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What is a Joystick?

What is a Joystick

A joystick is an input device that is commonly used to control gaming applications and, sometimes, used in graphics applications. It was first invented by C. B. Mirick at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, and patented in 1926. Generally, the use of a joystick is to manage a machine or character in a computer program. It includes a base and a stick that can be move to the left or right direction, also, it can be rotated in different amounts to handle the movement of the cursor in a computer device. With the help of maneuvering a lever on the joystick, the movement of a pointer or cursor is controlled. They consist of extra buttons for additional functionality and look similar to the control device found on an arcade game. The below image is an instance of a joystick.

As compared to the keys on a keyboard, it can offer greater control due to its flexible movements. A joystick can also be more beneficial in terms of an input device for people who have disabilities. At least one button is contained by most of the joysticks in the front of the stick for the trigger and another button on the top of the stick. There are multiple joysticks that have other buttons on the base. These buttons can be used with the help of a hand, which is not guiding the stick.

Typically, the joystick often comes with software that makes capable the users to allocate the function of every buttons. And, using a serial port or a basic USB connection, joysticks connect to your computer. For flight simulators and flying action games, joysticks are more appropriate since they emulate the controls of planes and other aircraft. However, joysticks are also used by some gamers for other kinds of video games, for example, first-person shooters and fighting games. Also, some users use the mouse and keyboard with which they are already habitual.

Furthermore, the joystick is mainly required when a specific function is required or when there is a requirement to accomplish a direct pointing. The joysticks have various types such as hand-operated isometric joysticks, finger-operated joysticks, displacement joysticks, thumb/fingertip-operated joysticks, hand-operated joysticks, and more.

The joystick also includes buttons similar to the mouse, sometimes called triggers. The difference between joystick and mouse is mainly on the basis of the fact that with the mouse until it is moved, it prevents the cursor from further movement, whereas with the joystick unless it is kept upright, the cursor continues the movement in the direction of the joystick.

In gaming application, fast interactions are much needed that is provided by the joystick. As compared to other input devices, the joystick offers a better gaming experience. It is easy to learn and use and often not more costly. However, it is not a suitable device when there is a need to select options from a screen and not as easy to handle in such cases.

Some joysticks do not have the ability for diagonal or lateral movements and limit the direction of movement to left, right and forward, backward. Additionally, compared with other input devices, the joystick is not robust. Sometimes, users find it very hard to control while comparing with an input device such as a mouse.

Types of Joystick

There are different types of the joystick, which are as follows:

One of the most common types of the joystick, also known as "Atari-style" digital joysticks that are widely used in home computers. It was first introduced in Atari 2600 videogame, employing simple left, right, up, down, and firing commands, and later it was adopted to the home computers. The advantage of these kinds of joysticks that they were available from many manufacturers, and they were standard. The below image is an instance of a digital joystick.

What is a Joystick

Paddle controller

Paddle joysticks is a modest controller device that is utilized to control the game. It is one of the oldest joysticks and includes one knob and one firing button. With the first home video game consoles, it was introduced to handle the racket on the display. The below image is an instance of a paddle controller.

What is a Joystick

Analogue joysticks

Analog joysticks combine the ideas of both digital and paddle joysticks. The Amiga, Apple, and IBM PC have used the analogue joysticks; they only contained analogue joystick inputs. Like digital joysticks, analogue joysticks are not so standardized. All manufactures produced their own model and had their own specifications of the stick. The below image represents how Analogue joysticks look.

What is a Joystick

PC analogue

In modern times, the PC analogue joystick is the most common type of joystick that was first presented by IBM with their personal computer. It usually connects through a USB port, and it is just a basic analogue joystick that has multiple buttons. The joystick interface card was made inexpensive as much as possible. Nowadays, for offering quicker access for joystick for game programs and avoiding some common PC joystick issues, these joysticks have been applied some other way as compared to through the PC joystick card interface. The way is not standardized through which those digital PC joysticks communicate with PC. Also, possible methods are serial port, keyboard connector, or proprietary serial protocol with the help of the old joystick interface.

Computer joystick ports

In modern times, using a USB port, joysticks are connected to most of the computer. There are given below all kinds of ports supported by a joystick.

