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The 8-bit Joystick Gallery

Controllers collection

Cheetah Annihilator
To this day, it remains a mystery why on Earth Commodore chose this joystick to be bundled with their C-64 Games System. Despite the grand name, this is one horrible thing and way worse than anything C= themselves ever came up with. In fact, the only things it will annihilate are your wrists and thumbs. Not that many people were affected, though, since the C-64GS didn’t really sell any units to speak of.
Cheetah 125+
A Spectrum-compatible grip handle joystick. Cheetah appeared on the Finnish market towards the end of the 8-bit age, but the fact that most of their joysticks work with Speccies would suggest they had a fair market share in Britain.
Cheetah “Bart Simpson”
Cowabunga, dude! Now this is a sure-fire conversation piece. Somewhere around 1990 Cheetah released a series of joysticks looking like cartoon figures – in addition to Bart here, there was at least a Batman one. Actually, the joystick isn’t as awful gaming-wise as you might expect – I’ve used this one a couple of times, since it works with the Spectrum +3.
Commodore Paddles
A paddle is, in fact, nothing more than a set of potentiometers in a nice case. It allows for 2-player games through one joystick port, which was rather crucial on the VIC-20. Similar to standard Atari paddles.
Competition Pro
One of the most successful controllers, the Competition Pro combined the “ball head” design with a sturdy base and good (if a bit fragile) fire buttons. For some reason, a similar stick was also marketed as the “Prof Competition” – I’m not sure if it was the same controller or a clone.
Competition Pro
A microswitched, clear version of the Competition Pro. Thanks to Marq for the picture.
Camerica Freedom Stick
Infra-red was all the rage when this came out. It’s a cordless joystick with a separate receiver, which also has Nintendo compatibility. A nice idea, and a good-looking joystick, which unfortunately fails to deliver. The stick has too long movement for arcade-type games and makes a very nasty squeaking sound when moved. Also, the suction cups at the bottom do not work. This is probably why the stick was still in its box when we bought it. Well, then again, the box says it’s compatible with Nintendo, Sega and Commodore – it doesn’t say it’s good with any of them.
Advanced Gravis
It might surprise some people that this joystick had a digital version. Hugely popular as an analogue controller on the PC in its time, the digital Gravis isn’t half bad either. The long movements make it less suitable for action games, but for flight simulators and racing games this is definitely the biz.
The Joycard
Now, I do not claim to understand what the designer was thinking. Sure enough, it looks like a Sega Master System pad, but you hold it upright like this! If the idea was to create an extremely uncomfortable gaming experience, well, he has succeeded nicely.
Joystick
Well, if it is a joystick, and you’re short on creativity, why not just call it – ta-dah! – a Joystick! This is one of the bulk-label sticks that came and went in the late 80s. And as they went, there was much rejoicing.
Spectravideo QS-131
A representative of the later QuickShot family. Not very notable for anything much, since the designers were losing interest in the classic digital joysticks and moving towards the PC and console markets.
Spectravideo QuickShot II Turbo
One of the most masculine joysticks ever to appear, the QuickShot II Turbo was Ferrari red and had a very nice scoop in the base. It was one of the first consumer joysticks to use micro-switches, and was very popular despite a limited operational life.
Spectravideo QuickShot 1
This was the start of something big. The first-ever QuickShot joystick was not a design classic, but it was rather durable and had reasonably good control. Auto-fire and other gimmicks followed in the later QuickShots.
Spectravideo QuickShot 1
A special white version for MSX computers. Thanks to Marq for the picture.
Spectravideo QuickShot II
One of the joysticks that most people will recognize, the QS II sold by the bucketload in the mid-80s. It wasn’t excellent in any respect, but a good compromise between quality and price – and had auto-fire. The stick in the picture is actually the “Plus” version, which had micro-switches instead of the original metal sheet mechanism.
QuickShot II for MSX computers
Thanks to Timo Korhonen for the picture.
Sega SJ-200
The stick Sega bundled with their SG-1000 game console and sold for the SC-3000 home computer. Fits nicely into your palm, but the fire buttons are not that responsive.
Konix Speedking
Amongst all sorts of eccentric experiments with ergonomically styled joysticks, the Speedking was one that actually worked and did not cost a fortune. Micro-switches and a design that sat nicely on your hand made this something of a success. Konix later designed the Navigator, which notable for the way it created a blister on your palm, and killed themselves trying to release the Multisystem games machine. And yes, the Epyx 500XJ is the same joystick, designed by Konix.
Suncom TAC-2
Totally Accurate Controller, like it says on the stick. The TAC-2 deserves legendary status for its simple, yet ergonomic design and very high durability. It is based on an ingenious idea of a metal ball on a shaft, and is very damn near unbreakable. The only complaint might be the fire buttons, which are not suited for rapid-fire situations due to their slight unresponsiveness.
Suncom TAC-5
The big brother of the TAC-2 was not as widely praised as the predecessor. It is notable for the very loud clicking sound its micro-switches make, and this put some people off. Movements are long, so it’s not one for the fast-paced action games. I killed one of these playing Elite, for which it suited just fine. The handle also rotates 10-15 degrees, which gives a unique feel.
Track & Field special controller
Even long before Steel Battalion, you could buy controllers specially designed for certain games. With this construction of two RUN buttons and one JUMP/THROW button, you could actually get a very arcade-like experience on your home computer (the Track & Field arcade game had similar controls). Actually, buying this was very worthwhile, since you could easily save your money back by not killing all your other controllers in T&F.
The Turbo
Basically a clone of the QuickShot joysticks – as the name implies – but of a much poorer design and build quality. These were the sticks you picked up because nothing else was available
Commodore VG-115
Commodore marketed a number of different joysticks under their own brand. Judging from the way they varied from poor to excellent, they were manufactured in a number of different places. The VG-115 wasn’t that bad when it appeared, but it was dreadfully fragile and stayed in the market for too long. The Finnish computer magazine MikroBitti put it well in their joystick test in 1987: "Please, take this away. It even hurts to look at it."
Spectravideo Wizmaster
One of the more interesting experiments from Spectravideo. This pad-type controller could be used with all the different flavours of Atari sticks – i.e. Atari, Amstrad, Spectrum, MSX etc. – and you could replace the middle part to attach a different type of connector. Of course, the controller positively sucks and nobody cared, but hey, they tried.
Zipstick
Looks like a relative to the Competition Pro, but has much poorer fire buttons (micro-switches, but they are rather slow to use) and a very short connection cord. The stick in itself is not bad, and it can take a lot of abuse.

