77 votes
Accepted

Why are paddles called paddles?

They're called paddles because they let you play (electronic) table tennis. :) This article from CREATIVE COMPUTING VIDEO & ARCADE GAMES VOL. 1, NO. 1, 1983 explains. The reason this control is ...
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  • 9,875
61 votes
Accepted

Why did trackballs disappear?

Why did trackballs disappear? To start with, they didn't. They are still around and can be bought in many variations. For example, Kensington sells six kinds of trackball, and Logitech sells three. ...
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  • 168k
32 votes

Why did trackballs disappear?

Trackballs are Alive and Well I have a Logitech M570 for my desktop computer. I have another one for my laptop. I got another one for my daughter. Every few years they break and I replace them. I find ...
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27 votes
Accepted

Which retro system controllers are compatible with Amiga out of the box

The Amiga 9-pin joystick port is compatible with: Atari 800/VCS joysticks and paddles; Atari ST joysticks; Commodore Vic-20, C64, C64GS and C128 joysticks; Commodore Amiga computer joysticks and ...
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  • 9,875
22 votes
Accepted

How do I Interface a PS/2 Keyboard without Modern Techniques?

I'm attempting to build a Z80 homebrew computer to teach myself the basis of electronic design. I planned to start from something simple, like a ROM, some SRAM, a video chip and a Z80-PIO. So there's ...
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  • 168k
20 votes
Accepted

Atari 2600 paddle controllers slow, jittery

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 ...
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  • 2,334
19 votes
Accepted

Mind-Controller User Input from the late 90s

The device was called the MindDrive, from a company called "The Other 90%". It had a few games available including MindSkier, which was a downhill slalom game. Nothing in particular ever happened to ...
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  • 3,926
18 votes

How do I Interface a PS/2 Keyboard without Modern Techniques?

Just use Z84C40 SIO chip. It's a part of standard Z80 family chips and has two channels. I used it for PS/2 keyboard and USB connection to my breadboard Z80 computer running at 2.4576 MHz. Z84C40 can ...
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16 votes

Why are paddles called paddles?

Those analogue controllers were designed for tennis-like games (Pong, Breakout) where you control a rectangle which hits a ball. It's paddle enough for me.
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15 votes
Accepted

Could the BBC micro's analogue input be used to sample sound?

No, it can not be used to sample audio. As the link you provided says, in 12-bit mode it takes 10 milliseconds to convert a sample, and even in 8-bit mode it takes 4 milliseconds. That results into ...
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  • 17.2k
13 votes

What were the main uses of the large CRT and light pen on early PDP computers?

I got a job in the summer of 1965, programming a PDP-6 to put a model of a protein molecule on the display, as a stick figure. The molecule was 3D and the display was of course 2D, so I had to ...
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  • 4,450
11 votes

How do I Interface a PS/2 Keyboard without Modern Techniques?

PS/2 is a SPI protocol. Talking to stuff like your keyboard is literally what SPI peripherals are designed for. So the most obvious choice, if your micro has a SPI peripheral, is to use it. If you ...
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  • 1,724
10 votes

Why did trackballs disappear?

Dirt is another issue. In a mouse, the hole where the ball is exposed is pointed down and stuff naturally falls out. On a trackball it naturally falls in. Goop, especially skin oils, gets stuck to ...
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10 votes

Did any devices use the Commodore 64 joystick ports as outputs or two-way communications ports?

The dongle for the PaperClip word processor plugged into joystick port 1. It read bits 0 and 1 from the dongle and wrote bits 2, 3 and 4 to control it. Keyboard interference probably wasn't an issue ...
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  • 3,011
8 votes

How do I Interface a PS/2 Keyboard without Modern Techniques?

If you really want to do it the shift-register way, there are 9 bit shift registers available. If you do a search at digi-key for '9 bit shift register', then sort the resulting table by number of ...
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8 votes

Why did trackballs disappear?

As other have noted trackballs aren't dead ("disappeared"). But compared to other input methods trackballs are indeed much less popular or widespread as they once were. Cost, scale, competing ...
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  • 1,202
8 votes
Accepted

Player 1 / Player 2 input for Space Invaders

Many arcade games came in upright and cocktail versions, using the same PCB assembly for both versions. They usually had one dip-switch position on the circuit board to designate the cabinet type, ...
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  • 915
8 votes

How does the rotary control button of Forgotten Worlds/Lost Worlds encode rotation?

As @user3840170 said, it looks like the mechanism is similar to the wheel mechanism in a mouse, which would make it a type of rotary encoder... basically a bigger, more robust version of the ...
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  • 4,018
7 votes

Why did trackballs disappear?

Gaming I can't play FPS or flight simulators with a trackball because I cannot intuitively self-center them. The only games they're good for are bowling and Missile Command - because those are played ...
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  • 402
7 votes
Accepted

What combinations of modifier keys can you detect on an Apple II?

The Apple II descends directly from the Apple I and other similar home-built micros of the era in its handling of the keyboard: there is an address from which you can query whether a new keystroke has ...
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  • 32.4k
7 votes
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Did the keyboard "scancodes" available to Commodore PET software differ between models?

The PET keyboards did have something akin to scan codes. Electrically, the keys were arranged in a matrix of rows and columns, and scanning the keyboard involved selecting each row in sequence (via ...
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  • 11.3k
7 votes

Which retro system controllers are compatible with Amiga out of the box

It depends on what you call "compatible". On any DB9 joystick, the directions and at least 1 button will work If you're aiming 1 button joystick, then you can pick any controller you'll ...
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7 votes

What is this "switch register - display" and what was it used for?

I'm not familiar with this particular model but this type of "front panel" was found in many early mainframe, mini, and micro computer systems. While this example is among the simpler ones, ...
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  • 1,614
7 votes

What is this "switch register - display" and what was it used for?

A "switch register" or "sense switches" provides a way for the CPU to read a binary input without explicitly using the I/O bus. Due to the name "switch register," I ...
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  • 1,796
6 votes
Accepted

Name for rotary dial controllers?

I have always heard them called "dial boxes".
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  • 1,726
5 votes

What were the main uses of the large CRT and light pen on early PDP computers?

On the PDP1 at least they were used to play video games! Specifically SpaceWar, a predecessor to Asteroids (and every other top down game, really) https://www.masswerk.at/spacewar/
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5 votes

Did any devices use the Commodore 64 joystick ports as outputs or two-way communications ports?

The Inception 8 joysticks adapter uses a joystick port for two-way communication between C64 and Inception board. Basically, a program at the C64 would send a command sequence via the joystick port, ...
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  • 4,080
5 votes

What happened to Spatial Freedom and the Astroid controller?

Here's a contemporary (ca. 2013) White Paper produced by the company. There was one US patent granted, which (US7706916B2) has "Status Expired - Fee Related" and another which (...
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5 votes
Accepted

What is this "switch register - display" and what was it used for?

Caveat: ATM I can not identify the machine this was taken from. I can only describe what can be said from parts visible. I will not go into further speculation. Seems to be part of a front panel (i.e. ...
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  • 168k
4 votes

Atari 2600 paddle controllers slow, jittery

(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 ...
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  • 1,589

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