A few years ago, I finished my first arcade controller mod, replacing the knockoff stick and buttons in a Pelican Real Arcade Universal Stick with arcade-authentic parts from HAPP and IL. The Pelican has a nice large and sturdy case made from thick particle board. Here are pictures of my modded controller. Note the additional DB9 connector for the connection of an old Amiga/Atari style joystick:
I replaced all the Buttons with concave buttons from HAPP, and the stick with an IL eurostick.
The pictures show my initial mod where I used a HAPP stick. I later went back and replaced that with an IL stick. The IL sticks are used in European arcades and are of much better quality than the current generation of similar looking HAPP sticks. HAPP used to simply re-brand the high-quality IL sticks from Europe. But, a few years ago, HAPP apparently decided to manufacture their own sticks in China instead. These Chinese-made HAPP sticks feel wobbly and imprecise when playing games. The good IL sticks can be distinguished from the new HAPP knockoffs by looking at the square actuator at the bottom of the joystick shaft. For sticks from IL the actuator is white, while the knockoff HAPP sticks have a black actuator.
I used the concave style buttons because I remember those from the arcades when I was young. Most professional gamers seem to prefer the convex shape, since it allows your fingers to move more quickly between buttons.
In addition to replacing the stick and buttons, I also replaced the Pelican PCB with the PCB from a Playstation 1 controller (non-dualshock).
Finally, I added a 9-pin male serial port for connection of an Amiga or Atari style joystick for emulation purposes.
I had to solder a few wires: 10 Buttons, ground on every microswitch, and then the four joystick directions. I realize now that I should have just bought Quickconnect crimp connectors for all the wires. That would have made it much easier than soldering directly to all the microswitches.
When soldering the wires to the test points on the Playstation 1 controller, two of the testpoints completely detached. I think this was due to the heavy wires I used. The wires pulled on the testpoints with quite a bit of force. I managed to scrape the resin off some of the copper traces on the PCB and solder the detached wires to those. This turned out to be quite unstable, too, and the traces looked like they might lift off the PCB far too easily. So I decided to secure all the solder joints and attached wire segments to the PCB with blobs of 5 min. epoxy. Now it is all rock solid, nothing moves anymore and the wires are kept from pulling directly on the solder joints. I can only recommend epoxy to secure such fragile spots. The electrical contacts have to be good to begin with though. Once the epoxy is on there, it becomes really hard to go back and change anything.
On the Playstation controller PCB, I then de-soldered the white 7-pin molex style connector that joins the controller cable to the PCB. I did this hoping that I would be able to fit the cable with the white connector through the hole in the back panel of the Pelican case. It didn’t quite fit. So I detached the white connector from the cable, guided it through the hole, and then soldered the 7 tiny wires directly onto the Playstation controller PCB. That was quite wobbly and fragile (while soldering, two of the wires ripped off immediately). In the end, I finally got the seven solder joints to be somewhat stable without one of them ripping off. I then encased the joints and wire segments in epoxy to secure them.
Now everything was very nice: the Playstation controller cable fit into the strain relief of the Pelican, the Playstation controller PCB could be fastened to the Pelican case in the same place where the original PCB used to be. By the way, the original PCB was not very good. For example, it was not even recognized as a Playstation controller by the Total Control 2 Plus PS1-to-Dreamcast adapters.
The IL stick and buttons fit into the existing holes in the case. The screw holes to hold the joystick in place also fit the new stick. Maybe the Pelican was originally designed to house HAPP/IL parts, and then, at some later point, it was decided to put in knockoff parts instead to save some money?
– Since I didn’t have the crimp style Quickconnects, I directly soldered to the microswitches. Next time, I will use the correct 0.187″ Quickconnects. That way, it will be much easier to replace a broken microswitch in the future.
– The wiring in the box is quite cluttered. I secured it all with zip ties, so it shouldn’t be a problem in daily use, but it still looks messy.
– I used 22 American Wire Gauge wiring. The original wires in the Pelican controller were much smaller. I realized that soldering a thin wire is much easier than a thick wire. Next time, I will probably use thinner wiring. On the other hand, with this thick wire, the chances of breaking a wire when servicing the controller are much slimmer. And I anticipate some of these microswitches to eventually go bad.
– I daisy-chained all grounding wires. In the original Pelican design, each switch had its own dedicated ground wire, e.g. grounding was done in a star pattern. The star pattern is the correct way to ground things in general. However, with such a simple application as this joystick, we do not very about Voltages at the microvolt level and ground loops should not be an issue here.
Until next time,