Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Best Way to Break Your Intellivision

When videogame controllers were still in a highly experimental phase, Mattel decided to go with a keypad/disc controller for its Intellivision console.  The keypad worked well for strategy games, although the side mounted firing buttons were painful to use for extended rounds of Astrosmash.  And the movement disc was sensitive, with 16 discrete directions, which worked pretty well for the sports games that made the console's name early on.  But it wasn't a great fit for action games like Lock'n'Chase, where a joystick would have been more appropriate.

The original Intellivision had hardwired controllers -- there was no practical way to replace them with something more joyous.  So numerous third-party companies rode to the rescue with devices like this:

These weren't hard to manufacture or install -- the flat disc was supported by 16 contacts underneath, and the disc could be rotated or simply pressed in place.  So the fundamental design was capable of acting like a joystick; it was just made to be pressed lightly and/or spun with the fingertips rather than with a fixed, projecting handle.  So a replacement disc could be popped on, or a joystick attached to the existing disc with glue or shallow screws.

But the Intellivision controllers weren't really meant to take the additional leverage, and letters to Electronic Games magazine occasionally complained about the ensuing damage.  One gentleman even managed to snap his controller in half.

Simple to attach.

That's how they getcha.

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