Some Experiments Fail

Today I tried a little experiment and it almost worked. Unfortunately it didn’t work well enough.

I like the size and feel of gamepads these days, despite being raised on traditional joysticks. In the past I have hacked a couple of Genesis / MegaDrive controllers, purchased cheaply on AliExpress but I have always found them a little less responsive than I would have liked.

I wanted to see if I could improve the quality of the button connections, to make them more reliable. They currently use conductive pads on tinned plates directly on the board. For systems designed for more mechanical switches I sometimes find the contacts didn’t reliably register.

My solution? I found some really small switches and soldered them on over the spots where the contacts are supposed to land.

Teeny tiny! The long edge pair of solder points are connected

It was a pretty easy soldering job. I just worked out where the switches had to sit to correctly conduct on both sides, masked off with polyimide tape if I was worried about shorting, scratched back solder mask with a blade, added a dab of flux and soldered them on. Cleanup was Isopropyl as usual.

The direction pad. Scratched away mask on the lower connector. The blue wires are from an earlier mod.
Some more buttons soldered in. This time they are the “fire buttons”.
All done. Just need to close it. You can see the insulative tape in yellow.

Unfortunately at the end I’d say the response wasn’t better, just different. For the fire buttons, it’s a great improvement. They feel lovely and tactile and you definitely know when you make contact. Unfortunately for the direction pads, they’re possibly worse. The directions don’t really work, especially in the diagonals. You can’t “lean in” to get that diagonal. I might take it apart again and desolder the pads for the directions.






One response to “Some Experiments Fail”

  1. ilike8bits Avatar

    My current plan is to build an adapter based around the Arduino Pro Mini 5v that simply plugs “in line” with original MegaDrive controllers and provides a translation layer. That way I can use standard controllers with a variety of retro PCs without modification.

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