Evolution of the Console Controller – Atari Trak-Ball (1983)
The Atari Trak-Ball is a trackball controller compatible with several Atari systems, including the 2600. It features two action buttons and a ball that can be spun in any direction for directional input. Games like Missile Command and Centipede used a trackball in their original arcade versions, giving arcade purists a strong incentive to use the Trak-Ball controller. Unfortunately, the Trak-Ball was not well supported and very few games actually used it in trackball mode. Trackballs offer more precise control than digital joysticks, but in modern controllers trackballs have been abandoned in favor of analog sticks.
The Trak-Ball is usable in two modes, joystick and trackball. A small switch on the back of the controller toggles between the two. When using the controller in trackball mode, the cursor on screen moves at a speed commensurate with the ball’s spin speed. In joystick mode, the cursor moves at a fixed speed no matter how fast the ball is spun. Few games on the 2600 supported trackball mode and most were forced to use the lower precision joystick mode.
On loan from Bill Kendrick