Made in U.S.A. – the Apple //e Joystick

You still need the perfect combination of Mountain Dew and mozzarella to get the high score in Frogger.
You still need the perfect combination of Mountain Dew and mozzarella to get the high score in Frogger.

No Apple ][ system would be complete without some form of game input device – either a joystick or set of paddles.

I recall owning a joystick with my original Apple //e and playing Moon Patrol, which is still a fun game to this day.

I picked this up for around AU$40, and have since seen it selling for quite a big higher, so I’m pretty happy with the purchase.

First game to try was Pacman. This wasn’t a game that I had originally owned, however I was able to load it via the Apple //e cassette port and the Apple ][ Game Server (many thanks to the operators of this website, any Apple ][ owner and/or enthusiast should definitely check it out.

Fantastic for all those arcade classics.
Fantastic for all those arcade classics.

Unfortunately using the joystick option made the game considerably harder. Pacman would immediately reverse direction and slam against a nearby wall. There were obviously some calibration issues.

There’s a simple calibration program for BASIC that reads the joystick inputs and prints them onto the monitor. So simple in fact, I can provide it here:

10 PRINT PDL(0)” “PDL(1):GOTO 10

This program will continually report the joystick position from a range of 0 to 255. An ideal ‘center’ number is around 127, however no amount of calibration using the joystick’s plastic calibration wheels would get me anywhere near this value on the X axis.

Playing Pacman on my colour television.
Playing Pacman on my colour television.

The joystick will need further repair, but for now I’ve overextended the calibration wheel on the joystick to force it to center. The wheel is slightly bent underneath the plastic joystick to accommodate the ‘correct’ calibration setting. A proper repair will likely require a new potentiometer, but I’m happy with this for now.

One of the calibration wheels is forced underneath the cover to overextend the calibration setting - not recommended.
One of the calibration wheels is forced underneath the cover to overextend the calibration setting – not recommended.

The actual joystick itself responds very smoothly in all directions, and is self-centering in this configuration. The entire unit feels solid but not impractically heavy. It features two trigger buttons, which is often all you will need for most games.

I often have it stored on top of my Monitor ][, putting it easily in reach when I want to break out some classic games.

With the Apple //e Joystick, arcade favourites like Pacman, Space Invaders, Galaxian and Defender are now in the palm of your hand.

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Made in U.S.A. – the Apple //e Joystick

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