Arcade Controller Conversion…Part 1

I love playing retro arcade games and most recently I have taken to playing these classic games on my Raspberry Pi 2 using the RetroPie. For those who aren’t aware the RetroPie project is a collection of works that all have the overall goal to turn the Raspberry Pi into a dedicated retro-gaming console. Up until now I have been using a couple of cheap USB NES controllers. These controllers are great but nothing compares to the feel of an authentic arcade controller. So I set about building my own controller that could be plugged directly into my Raspberry Pi.

arcade4The first issue would be the enclosure. Do I build something? Or do I buy a flat packed kit from eBay? Neither option was going to be cheap. Then I stumbled on someone selling a second hand PlayStation arcade controller on eBay which at the time was listed at 99p plus postage. I figured that has got to be worth a punt. Even if I can only salvage the case and possibly a few other parts then so be it. So I placed a bid and ended up winning it for just over a pound. Result! I wasn’t expecting a lot but was pleasantly surprised when it arrived. The build quality was a lot better than I had expected. It had obviously seen a fair bit of use and the joystick micro switches were worn out. But still I wasn’t disappointed as the case was in great condition.

arcade5I begun disassembling it as soon as it arrived. I removed the bottom plate, the cable, the joystick and the eight push buttons. I had no plans to use the interface board so I de-soldered all of the connections and left the PCB in situ. Next I measured the holes for the push buttons which turned out to be 30mm which was good news since this a standard size for arcade buttons. Selecting a suitable joystick proved to be more troublesome. There isn’t a lot of clearance for the joystick once mounted so I needed to find one with the lowest possible profile.

In the end I went for a Seimitsu LS-58-01and Seimitsu PS-15 buttons. The LS-58 a great quality small form factor joystick. Not to stiff and with an adequate throw distance for my liking. The micro switches are soldered directly into a PCB. This worked out perfect as I later went on to use the PCB to mount it to the original mounting posts. Being 30mm the PS-15’s fitted perfectly with no modifications required. The joystick however required a few modifications. In order to drill the mounting holes in the PCB I first had to remove the common connections for each micro switch. Rather than completely removing the micro switches I simply cut the tabs and de-soldered. Then after drilling the holes I used Kynar wire to re-connect them.

arcade1The next problem was getting the joystick to fit flush with the case. Because of the way the case had been moulded I needed to remove some of the plastic surrounding the stick. Thankfully this didn’t comprise the rigidity of the joystick. The end result wasn’t pretty but at least it now fitted flush with the case. I finished off by connecting all of the switches to my new interface board which I will move onto in the next post.

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