3600 Controller

OK so yesterday I had my Facebook status as saying I was “being frustrated by potentiometers” – a rather normal day for me, really. For whatever reason this prompted one of my friends to suggest I build an Xbox 360 controller inside of an Atari 2600 controller shell. And I thought “That’s dumb enough to work!”

A mere 5 hours later I had what you see above – the 3600 controller! This is an Atari 2600 controller with wireless Xbox 360 controller guts inside of it – batteries too. The big red “fire” button is “A”, other buttons are attached to the top:

Granted this wasn’t a pay project (rather a UPP – un-paid project!) but it was a nice break from what I was doing. It isn’t usable for standard Xbox 360 games but adequate for many Arcade games and other low-level tomfoolery.

For the sure-to-be thrilling story of how I did it, check after the break. I kind of did a cheat to get controller guts into this small of a shell…

Oh you can also download this pulse-pounding demo video of the controller in action.

Note: despite the mention of Facebook, I prefer to limit it to people I know / acquaintances, so please do not be offended if friend requests go ignored.

The bottom of the controller. The “guide” button is recessed so you won’t accidently hit it during an intense round of whatever it is you’re playing. Small, precisely drilled holes flank it to expose the fabled “Ring of Light”.

The 3600 controller was accomplished by using the guts of not a normal 360 controller, but those of a Guitar Hero 3 controller, of which I still have several laying around, many months after the fact.

There’s a lot of stuff inside this guitar but all we really need is the “brains”, the circuit board on the upper left. This will easily fit inside of an Atari 2600 controller and give us pinouts to the most useful buttons.

Also shocking is that I have innumerable Atari 2600 joysticks laying around. (If you are in the Verona, WI area and want free crap, by all means, stop by!) I decided to use the original circuit board for the joystick, and mount the Xbox 360 stuff below it.

Base of the joystick with the batteries installed. It took me a whole episode of Law & Order to Dremel out the surfaces enough for the batteries to fit with the top of the joystick installed. See, I’ve got a TV on my workbench and that’s how I time things – by how many episodes of Law & Order it takes. Or, in the daytime, Charmed, not that I would ever admit to watching it…

Original joystick PCB attached to the PCB of the guitar controller. I used thin ultra ATA wire to make these connections so the whole thing would be easier to cram together. The D-pad from the guitar is mapped to the Atari joystick. Although the standard D-pad on an Xbox controller is all but unusable (sorry MS) most arcade games still map to it, making it – or rather the pinouts – worthwhile in this application.

Here’s both sides of the joystick with the guitar PCB, batteries and everything installed. It’s all fairly compact, though because I stuffed the back full of components the top half of the joystick will have to be secured into place by side-mounted screws in the final unit.

Close-up of previous.

Well that’s all I can say about this project. Catch you next time…

69 thoughts on “3600 Controller”

  1. Me rickey podcast! Me rickey podcast!

    Me rickey podcast! Me rickey podcast!

    Me rickey podcast! Me rickey podcast!

    Me rickey podcast! Me rickey podcast!

  2. Bwahaha! CLASSIC!… Literally! =)

    I thought it would take a few days to hash out… or at least to source a 2600 joystick. I should have known better =)

    Totally awesome =)

  3. This is the kind of mod I love – straightforward, fun, not necessarily practical at all times but still useful some of the time, and done in a day or two. I live for that kind of stuff.

    I plan on attending MGC, so maybe I can help you unload some of that “free crap” you mentioned…

  4. Source a 2600 joystick? Ha! Have you ever been in my basement?

    Yeah this was a fun quick project though I stayed up WAY to late working on the site entry.


  5. Hmmmmm, I wonder why you were frustrated by poteniometers….. 😉

    Pretty impressive mod in a little package!

  6. All I can say in Bring on the XBLA Dig Dug / Pac Man and all those other classic arcade games … this is perfect I would love to get one 🙂

  7. That is just plain kick-ass. The video was great too. Nice TV, by they way. How well does it work for Pac-Man CE? So when does mass production begin? Think of all the MGD you could buy. 🙂

  8. I would be really impressed if you figured out how to add a left thumbstick to the Microsoft Wireless Wheel.

  9. Cool little project. I especially loved the video and the creative editing. It was extremely amusing.

  10. The sync button is on the insides, with the batteries. RB and LB aren’t there, and by time I started working on this TNT was doing a Law & Order marathon.

    Now all we need is CHARMED: THE MOVIE directed by Robert Rodriguez of course.

  11. It might be useful (if you ever care to do this again) if you could make a switch somewhere that lets you swap out what button the big red button represents.

    A lot of games use primarily one button, but it isn’t necessarily the A button (although its probably the most likely used).

    Awesome hack Ben!

  12. Awesome! How about into a Coleco controller? There are enough buttons on them.

    As for Charmed…well, let us take a gander….3 chicks (2 quite hot) usually in skimpy tight outfits and almost Baywatch levels of running. I’M IN! Wife watches for the plot, I watch for the clothes.

  13. What inspires something like this? Were you sitting there playing Pac-Man Championship Edition one day and think to yourself, “Something’s missing. I know! I need a stiff rubbery joystick that I can chew on every now and then! To the Ben Heck Workshop!!!”

    You’re a sick man, Mr. Heck. Sick sick sick.

  14. Man, I LOVE mods like these! Nice job, seriously. It’s the quirky “but why?” mods that I really dig. And yes, it’s a good break from the EXPECTED monstrous mods.

  15. i love this mod…i’m curious to see what you could do with the Mad Catz Xbox Live Arcade Retro Stick. The joystick has to much play and i would like to see a little bit more of and old school influence. Any ideas Ben?

  16. I just wanted to let you guys know that I watched Port Washington, and it was Awesome!
    It looks great, its funny, original, and inspiring.
    I want to make movies after watching it. The editing is fantastic!

    Thank you for working so hard and presenting it to the world for free!

    I encourage everyone who hasn’t watched this or other of Ben’s films to watch them.
    He isn’t just a mad genius with gaming systems.

    Marc Lenard
    Mobile, Alabama

  17. Nice Mod. Do you know where or how the star power is triggered on a wired xplorer contoller? I want to make a street fighter stick and need the LB to do so. I have figured out that its the star power trigger.

  18. i’m interested in your project, i have an arcade stick without a xbox 360 pcb but i have the same as yours, could you help me with a wiring diagram, actualy with your pictures i can’t find the good solder points for my own arade stick, thank you very much

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