Here’s an interesting look through video game history from Redditor and Imgur user zadoc, who posts a picture of every control pad he has in his extensive collection.
40 in total, from the 1972 Magnavox Odyssey (up there) – which looks like a piece of medical equipment doctors don’t like to talk about anymore – through to far more familiar present day pads.
You can see the full gallery below, but there’s a couple that really stood out for me, starting with this thing:
1988 – View-Master Interactive Vision Television System
For reference, here’s the console this monstrosity went with. It couldn’t be more 80s unless it started playing the Saved By The Bell theme tune on start up:
The View-Master Interactive Vision Television System actually used old VHS videos and plugged in through your video player, using simple graphics and an interchangeable soundtrack to give the player the illusion that they were controlling the video being watched.
1976 – Fairchild Channel F
The Fairchild Channel F’s ‘Jet-Stick’ has a bit of a 70s sex toy vibe, but the console itself was pushed as an early competitor to the Atari 2600. According to zadoc, “the controller features 8-way directional movement and for actions; twist left, twist right, plunge, and pull up.”
It’s a good example of the early 70’s basic, utilitarian approach to controllers. Most of the things from that period are clearly designed by engineers with a list of inputs they mapped out, often as practically and literally as possible.
Case in point: the 1979 Mattel Electronics Intellivision pad:
Doesn’t that thing just scream ‘fun?’
In fact, the relatively cuddly approachability of the classic Atari 2600 joystick almost seems like a fluke of early controller design:
It’s not until nearly the late 80s that pads start to converge on a usable game playing format that we’d recognise today.