Once I made it to the C64 in the mid-80s, I always used either the Suncom TAC-2
or Wico Command Control Joystick (baseball bat style) on my 8-bit and 16-bit machines. My whole life.
And the TAC-2 is just so damned comfortable. The ball-topped joystick really makes you feel like you're back in the arcade sometimes. It uses a very unique mechanism that I've not ever seen with other joysticks, either. It's extremely durable and accurate, and accommodates both lefties and righties. The Command Stick is great because sometimes it can offer a more sensitive button accuracy that is hard to beat. So I alternate between the two sticks depending on the game I’m playing. I can typically determine which one I’ll want within the first few seconds of playing a game. But that doesn't mean I'm not open to new experiences even with my old hardware. Especially if it is a game I've never played before.
Shot97 asked me about my preferred sticks a month or two ago around the time he was publishing a video review for Epyx Winter Games
for Amiga - a game I absolutely adored on the C64. That’s when I first became aware of the Ergostick by Wico - his personal favorite especially for action/arcade games.
I’d never seen nor even heard
of the Ergostick before. Wico is the same company that makes the Command stick, obviously, but I personally had never seen this smooth little river pebble before.
But having worked in two arcades in a past life (and having to repair buttons, joysticks and other fun bits of arcade cabinet games and pinball machines) I got to know micro-switches fairly well. Neither of my joysticks use them. It wasn’t unheard of for microswitches to go bad in one direction, but they were also easily replaceable. They also afforded a very
solid response and were highly accurate.
So, I put my feelers out there to see what I might find. Nada. Zilch. The Ergostick, which I saw in the video, seemed to be pretty rare for whatever reason.
But then last week two popped up from a seller, and both were boxed, NOS and unused. (!!) I threw my hat into the ring and actually snagged one of them. My guess now is it had to do with the original cost back in the 1980s.
I got my hands on a NOS boxed Ergostick. The original price is still on the box: $24.95. That's about $50 in today's US economy. That's quite a bit of coin for a joystick that, back in the day, was competing in the marketplace against Atari knock-offs and whatnot.
The box is totally trashed, but it is apparent that the joystick is indeed NOS and has never been used. I’ve not used it yet but look forward to testing it out in the near future. It’ll be cool to now have a 3rd very solid option. And based on what I’ve seen and read, it may push my Command Stick down a notch. I’ve got a huge place in my heart for the TAC-2, but she could certainly use a little company.
Supposedly there were over 300 different joystick designs created in the 1980s. So that begs the question: what's your favorite joystick for your 8-bit and 16-bit machines?
And I mean non-gamepad, vertical stick joysticks. If you say the Atari 2600 joystick, as iconic the design is, you'll still be shamed and banished.