Archive for the ‘Yesss!’ Category

Poor Man’s Atari/C64-Style USB Joystick (actually not that cheap)

Juni 3, 2018

… two years ago I had this Raspberry Pi 2 lying around and had this idea of turning it into a retro-gaming machine. In particular I had the Commodore 64 (C64) in mind, and some of my favourite games like M.U.L.E., or Hat Trick. A friend of mine is still trying hard to get the original equipment going, but it’s showing its age… interestingly, all floppy disks still work without a single glitch.

The only problem with emulating a C64 is that there are no appropriate joystick choices available. Basically there are these options:

  • Just use a PC keyboard with arrow keys. If you are used to old DOS games like Dangerous Dave, Rockford, Commander Keen, or Accolade Grand Prix Circuit which all used the keyboard as an input device, then this might be actually a good choice.
  • Buy some cheap (or more expensive) USB gamepad. The main problem with this is the controls are sort of reversed in the sense that the firing buttons are on the right side to be used with the right hand, and the directional controls are on the left side to be used with the left hand. Whereas you would hold a C64 joystick with the right hand and control the directions of the player, and use your left hand to fire.
  • Use an analog PC joystick. These usually don’t really fit for retro-gaming, since C64 joysticks were digital. Just feels odd.
  • Grab some old C64 joysticks, and use a USB adapter. The main problem is that C64 joysticks are getting more scarce and scarce, and won’t last forever. Everyone who played Summer Games will know what I mean.
  • Build your own from arcade parts.

I went for the latter option. This is usually favored buy those who are into arcade emulation. In fact there are some nice pre-build arcade sticks out there but they have the same problem like gamepads: The joystick is usually on the left side, and the buttons are on the right side.

So I ordered an arcade joystick (really just the stick) from Sanwa, a Japanese maker known for high quality. Also two red buttons from Sanwa.

Moreoever I bought some cheap wood from the hardware store. The first step was to assemble a wooden case, and trying to make it as compact in order to get as close to the feeling of a real C64 joystick as possible. The wood parts were glued together with some Cyanoacrylate glue, and then I drill in some additional screws to give some additional stability.

case1

case2

case3

I have to say that cutting the board and assembling it was way more difficult than expected. For one, I didn’t have the best tools: I used an electric jigsaw to cut the wood into pieces, but being accurate is quite challenging with a jigsaw. For the holes of the joystick itself and the buttons I used a manual fretsaw. Getting nice cuts there was also difficult. The holes might be easier to do with some wood drill bits and a drilling machine, but a) I don’t have drill bits and b) in this case the Sanwa buttons had a 22mm diameter, and typical drill bits are either in 20mm or 25mm.

If available, it might make sense to buy a pre-build wooden case and then use this or maybe reinforce it with some additional wooden parts. For me, I just couldn’t find an case at the local hardware store or online that had appropriate dimensions. Most were meant as storage boxes and thus simply too large.

Painting wood and making it look good is also not eaysy and time-consuming. Several layers of paint are needed, and inbetween grinding to make the surface look smooth. I took a shortcut buy using black self-adhesive plastic sheet, also bought at the local hardware store. This doesn’t really look very professional, but still better than the raw wooden case.

folie

case_assembled

For the controller part, I salvaged the circuit board of an old USB gamepad. This had the advantage, that no drivers are needed for Windows to recognize the joystick. The board was fixed with some leftover screws from an IKEA bookshelf I recently assembled.

circuit_board

Soldering everything together was really really annyoing. The contact pads of the gamepad are not at all designed to solder on. It was very difficult to ensure solder sticks on to them, and I almost destroyed the whole circuit board. Plus I am just not that used to solder anymore, and I have a very basic 25 watt soldering iron, which was probably just too powerful for this kind of delicate job. The solder joints are the biggest concern I have w.r.t. to durability for this whole project. I used more screws and some plastic trying to keep some pressure from the solder joints.

circuit_board_soldered

After putting everything together I was kind of surprised that I didn’t destroy the circuit board while soldering. The joystick needed calibration (Control Panel -> Devices & Printers -> USB Joystick -> Right-Click -> Game Controller Settings -> Properties -> Settings -> Calibrate (yeah, Windows really makes this easy to find 🙂 )

I fired up Katakis and R-Type to test the joystick and I have to say it really comes very close to a real C64 joystick. If not better, since the Sanwa joystick just is way higher quality than the Competition Pro or Quickshot II that was sold during the 80s.

Is it worth it though? To be honest, I do not think so:

  • Researching stuff online, cutting, drilling and assembling the case, wiring and soldering the board, going to the hardware store several time… I’d approximate that all in all these were three to four days spend. It really took a lot of time, way more than anticipated.
  • The arcade parts were around 40 Euro. Plus 20 Euro for the wood. Plus 15 Euro for a fretsaw (might be cheaper, if you already have one). Plus 7 Euro for the plastic sheet. That’s 82 Euro, and there is more smaller stuff that I probably forgot. You can get a USB Competition Pro for 60 Euro at amazon. I haven’t tested it though, but if it feels somewhat like the original one, than that’s 20 Euro cheaper and with zero work.

