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My brother and I bought a box of discarded NES controllers earlier this year. We figured they had to be good for something. The seller claimed that all of them were broken in some way or another, but considering their primitive nature I was pretty sure most of them could be repaired if need be.

One of the main things I miss when playing emulated games is the good old squirky feel of that classic controller. It's not technically comfortable or ergonomic, but years of childhood use has made it so... at least psychologically.
Anyway, I originally intended to rip the guts out of some USB gamepad and rewiring the NES controller's buttons to it. I somehow found myself without one of those nearby though, and didn't feel like spending any money on this, so I just grabbed an old keyboard and took a peek inside. Apparently, keyboard makers have perfected the art of minimizing hardware use, since all the electronics inside consisted of a single 6x4-or-so centimeter circuit board. The rest was just wiring to hook the key switches up to it.
I spent a few hours scanning and mapping the key circuit traces to figure out how to interface with the board, then I wired it all up to the NES controller buttons and crammed it into its casing. It was a tight fit but it still worked when everything was screwed tight.

I ended up mapping the NES D-pad to the arrow keys, A/B to Z/X and Start/Select to Return/Space. Figured this would match a good few freeware games as well as obviously being usable in emulators. Only downside with all of it is that I used a PS/2 keyboard and thus have to disconnect my regular one while playing. There are still controllers left in the box though, so I'll probably build another one at some point (or just refit this one if I find some appropriate electronics to use)


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Page updated on March 25   2010