FW: Re: Why all game consoles have joystick on the left side?

6 Feb 2006 - 9:45am
623 reads
Damon Hamm
2006

Trying this again - last time it never delivered my post! Down with silent errors!

- Damon

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From: Hamm, Damon
Sent: Wed 2/1/2006 3:56 PM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Why all game consoles have joystick on the left side?

It may have been a legacy issue from the days when the firing timing was the most important skill since many of those early games only allowed one or two moving 'bullets' on the screen at once. The joystick only moved in 2, then later 4 directions and were basically controlled with your full arm - your hand merely secured your arm to the knob.

However the first home joysticks were indeed right hand controlled. Early Tandy and Apple II joysticks worked with very precise analog potentiometers (not simply on/off switches) and were usually grasped between the thumb and index finger. Like Pong's up/down controller, they did not have a spring return to the 'zero' position, so were more like today's mice than today's joysticks. (btw, Engelbart's first mouse, used the same mechanical concept as these joysticks).

Atari and Commodore followed this design with their joysticks - held in the left hand, left hand thumb used to trigger while the right did all the fine joystick control. It may have a lot to do with the logistics of the controller being handheld versus attached to a stationary device. For the Commodore 64, I do recall third party joysticks that had a 'switchable' button on both sides of the base, while I personally owned a radically ergonomic one which was held in the left hand, palm up, with your middle finger on the trigger. (I still have those 20 year old relics boxed away somewhere)

- Damon

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Damon Hamm Interaction Designer
DoubleClick Technology Group
111 8th Ave. New York, NY 10011
212-381-5385 dhamm at doubleclick.net <mailto:dhamm at doubleclick.net212-381-5385t>

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