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November 2014 Retro Gaming Article


November 3, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

DataSoft created a motion sensitive video game joystick, Le Stick, in 1981

DataSoft's joystick for the Atari 2600- Le Stick Before the advent of the consumer Internet, information traveled slowly. For example, if an expensive new joystick came to market and had a revolutionary control mechanism, it could take months for word to get out that it's mercury switches made for a dismal twitchy experience.

Today, a tweet would get re-tweeted and that would be the end of it.

DataSoft's odd controller consisted of a joystick with no base and a single fire-button on it's top. It's odd look alone may have given gamers pause to spend nearly $40 to own one.

The device "acted" like a standard joystick - tipping it in the desired direction (as a normal joystick would be moved) would send that movement down the wire to an Atari 2600 or compatible.

It's use of mercury switches made it react to any movement. While a standard joystick can be held at an angle and jostled around without effecting game-play, Le Stick felt twitchy because any movement was perceived as a directional command and sent to the game console.

Le Stick was release only 2 years before the '83 crash. As the game industry was approaching this critical juncture that would eliminate a majority of game developers and companies, an expensive joystick with an unproven gimmick wasn't likely to sell to well.

Oddly, consumer reaction deemed Le Stick as a novelty. The motion sensor aspect didn't seem to impress anyone on a technical level. In 1981, joysticks came in a variety of sizes and shapes, but for the most part they had similarities. Le Stick was a different beast - visually and in how it functioned.

I had a Wico Joystick for my 2600 and found the fire-button on top of the stick very awkward. Fortunately, it also had the standard button on it's base. The awkwardness of a stick-top button would have caused me to move the stick - especially without a base to stabilize it. DataSoft's Le Stick in the 1982 JC Penny Christmas Catalog DataSoft's Le Stick in the 1982 JC Penny Christmas Catalog. I'm also liking that Atari dust cover :)

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