Sunday, February 7, 2021

Repair and Refurb Atari Paddle Controllers

 A while back I picked up a set of Atari paddle controllers at a second-hand store. When I got home, I tested them and found they weren't working. I think there are only about 40 or so games that use paddles, but still I wanted them to add to the collection.

The controllers are pretty simple, a dial and a fire button. I figured the dial pot was just dirty and needed some cleaning. So, let's dig in.

 Two screws hold the controller together to expose the workings.

Each of the paddles four wires, one pair for the dial and the other pair for the fire button. Taking them apart I noticed a little foam pad that keeps pressure on the trigger mechanism. It was kind of crunchy, so I decided to remove it with some IPA and replace with some craft foam my wife had laying around. Just about the correct thickness and it has a sticky back.

 Next, I took the fire button assembly apart. This is a really simple mechanism, with a coil spring and a contact activated by the plunger. 

These didn't look really too dirty, but I decided to clean them anyway. 5 minutes in the ultrasonic and they looked good enough.

Next was the dial assembly. The dial handle pops off with light effort, and I needed to remove a single nut holding the dial pot to the case.

To get to the pot, I had to use a razor to get under four tabs that hold the pot cover on.

 From there I could examine the contacts and see how dirty they were. Here's a view under the microscope.

 Those whiskers were filthy, and I dropped them into the ultrasonic as well. They looked a lot better when they came out.

 Still there was a little crud, so I used a cleaning swab (not a cotton swab but one of those foam ones because I didn't want to damage the whiskers - although I did, more about that later).

Ready to reassemble, pretty much in reverse order. Starting with the fire button assembly.

Then the pot. Now, one thing to note when putting the cover back on. Make sure the indent in the cover faces the wiring. This prevents the knob from being turned past the end of the pot surface contact. I put it on backwards on one paddle, and when I tested everything the controller made a horrible scratching noise. I knew I had screwed up.

 I didn't take any pictures, but the whiskers got bent all to hell. Fortunately, I was able to bend them back into shape but they still looked horrible. 

I cleaned the decades of human detritus from the controller cases and gave them a test run on Kaboom!

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