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Atari 5200 owners: How many 5200 controllers have you gone through?

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I've heard the controllers are garbage in many ways. Some say it's uncomfortable, some hate the analog, non self-centering joysticks, some hate the buttons always sticking, but most of all I hear of them breaking. How many of your Atari 5200 controllers bit the dust, and what are your overall opinions on the controller?

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It's the flex circuit used for the buttons that is a terrible design choice.  Oxidation on the flex circuit or the buttons make them stop working over time.  I've fixed them using foil dots.  Others use "gold" updates from Best Electronics.

The sticks are different.  Non-self-centering is weird.  Using a rubber boot that tears to help self center is cheap. 

But I've only seen a few sticks that were truly "broken" (meaning that the wire or plastic or potentiometer broke).  Mostly those ones were heavily used. 

 

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I think I've only had 3 actual controllers that went bad beyond repair. 2 of them for sure was due to wiring within the controller cable breaking somewhere internally as they are really thin. Another one I think was due to the plastic that the directional pots sit in breaking so the pot didn't sit properly anymore.

The main issue as @RickR stated is the flex circuits inside loose conductivity due to corrosion very easy. Quick fixes are to simply use a pencil eraser and some alcohol on the flex but that will likely only last for a little while and you will find that you have to do it again soon. The foil dots metheod in combination with a good cleaning of the flex is he method I use and my controllers seems to work fine for several years before I have to go through the refurb process on them again. But for the 30min or so per controller it might take to do that, I'm okay with it.

 

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I'm a new 5200 owner so I have very little usage on the controllers. I bought 2 Atari controllers rebuilt by Best Electronics. The joystick actually feels good. The rubber boot does a decent job of re-centering the joystick. I'm sure that will change over time with more usage, but I don't feel like these are fragile. I actually like it.

I also bought the Wico joystick. I'm not too sure how to calibrate it. It feels ok. I need more time with it.

Yesterday, I received the adapters made by AtariAge user ikonsgr. I haven't had a chance to try it out yet, but I expect that this will be at the center of my daily setup -- using a digital joystick in conjunction with the Atari 5200 controller. The adapter is relatively cheap, so with it, I feel controller trepidations about the Atari 5200 should be a thing of the past.

DSC07098.JPG

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My original "owned" 5200 4-port we lost one controller during a move.  The sole surviving controller never gave any issues.  The console itself blew a resistor and went out. The current 5200 I have now I've had to rebuild the controllers once before I could use them.  Then again they probably sat for a very long time because the dust that was caked up on them was nasty.  Most used 5200's I have found had controllers someone either tried to repair and broke the flex circuit or were simply neglected.  Those are the controllers I have discovered need major TLC to get going again.

BONUS:  There's a third potentiometer inside the 5200 that I've discovered exercising it can sometimes revitalize the analog nature of the controllers.  All I did was quickly rotate it both ways and I put it right back to where Atari set it.  It seems like doing this removes any aged build up on it and allows the controllers to work very well again.

The 5200 is a beast...but it's a shy beast or a delicate beast.  Unlike most consoles you can't let it sit for very long.  It seems like letting it sit without using it does it, and the controllers, more harm than good.  My first 5200 got used every day for hours on end.  It rarely sat for more than a day.  The 5200 I have now gets used often but not as often as my first one and I've noticed letting it sit and not using it causes the controls to be a bit erratic for a few minutes.  For that reason I highly recommend exercising the system and its controllers for a few minutes between a week or a month.  I wouldn't go any longer than that.  

I've also learned not every 5200 does the same thing and one person's experience with it won't be the same as the next person's.  When working well it's an awesome console.  

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@Atari 5200 Guy So basically it's like watering a plant? The plant being the 5200 controller of course and the water being using the controller. Or perhaps how silver naturally tarnishes due to oxygen and you're just buffing it out by using the controller?

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36 minutes ago, HDN said:

@Atari 5200 Guy So basically it's like watering a plant? The plant being the 5200 controller of course and the water being using the controller. Or perhaps how silver naturally tarnishes due to oxygen and you're just buffing it out by using the controller?

Also like those old analog stereo knobs that get static when not touched much.  It is the same concept.

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