Evolution of the Console Controller – Atari 5200 Joystick (1982)

After the success of the Atari 2600, Atari released the 5200 five years later. The 5200 was not as successful as its predecessor. The controller included with the 5200 is notable for including an analog stick but has since gained notoriety for poor build quality, performance, and ergonomics. The controller features a full number pad, analog stick, start button, pause button, reset button, and four total action buttons split between the controller’s two sides.

The analog stick used during testing of the 5200 was a high quality device intended for remote control airplanes. Unfortunately, and to the chagrin of the engineers who built the 5200, the final controllers shipped to consumers used cheaper and lower quality parts. The stick is not self centering, is prone to malfunction, and renders some games like Vanguard (arcade version 1981) nearly unplayable due to unresponsive input. The controller’s other problem was an often awkward vertical style layout similar to the Colecovision controller. Locating the action buttons on the sides of the controller made it difficult to hold, especially if vigorously tilting the analog stick.

Third parties, such as Wico, made better quality controllers for the 5200.

Up to Classic Era – Back to Colecovision – Forward to Vectrex

Gift of Ben Wilhelm, 2012.025.002