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The Cheap CX-52 Controller Refurbishing Process

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There has been quite a bit of discussion both on and off the AA forums it seems lately, regarding the CX-52 controllers that were standard with the Atari 5200 Super System. Years ago I made up a pretty detailed PDF of the process I use to clean and refurbish them. I was one of the originators of the foil tape method, using it several years before I even discovered other Atari fans on the internet back in the mid 90s. So..here is a very detailed video of the process I go through on each 5200 controller that passes by me that has buttons that don't respond. And yes, I use the 3M brand foil tape method and have for years. Each controller I've done lasts typically about 3 to 4 years before it needs to be done again. Not a bad track record...

 

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EXCELLENT Info and video.  Very nicely done indeed.

 

I do a very similar technique with a few minor differences:

  • I don't like to take the flex circuit out unless absolutely necessary.  I test them by connecting the controller to my 5200 and using a Defender cart (which uses almost every button).  Then a small flat head screwdriver on each button contact tells me if it works or not.
  • I've been using foil dots made from aluminum foil and a hole punch.  And then glue them on.  It's time consuming.  I like your 3M tape method much much better and will use that going forward.  Maybe a hybrid method -- using the 3M tape and a hole punch!  Best of both worlds. 

Thanks so much for all the great info. 

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EXCELLENT Info and video.  Very nicely done indeed.

 

I do a very similar technique with a few minor differences:

  • I don't like to take the flex circuit out unless absolutely necessary.  I test them by connecting the controller to my 5200 and using a Defender cart (which uses almost every button).  Then a small flat head screwdriver on each button contact tells me if it works or not.
  • I've been using foil dots made from aluminum foil and a hole punch.  And then glue them on.  It's time consuming.  I like your 3M tape method much much better and will use that going forward.  Maybe a hybrid method -- using the 3M tape and a hole punch!  Best of both worlds. 

Thanks so much for all the great info. 

 

Taking out the flex isn't that big a deal honestly. In fact, I prefer the Rev 7 flex above all others because the traces are wider and hence thicker and seem able to hold up to the stress better. The Rev 9's I've seen had a sorta graphite trace in them and I'm sure it didn't corrode, but you also can't take the eraser method to it either as it will literally erase the traces when you try and clean them. Also the graphite ones are much more brittle on their traces.

 

Now, having said that, I've seen my fair share of Rev 7's where the traces, especially by the fire buttons, begin to literally warp up off the flex. Again, not a whole lot you can do except to carefully press them back down as best you can. The foil tape I use seems to stick onto the buttons pretty well provided you clean the dots first as I do in the video. Yes, eventually the foil tape will drop off those buttons, but again it was about 4 years before that began to happen to my first one I did using the stuff. I've been told even after 3 years, that the gold rebuilt kits still require cleaning to get them going again. I prefer using the foil since it is essentially the same metal as the original traces and hence the corrosion isn't as bad because you don't have dissimilar metals against each other.

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EXCELLENT Info and video.  Very nicely done indeed.

 

I do a very similar technique with a few minor differences:

  • I don't like to take the flex circuit out unless absolutely necessary.  I test them by connecting the controller to my 5200 and using a Defender cart (which uses almost every button).  Then a small flat head screwdriver on each button contact tells me if it works or not.
  • I've been using foil dots made from aluminum foil and a hole punch.  And then glue them on.  It's time consuming.  I like your 3M tape method much much better and will use that going forward.  Maybe a hybrid method -- using the 3M tape and a hole punch!  Best of both worlds. 

Thanks so much for all the great info. 

 

The flatblade screwdriver trick I also do. Especially if I'm just wanting to quickly check there aren't any broken ground traces between the top function buttons and side fire buttons. The video was done in a way that it shows a complete breakdown of the controller, and about the best way to verify the traces in the flex circuit are good to go before going to the trouble of anything else. 

 

I also mentioned Defender as a good candidate for testing both fire buttons since it does use them for smart bomb and fire functions. Blaster is the best since you have to use all analog control, plus all the fire buttons will fire the laser shots.

 

For quick and dirty calibration or to test the calibration of a particular controller, I will pop in missile command and star wars:TAG to see where the cross hairs are when powering on the console. They should be roughly in the in the middle of the screen horizontally and just off center to the right about an 1/8 of the screen thereabouts. Not scientific, but that is enough to get the job done.

 

Best games for testing the potentiometer movements are bounty bob (If you have one), and Gyruss. If your pots are out of alignment too much, then it is really touch to control the ship in a nice smooth circle around the screen on gyruss.

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"Blaster" looks like a great game!  I need to check that one out.

It is! It is very very rare that I power on the 5200 and not play at least one game of Blaster! Easily one of my faves on the system. Really too bad it wasn't released because it would have been exclusive and it is amazing what they were able to port over. It doesn't have the vampire levels from the arcade, but they aren't missed too much. Sure it doesn't look as sharp and the sprite work isn't quite there, but it still plays awesome and the sounds are pretty much dead on! The game play is very much intact with this game and it is really a damn shame it wasn't released.

 

If you have a flash cart I recommend giving it a try. For me...playing it in emulation was enough for me to convince Albert to make a cart of it for me. CPUWIZ did the label on mine though so if you get one from the AA store these days, it will have a more standard looking atari 5200 label on it as it might have been from bitd. Highly recommend the game.

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