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Analog joystick for flight simulators (2004)

A joystick [ dʒɔɪˌstɪk ] (Obsolete also play lever from . English joy , joy 'and stick , stick') is an input device for computers and game consoles .

The joystick is modeled on the control stick of an airplane or the gearshift lever of a car and is used to move game and control elements in IT . This can be the control of a vehicle or an airplane, the movement of a person or the positioning of a cursor on the screen . Most joysticks have one or more push buttons (" fire button ") on the housing or control lever.

In addition to the fire buttons, there is often a throttle control , and some joysticks also have a smaller "ministick" or " cooliehat " at the tip of the joystick, which is used to change or regulate the viewing direction during the game. Many joysticks are also equipped with force feedback , a function that allows the player to feel what is happening in the game (e.g. bumpy terrain or the rudder forces in flight simulations) through movements or, in the case of cheap joysticks, through vibrations.


The Quickshot II Turbo from Spectravideo , a digital joystick widely used in home computers in the 1980s

The origin of the joystick is likely to lie in the purely electrical, pneumatic or mechanical control elements and switching regulators, for example in locomotives , mining equipment or transmissions (cars). The first known joysticks in the sense of electrical remote control can be found in the military sector at the time of the Second World War. The German air-to-air missile X4 and the guided bomb Fritz X were controlled from the deploying aircraft with joysticks, at that time still known as "command transmitters with a movably mounted steering rod". The devices were still complex, but the electromechanical signal scanning was functional.

In post-war Germany, the further developed joystick will soon be found in the control of the MBB COBRA anti-tank weapon ; industrial plants, cranes, rolling mills and finally model airplanes are also controlled remotely. In contrast to the single joystick in EDP, the remote controls in model making usually contain two analog joysticks for two-handed operation. Alternatively, there is also the three-axis joystick with scanning of the rotary movement (turntable at the tip of the joystick) and an additional throttle control.


Different joystick connections ( IEEE 1284 , Gameport , DB-9 , Apple Desktop Bus , USB )
Elements of a joystick: 1) handle 2) base 3) fire button 4) additional buttons 5) auto fire switch 6) throttle control 7) cooliehat 8) suction cup

There are two basic versions of joysticks, one in digital and the other in analog design. The type of actuation must be used here to differentiate. The joystick, which only processes switching contacts with an on and off signal, is considered digital. A joystick is also regarded as analog if it uses a digital interface such as USB, but still evaluates the actuation force or the deflection angle.

Digital joystick

The alignment of the control stick is recorded via four individual electrical contacts or optical signal transmitters. A measurement of the deflection angle or actuation pressure does not take place. Initially, simple metal tongues or "snap disks" were common, later these were largely replaced by microswitches . Only the states off or on are recognized. Thus, four bits of information processing are necessary to determine the direction. The diagonals are recorded by logic processing through contact between two signal transmitters in software or hardware. The deflection in the four or eight cardinal directions can be processed through logical links between the four bits. In the 1980s there were occasionally digital joysticks with eight contacts under the lever mechanism and thus sixteen possible cardinal directions. Then there are the signals for the fire buttons with one bit each.

Compared to the analog version, digital joysticks are simpler and usually also mechanically more robust, as no potentiometer or power supply is required. They are very common on older video game consoles and early home computers.

Analog joystick

With analog joysticks, the angle of deflection of the axes is measured in addition to the direction. This is done using a potentiometer or wear-free using optical sensors or by measuring the magnetic field strength. Rotary potentiometers, light barriers or magnetic sensors are usually used for this purpose. These analog voltages are then converted into digital signals either in the joystick or in the PC . For example, values ​​with 8 bits (i.e. 256 possible states) or even up to 16 bits (with 65536 possible states) are typically generated for each axis . Usually there are two axes to steer left / right and up / down. Some newer joysticks also have a third axis, called the z-axis, which is measured by turning the joystick.

Analog joysticks were originally used in PCs because the interface was also analog. There were separate joystick cards, mostly the 15-pin D-Sub connectors were also available on the sound cards. There were also digital joysticks for the PCs, which were equipped with simple switches and then internally generated the analog (final) levels with transistors. These then only worked digitally.

Force feedback

Force Feedback is an additional technology that can basically occur in both of the aforementioned variants. With force feedback joysticks, for example, bumpy floor coverings, possibly shelling and control forces are simulated and returned to the player as mechanical feedback in the form of jerks or easy / difficult steering wheel / flight stick (feedback). Electric motors or hydraulic or pneumatic cylinders are used, which can generate over 150 N in professional simulators in order to make the flight feeling as realistic as possible.


Joysticks are not only used today to control computer and video games , but also as a sidestick in modern aircraft with fly-by-wire control, as a switch or control lever for the remote control of weapons, robots and construction cranes, agricultural machinery and many other applications. Also, cars could be steered instead of the steering wheel via joysticks. There have already been prototypes of these cars, but they haven't caught on.

Analog joysticks were and are traditionally used in the CAD area, especially on PCs and Apple computers. Simpler digital joysticks were found at Atari , Commodore , Schneider, etc. The gamepads of many game consoles are very similar to joysticks in their internal structure and function. The same applies to three-dimensional, freely movable controls, for example for simulating virtual reality.

Home computers were usually equipped with one or more connections for joysticks. With the PC, the connection was made via a special game port (often as an add-on to the sound card ), most joysticks are now connected via the more flexible USB port. This fixes various compatibility problems with older sound cards ( ISA bus ).

At the beginning of the 21st century, the joystick lost its importance in PC game control in favor of gamepads and more specialized input devices. For driving simulations z. B. input devices in the form of a steering wheel are offered, for flight simulators there are so-called flight sticks, which can have a rudder control in addition to various thrust controls and usually allow the operation of several functions without having to take your hands off the flight stick ( HOTAS principle ).

In addition to setting knobs, wheels and rockers as well as touch-sensitive screens , miniature joysticks have also established themselves as operating elements for the efficient handling of cameras .

See also


Web links

Commons : Joystick  album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Joystick  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Joystick - C64-Wiki. May 9, 2017. Retrieved December 27, 2017 .
  2. Joystick. (No longer available online.) TU-Chemnitz, archived from the original on July 4, 2013 ; accessed on December 27, 2017 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. Joystick PC game port. March 1, 1998, accessed December 27, 2017 .
  4. Fujifilm X100F steps up to 24.3MP, adds AF joystick , from January 19, 2017, accessed on August 19, 2020
  5. Richard Butler: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 Review , of April 11, 2008, accessed on August 19, 2020
  6. Carey Rose, Rishi Sanyal, Dan Bracaglia: Sony a7 III Review ,, April 23, 2018, accessed August 19, 2020