If I would do it again, I’d definitely try to get a pre-build wodden case. Maybe add some reinforcement, like done here. Another option may be a plastic case, like the ones which are often used for smaller electronic projects. I am just not sure if plastic would withstand the abuse. Last option, in case you are close to Akihabara, the world is yours

Also I would use something like an Arduino (nano) or a Teensy Board and program it to act as a USB joystick, or just buy a dedicated arcade joystick controller circuit board. This one for example encodes not to a joystick, but instead seems to emulate key presses… or this one seems to encode signals directly as a USB joystick. In all these cases though there are dedicated connector pins so you can just attack a plug. Sooo much easier to solder…

Here are some more picture of the final product:

final1

final2

final3

final4

 

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Japanisches Essen

Juni 16, 2013

Ich hatte ja meine asiatische Frau bei ebay ersteigert [1], und nicht genau ins Kleingedruckte geguckt, wo etwas von „Nur an Selbstabholer“ stand. Also musste ich doch nochmal kurz rüberfliegen.

Allerdings nicht ohne zuvor mit ShifterShape97 und ncpfojoh mein blaues Wunder auf der Suche nach einem magischen Briefkasten in der Nähe der holländischen Grenze zu erleben. Und während des Mittagsessens beim Dönermann textete ich ununterbrochen die beiden mit Sätzen der Struktur „In Japan ist das ja irgendwie viel besser: Blbablabla“; unter anderem auch das Essen erwähnend.

Den Bauch mit sehr leckerem Döner vollgeschlagen im PKW sitzend, fragte ncpfojoh: „Was ist ’n so anders an japanischem Essen? Mehr Fisch und weniger Fleisch oder so?“.

Und da dachte ich wirklich: Wie erklärt man das jetzt so? Wie erklärt man als Einäugiger einem Blinden die Sonne?

Ich formulierte dann folgendes: „Jenseits von jeglichen Klischees gibt es in Deutschland wirklich leckeres Essen. Zum Beispiel der Dönerteller mit Pommes, Salat und Zaziki war ja schon richtig lecker. Leckeres Essen ist in Deutschland aber immer mit viel Fleisch und fett, und Essen ohne Fleisch und Fett ist meistens widerlich. Ich erinnere da nur so an Bratwurstersatztofuwürste und -schnitzel; ein Verbrechen am Tofu. In Japan gibt es halt Speisen, die man extrem lecker sind _und_ die gesund sind, so daß man seine täglichen Mahlzeiten darauf ausrichten kann. Zusätzlich gibt es aber natürlich genau den gleichen leckeren, ungesunden Kram wie bei uns auch.“

Und um das wirklich mal erklären zu können, habe ich während der Reise versucht, einen Großteil meiner Mahlzeiten zu fotografieren.

Zum Beispiel als ich nach über 30 Stunden Reise (diesmal über Dubai, aber darüber ein anderes Mal) völlig fertig in Miyazaki ankam, und durch drei Flugmahlzeiten auch keinen so großen Hunger mehr hatte, fuhren wir spontan in mein Lieblingssobarestaurant. Da gibt es dann als Mittagstisch so etwas:

DSC_0062

Also: Rechts Soba (Buchweizennudeln), rechts oben Tempura, daneben Salz für das Tempura, links eine sojasoßenähnliche Flüssigkeit zum Tunken der Nudeln. Komplett fleischlose Mahlzeit. Zudem gilt der Buchweizen als sehr gesund.

Ich will das jetzt auch nicht in den Himmel loben, z.B. ist das Tempura durchaus etwas fettig:

DSC_0065

Vorne links frittierte Lotoswurzel (Renkon), dahinter frittierte Aubergine und frittierter Kürbis, rechts frittierte Garnele.

Der eine oder andere wird jetzt rufen: „Da wird man doch nicht satt von!“ … aber das ist vielleicht auch der Grund, warum viele Mitbürger in Deutschland mit ihrem Gewicht kämpfen. Vom Nährwert auf jeden Fall reicht das obige völlig aus, und man fühlt sich auch nicht so voll nach dem Mittagessen.

Ein weiterer Punkt, der ganz schwierig nach Rückkehr nach DE für mich war, ist das unterschiedliche Kneipentourverhalten.

In Deutschland ist man ’nen Döner, und dann geht’s los in die Kneipe und Bierchen. Wobei ich ja glücklicherweise aus einer Gegend komme, wo es gleichermaßen das beste und grauenhafteste Bier Deutschlands gibt. In Japan gibt es diese Trennung Essen/Alkohol nicht… was ja gewissermaßen für die Verträglichkeit des letzterem auch durchaus sinnvoll ist. Da wird dann auch gern Essen serviert, was jetzt nicht gerade durch die Ernährungspolizei als gesund klassifiziert werden würde.

Darüber mehr im nächsten Eintrag.

[1] nicht wirklich, aber (sehr) vereinzelte Blicke mancher Mitbürger lassen mich vermuten, sie hätten diesen Eindruck.

Juhu. Ich bin gecleart.

Mai 7, 2013

Und zwar auf Level 2.

Ich bin der coolste, ich bin der Größte.

Ich hab die Kampffighterjets.