Arduino Project: Commodore 64/Amiga, Atari 2600/XL/ST, ZX Spectrum Joystick to Windows/Linux (RetroPie) USB

Posted: 17/07/2016 in Arduino

Improve your retro gaming emulation experience by using the systems original controller
This post provides instructions so you can bring back to life your old controller with native plug-and-play support for Microsoft Windows 7+ and Linux/RetroPie using an ATmega32u4 based Arduino.


Ever since Arduino’s started to appear with the ATmega32u4 chip which allows the creation of USB devices I’ve wanted to create adapters to reuse my old game controllers on modern hardware. Unfortunately the official libraries didn’t support joystick/gamepads only keyboard and mouse. Thankfully Matthew Heironimus started a project to address this exact situation with his Arduino Joystick Library

Using Matthew’s library and the following sketch you can easily create an adapter for your controller following these steps

1. Get a suitable connector. For this project you’ll need to search (eBay/Aliexpress) for a DE9 or DB9 Male Breakout board, this is the one I used
2. Find the pinout for your controller. PINOUTS.RU is a good source, for example here is the one for C64 Control Port
3. Wire the connector to the Arduino. I’ve included the pin information in the Arduino sketch, so for example DE9 Pin1 goes to Arduino Pin 2 (JOY_UP).
4. Install Matthew’s library from See for more information.
5. Upload the Arduino Sketch and then connect your controller.
6. Test. Windows’s users should be able to see the controller appear as a gamepad which will be named after your Arduino board, for example.
Windows provides a helpful test program on the properties page of the controller

7. Play. For C64 emulation I’ve had great success with VICE on both Windows and Linux (RetroPie)

Thanks for reading and be sure to check out my other controller conversions –

Kind Regards, jfrmilner

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