The Keypad Joypad - Amiga, Atari, C64...

Use a standard 12-pin keypad as the basis for a little joypad for your vintage computers and consoles!

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I'm a big vintage computer fan. I've found it hard to find joysticks for my Amiga 500 - there's a lot of beat up old 'sticks from the 80s around for altogether too much money, and the price on newer units isn't too attractive either.

However, the joysticks of the era were nothing but a series of 5 buttons - so I decided to see if I could roll up something quick and cheap to get me gaming again, using a basic 12 digit keypad available everywhere.

I only had one joystick for my Amiga 500 and I wanted to get up and gaming again sooner rather than later, and it's always more fun with friends. I needed to find a way to make my own joystick, since anything I bought online wasn't going to show up for a couple of weeks. Thankfully, old systems like the Amiga and many others use a super basic standard for joysticks.

In its simplest form, you have 5 wires - for up, down, left, right, and fire - and a ground line. Grounding any wire tells the computer that you're pushing in that direction or on the fire button. So all we need is five buttons, right?

I didn't really feel like going to all the effort of buying a whole bunch of discrete switches and finding some sort of enclosure and putting it all together. It's a hassle, pricy, and wasn't really the quick and easy result I wanted. Instead, I wanted to use one of these - a simple 12-digit keypad you can find just about anywhere.

The 12 digit keypad I used for this project.
There's a caveat, though. The buttons on this keypad aren't wired as twelve individual switches - they're in a 4 by 3 matrix. This complicates things somewhat, but with some tricky wiring we can get a decent button layout for gaming to work.

In the above image, you can see the button layout and pinouts for the keypad and connector. For the cable, you can either go and buy some 6-conductor cable, or twist several lengths of wire together into a single cable, which is what I chose. Simply cut six pieces of wire to equal length, tape the ends together, put in the chuck of your drill, and have your friend slowly run the drill while you hold the wires taught. Finish things off with a zip
tie at either end and you're good to go.

It's actually fairly comfortable to use - your left hand holds the keypad and your left thumb rests on fire, while your right fingers control up, down, left and right. It's good fun to use and a lot less frustrating than some of the poorer quality joysticks left over from yesteryear. Just below is the build video. I hope you enjoyed this project - happy gaming!

  • 1 × Female DB9 Connector Get a nice one you can easily solder to.
  • 1 × Reel of wire or 6-conductor cable You need one wire for each button plus a ground wire.
  • 1 × 12-button keypad Get one that suits your taste and has a nice feel.

  • 1
    Step 1

    1. Strip the wires.
    2. Solder to the keypad.
    3. Solder to the connector.
    4. You're done!

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