Last year, Redditor CorneliusBueller built a couple of retro gaming systems for his brothers. They obviously loved the gifts, but CorneliusBueller’s dad was jealous and wanted his own system to play Atari games. To give his father the full experience, CorneliusBueller also converted an Atari joystick into a Bluetooth controller that’s compatible with a Raspberry Pi Zero W running Recalbox.
Recalbox is a Raspberry Pi-compatible operating system designed for emulating retro video game consoles, similar to the popular RetroPie operating system. Recalbox is capable of emulating a large number of consoles and arcade games, but CorneliusBueller’s dad was only interested in playing Atari games. That experience would be diluted if he was forced to play with anything other than an Atari joystick, so CorneliusBueller built his own and documented the process.
To replicate this, you’ll need an original Atari joystick (or a full-size knockoff) and a Bluetooth gamepad like the 8Bitdo Zero. Crack open the Bluetooth gamepad and you’ll find a PCB with simple pads for most of the buttons. You’ll need to scratch off some of the solder mask above the traces near those button pads. Then solder wires that will connect to the new buttons.
The rest of the build is fitting that PCB and the new buttons into the original Atari joystick. Because those don’t have start or select buttons, which are useful for navigating within Recalbox, CorneliusBueller drilled a couple of holes to add new arcade buttons on the back. The notoriously-bad joystick buttons were also replaced with new momentary buttons. The result is a new and improved controller that’s perfect for playing Atari classics.