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I recently picked up a pair of Atari 2600 paddle controllers for use with my Atari Flashback 6. The Amazon store said in the product description that they had been "tested." However, they are barely responsive, and when they do respond control is quite jittery.

My plan is to open them up and see if there is anything obviously broken or dirty. Has anyone encountered this before? Is it possible to fix these?

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    re: "tested". Did they say whether the paddles had passed the tests? ;-) Jul 17, 2020 at 11:06

2 Answers 2

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So I loosely followed the instructions on this site: Atari Paddle Repair (Cleaning Jittery Paddles)

Once I had disassembled the "pot" and exposed the metal ring, I could see that the contact points were caked in 35 years of black gunk. Using a Q-tip and a light amount of rubbing alcohol, I was able to clean the contact points, being careful not to leave any fuzz from the Q-tip.

During reassembly, I made sure that the contact points (prongs) were bent as close to their original angle as I could get them. Once I had the "pot" back together, I also did a check for range of motion, and everything felt good.

I completed reassembly, and they now work good as new! Or, at least as close as I can remember what "new" paddle controllers felt like. Breakout and Super Breakout are now playable!

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(This is years after you solved it but just for completion...)

An inelegant method that doesn't involve taking a pot' apart is:

  • Spray switch cleaner (e.g. Servisol) into the pot's insides.
  • Turn the pot's knob back and forward to the limits a lot, say 10 times.
  • Repeat that a few times.

After that, they're much better, often good as new.

Goodness knows how many hi-fi volume/tone controls I fixed doing that in the 80s/90s but I left a lot of people happy with their rejuvenated stereos.

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  • Don't blindly use one cleaner for everything. Just applying contact cleaner meant for metal contacts and leaving it will set carbon-based pots/faders up for a rapid death. Look up when and how to use products like fader lube.
    – ssokolow
    Mar 7 at 14:27
  • @ssokolow, no-one said anyone 'blindly' did anything. Meanwhile, the results of a 20-year experiment showed no signs of 'rapid death' or any problems at all in every single repair, quite the opposite. You've been misinformed. All worked great for decades.
    – TonyM
    Mar 7 at 14:57
  • Given that manufacturers and various users all agree that you need different formulations for metal vs. carbon or conductive plastic, and that I've seen stories from people I trust talking about how it did significantly shorten the lifespan of the components they used the wrong formulation on, I think I'll take their word for it over yours. As for "blindly", I was describing my younger self, before I was aware enough to even consider that a contact cleaner meant for metal might attack carbon-based fader strips. I should have been more clear about that.
    – ssokolow
    Mar 7 at 16:15
  • @ssokolow, that's fine, we both respect that choice is our privilege. Equally, I'll take my long experience here over your one view. The number of these fixes I've done, the number of other engineers I knew who have, the long number of years and the zero failures found, with only one voice ever saying it's harmful, several decades after it never was once. Anyway, we can both leave it there and I'll wish you well. (Take us to chat if you want to continue, rather than more comments, but there's nothing more for me.)
    – TonyM
    Mar 7 at 16:34

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