Monthly Archives: December 2013

TRON arcade game joystick research

  • 2014/01/28: Updated information on 4-way restrictor for flight stick.
  • 2015/02/18: A note about the HAPP joystick, and restrictor plates being made for it.

A friend of mine is in the process of building a custom arcade controller for home use. Here is some of the research that may be of interest to others trying to replicate the 1982 TRON arcade game controls. (A flight stick with a trigger button, and a paddle spinner controller).

The TRON handle can be bought from Groovy Game Gear. They claim they are using the original molds and also used the original color key chip to match the color as close as possible to the originals that were made in 1982:

This handle is designed to replace the one for an original arcade stick, but folks have been modifying other types of joysticks to make it attach. No details on this, yet.

Next, there is a low-cost trigger stick from It is available in several places:

$20 – Paradise Arcade Shop in Hawaii:

They also sell it on, for $22, but shipping is cheaper there (currently $26.83 for the stick and shipping): also sells it direct through Holland Computers:

The stick is incorrectly described (on Amazon and at Holland) as a 4/8 way switchable stick. It is not. You need a restrictor plate to make it 4-way like the arcade TRON stick is. I have not located a restrictor plate for this joystick yet, but Paradise Arcade Shop says they may be able to custom make one.

Update: There is also a higher priced HAPP joystick commonly used for TRON:

That stick is also an 8-way, but my same friend who is building the custom arcade controller now has a 3-D printer and has designed a 4-way restrictor plate for this. He will be offering them for sale, so contact me if you are interested.

As for spinner controllers, there seems to be two candidates. One is sold by Groovy Game Gear. It is the Turbo Twist 2 and it runs about $70:

Ultimarc also sells a spinner for the same price called the SpinTrak:

No details on which one is better for this purpose.

More to come…

Adafruit EZ-Key makes Bluetooth keyboard support cheap ($20)

Check this out — the new EZ-Key module from Adafruit:

This tiny device is a “ready to use” Bluetooth interface. Give it power, and then hook up to 12 (?) switches and when they are switched, a keyboard signal will be sent out via Bluetooth. The device can also be reprogrammed to send different keystrokes for each switch, or hooked to a micro (like Arduino or Teensy) and used to send whatever you want, such as iCade “key up, key down” characters.

As soon as I get one to review, I will post more details.

Back to work… Soon… Arduino arcade interface.

Last August, I got very busy with side jobs that kept me from working on any of these Arduino-related projects. I hope to get back to work on them soon. Right now, I pretty much don’t work on anything unless it’s tied to generating some form of income.

I hope to get around to posting the work I did on a USB joystick to iCade interface. The code used an Arduino with USB HID support (Leonardo, I believe), and a cheap USB Host add-on shield. A standard USB Playstation style joystick could be plugged in, then it would emit USB keypresses that match the iCade protocol. Ultimately, I want this code to be configurable, so you could open up a USB serial console on a host computer and walk through text menus to configure what you want each joystick button to send (similar to programming MAME input controls). That way, it would work with “anything”.

I also want it to accept standard key inputs (like the XArcade Tankstick emits) and convert them, as well, allowing it to basically convert anything to an iCade format.

With the recent discovery of a $20 USB HID transmitter from ADAFruit (, it would now be possible to make it send the iCade commands via Bluetooth, though this is not plug-n-play. Ultimately, I’d like to see that part made in to an Arduino shield. The requirement of soldering and complex wiring kills these things from being used by casual hobbyists.

More to come…