1. Computing

Le Stick – The First Motion Sensitive Joystick Controller

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Le Stick – The First Motion Sensitive Joystick Controller Photo from the D.S. Cohen collection; LeStick © Datasoft Inc.
Two and a half decades before Nintendo came on the scene with the Wii, video game developers DataSoft Inc. tried their hand at creating the world's first motion sensitive video game controller. Designed for use with the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64, the Le Stick released just two years before the Crash of the Video Game market. With a highe price tag, and no titles designed to support it, the Le Stick lived a brief, albeit historic, existence.

The Basics:

  • Year of Release: 1981
  • Manufacturer: DataSoft Inc.
  • Type: Joystick - Motion Sensitive
  • Systems: Atari 2600, Commodore 64

History:

Ready to ride the late 70s home video game boom created by the Atari 2600, software developers DataSoft Inc. opened their doors in 1980 and released their first game a year later, Popcorn for the Tandy Color Computer. Not satisfied with programming games, DataSoft founder, Pat Ketchum, sought to innovate joystick controllers.

In 1981 DataSoft followed up their first game release with their first and only video game controller, the Le Stick, but unlike any other joystick on the market, this one was motion sensitive. This unique function allowed gamers to control the onscreen action simply a motion of the hand.

With such a unique innovation, it's surprising that the Le Stick was perceived by the market as nothing more than a novelty. The biggest fault was that no one, including DataSoft, designed any games catered to the Le Stick's unique capabilities. Although it worked with most Atari 2600 and Commodore 64, the movements were limited to the same as a traditional joystick. This, combined with a high price tag due to expensive manufacturing costs, caused many curious customers to shy away from trying it out.

Although the Le Stick hung on for a few years, it was one of the many casualties of the Video Game Industry Crash of 1983. DataSoft, however, found their niche developing home console and computer ports of popular coin-op arcade games, such as Mr. Do! and Zaxxon, plus original titles based on licensed characters such as Conan: Hall of Volta and Dallas Quest (based on the Dallas TV series).

The Design:

  • A single stick game controller with no base and the fire button located at the top.
  • The controller connected to the console unit via the controller port.
  • Movements: To center the axis point the player must hold the controller vertically and squeeze the stick. Angling the stick from side to side controls left and right movement, and forward/ backwards for moving up and down.
  • Due to the flight controller stick design, the Le Stick was best suited for flight simulation games.

The Tech:

The mercury core of the Le Stick is key to its motion sensitive abilities. When the player moves the stick, the mercury shifts, sending a signal to the console unit as to the direction the controller is moving.

Because the tech is mechanically based, it does not require a power source.

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