Boogie / Gentle Eye presented us with a box shot of the Zipstick. He still has these for sale, brand new, at http://www.ge.vip.fi .
Wico Command Control
The joystick that inspired the PKP logo. Looks rather phallic, but is quite alright gaming-wise if you can get past the typical soft Wico feel which will put some people off. Wico also had a stick called the Three-way which had two different handle types (grip and ball) in addition to this one clearly resembling a baseball bat.
MegaBlaster
A joystick that was extremely cheap in its time - and not half bad for the price. Especially if you were one of those monkeys with only four really small fingers.
Suzo Arcade
Very popular amongst MSX users, which is a bit surprising, since the MSX joysticks generally had 2 fire buttons with different functions. Maybe the origin of this joystick, Netherlands, had something to do with that. Very responsive microswitches and all in all a well built controller. Manu/PKP used his first one almost 20 years with no problems (then someone yanked too hard on the wires and he had to get another one). There was also a beige one to match Commodore 64 and a Turbo version with two buttons.
QuickShot pad (QS-129F)
Much like rock bands, joystick designers don't usually know when to quit. As has been the sad case here. Imagine the sheer delight of gripping this pad by the handles, using your right thumb to control your heavily armed spacecraft and your left thumb to fire.
Wico boss (QS-129F)
This American joystick was very highly appraised in its time, and it surely was both durable and rather ergonomic. I myself did not really fancy the long movements and unresponsive fire button, not to mention the handle which seemed to rotate at will. Wico also produced the Ergostick, a high-cost, high-quality Speedking look-a-like.
Spectravideo QuickShot IX
Kevin sent us a picture of the Quickshot IX and writes: "thought it was a huge trackball when I first spotted it, but the big ball is nothing more than something to rest your hand on... you can move it L, R, U, D, it just leans slightly rather than the ball rolling. It has a left handed/right handed switch & auto-fire and seems to be a standard Atari-type stick (tested it with my ST). The fire buttons are microswitched, too & have little LEDs above them."
Spectravideo Robotarm
No, this isn't a joystick, but a very close relative. To use this battery-operated robot arm you need two Atari-compatible joysticks! There was also a cartridge to connect it to an MSX computer - but apparently, they weren't very common.
Commodore Switch Joy
This was one of the last joysticks marketed under the Commodore brand. It had an eccentric design and a very unique feel which didn't please a lot of people... I would personally describe it as trying to move a screwdriver in half-frozen jelly. Thanks to Marq for the picture.
Commodore ???
A relic from the early days of Commodore. This is one of the sticks that appear in the nightmares of older gamers. Unresponsive, uncomfortable and featuring an awful fire button. What else do you need?
Logic-3 Delta Ray
Now, if this isn't enough fire buttons I don't know what is. Especially when you consider that most Atari-joysticks will only accept one fire Button function. But well, I guess it's nice to feel like Han Solo. Three of four suction cups have come off.
Gun Shot
Bleuughh... God-awful design, no response whatsoever and poor suction cups (missing three). This is the type of joystick that inspired this gallery. Excellent!
Suzo Prof Competition
Finally, visual proof of the Prof Competition. Amazingly similar to the Competition Pro :)
QuickJoy 1 Turbo
This is a small, grip-handle microswitch joystick from the early 1990s. QuickJoy sort of took over where the QuickShots left off, and even with some success. The most memorable stick must have been the QuickJoy 5 Superboard, a huge stick featuring a digital clock! Also, it's evident how well the QuickShot II Turbo actually sold - every other stick was called Turbo...
Cruiser
The Cruiser was notable because it had three-level adjustable tension. This was something of an acquired taste, however: I remember that some gamers (such as Nordic the Incurable, a long-time writer for MikroBitti magazine) simply loved the feel, whereas others (the makers of the afore-mentioned joystick test from -87) said the three levels were "tight, tighter, welded".

Boogie/Gentle Eye presented us with pictures of the Cruiser Turbo and the Cruiser Multi-Colour. He still has these for sale, brand new, at http://www.ge.vip.fi
Suncom TAC-3
Similar in looks to the TAC-5, but technically very different. No clicky microswitches, no turning handle, just raw, untamed gaming power. Seriously though, this wasn't half bad. Especially the handle is far superior to the TAC-5, and like most Suncom sticks, this will survive a nuclear blast
Ultimate Superstick / Joystick
Looks can be deceiving. This joystick appears extremely stupid, with a ridiculous amount of fire buttons and silly LEDs, poor styling and so on, but it's actually TEH BOMB. The ballhead design gives a nice, fast response, and the fire buttons are also easy to use - large but quick-moving. Even the suction cups work.