How to Modify Atari Controllers to USB

By Scott Stilphen



The first half of this article is based on an idea that a friend of mine, Greg Bendokus, had for using an arcade joystick on a PC, using a serial game controller.  I helped with the project, and Greg wrote an article about it (LINK 1 and LINK 2).  In 2003, I wrote this article about how to make a USB version, using a Gravis Gamepad Pro USB controller. Other controllers can be used, although the specifics of how to convert them may differ.  This is a very simple project to do that only requires a few simple tools and can easy be completed within 15 minutes.  The best thing is, not only will it cost much less than buying one of those USB reproduction joysticks, you'll have a truly original joystick that the 'action' on those repros can't match!

Items needed:
Atari controller
USB controller
soldering iron (fine tip)
wire (7 pieces approx. 4Ē long each)

Start by taking the USB controller apart:

Take the Dremel and cut out the section shown:

With the chip in the orientation shown, pin 1 is the top-right pin.

Pin Function
19 ground (directions)
20 ground (FIRE)

Carefully solder a wire to each pin (except pin 1, which gets 2 wires):

Next, take the Atari controller apart and remove the original controller wire. Youíll need to remove the USB controller wire from the board and run it through the bottom of the Atari case. Be sure to note where the 4 wires go to on the gamepad board.

Before wiring up the gamepad to the Atari board, we need to cut the common (or ground) trace going to the fire button, in the area as shown:

Now, solder each wire from the gamepad board to the appropriate contacts on the Atari board:

Thatís it! All thatís left is to test it out to make sure all your connections are correct before you put the controller back together. Make sure none of the wire will get pinched by either the casing or screws.

Fire up your favorite emulator and let the games begin!

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