on the opposite side, or joystick 1 side, keypad in back, and 2 buttons on the opposite side..but for this initial one, I wanted to mimic the original as closely as possible...and provide the ambidextrous layout that everybody thinks they need.  

 

I have to say, I really like this new conversion joystick I've created (modifying the Suzo HAPP donor), and I definitely plan to use it again on other new designs.  Enjoy! 

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