  • Game port: It was first found on IBM computers in 1981, which is a 15-pin connector port, originally known as the Analog-to-digital port. It is also known as joystick port, game port, or game control adapter that allows users to connect devices such as steering wheels, joysticks, gamepads, and more. Some motherboards contain an internal ISA or PCI card. A joystick port could be installed on the motherboard if it does not have this feature.
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth describes how devices can communicate with each other as it is a computing and telecommunications industry specification. There are various devices that use Bluetooth, such as digital assistants, smartphones, computers, keyboards, and mice. Bluetooth has an effective range of 32-feet (10 meters) and a transfer rate of 1 Mbps.
  • Serial ports: It is used to connect a serial device to the computer, also known as an asynchronous port. It is commonly found on the back of the computer that has the ability to transfer one bit at a time. Usually, these kind of ports are identified on IBM-compatible computer systems.
  • USB: USB allows a computer to communicate with peripheral and other devices, which stands for universal serial bus. It is a plug-and-play interface that covers a broad range; it enables various devices to connect with computers or other devices such as keyboards, mice, flash drives and music players, etc.

A brief history of Joystick

C.B. Mirick invented the first two-axis electronic joystick at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and patented it in 1926 (U.S. Patent no. 1,597,416). The main purpose of designing it to remotely piloted aircraft, and its design was looked the same as the joysticks in use today. The joystick was probably used to support the remote-controlled aircraft, which was developing by NRL.

Around 1944, an electrical two-axis joystick was developed by the Germans that was used as a part of the Germans' Funkgerät FuG 203 Kehl radio control transmitter system to guide the unpowered pioneering precision-guided munition Fritz-X and the rocket-boosted anti-ship missile Henschel Hs 293.

Instead of analogue sensors, this joystick included on-off switches. Also, the work for converting an electrical signal to radio signals was done by Wasserfall steering equipment and then transmitted to the missile.

In the radio-controlled model aircraft systems, the use of joysticks increased in the 1960s. For case, the joystick controls the lunar lander test models.

For flight control in the form of a "side-stick, the joystick has received a new lease on life in many modern airliners aircraft. A side-stick means a controller similar to a gaming joystick, which is utilized to handle the flight in order to replace the traditional yoke. As compared to the traditional control yoke, the sidestick may be more useful in many areas such as safer in an accident, improves movement and visibility in the cockpit, and saves weight.

Advantages of Joysticks

A joystick offers various advantages while comparing with a control pad when it comes to video games. It plays an important role in controlling games and can be used to play games intended for home consoles or computer games. Below, there are given numerous benefits of joystick that may help you to describe the differences between a joystick and a control pad and determine which is better for you.

Classic Feel

As compared to control pad, the classic feel is one of the best advantages at the time of using it for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. And, it is much comfortable to use when playing classic arcade games, which featured joysticks. A joystick is used in both functions, stand-up and sit-down version in Pac-Man, which is another example. You might be more like to use a joystick if you grew up playing Pac-Man. Dig Dug" and "Donkey Kong" are in the list of other classic joystick games, which are available for next-generation consoles.

Time to Fight

Joysticks are designed with containing two buttons and range in size, and others are designed with having numerous buttons that are suitable for fighting games. The bigger joysticks eliminate the need for you to hold them as they can be located on a flat surface. When it comes to using the control pad, it limits you to using mainly your thumbs. And, you can use multiple fingers at one time with a larger joystick or joypad, which is ideal for fighting games. For instance, if you are playing a fighting game, there is a need to create combination moves that require pressing numerous buttons at one time.

The Flight Simulator

Different kinds of controllers, like flight simulators, are encouraged by some games, which can be either for the PC or a console. These games allow users to plug in an aircraft-style controller; for case, After Burner that is found on the classic arcade game to control your plane. The controller can gripe with one hand, and buttons placed on the base of it can be pressed with the other hand. These buttons control the weapons such as machine guns and missiles. Instead of only playing a game, if you use a flight simulator controller, you will feel like that you are inside the cockpit of an aircraft.


Another advantage of using a joystick over the control pad, when you are playing a video game, the joystick is more intuitive that is controlling your character's movement. You simply need to push the stick left or right if you must move left or right. To move a character left or right, a directional pad needs you to push down on it.

Disadvantages of Joysticks

There are various disadvantages of joystick; some are discussed below:


One of the main drawbacks of a joystick is compatibility. It is not compatible with most computers; for example, older joysticks may not be supported with all systems, these joysticks only compatible with the gaming system they come with. Also, some may not work on Macs; however, some will work on computers. Your operating system does not recognize the device, which may lead to creating an error for connecting it with the device. Make sure the joystick is compatible with your computer's system when you are purchasing a joystick game controller. Along with an emulator, you need to have a USB or joystick port on your computer if you want to use your older joystick. The emulator makes it capable the computer system recognizes the controller and allows for inputs.

Control Problems

Joysticks have buttons and the pivoting stick to control actions. Players most of the time are using the joystick to launch an object like an airplane or to maneuver through the game. Some players who are using an older version of the joystick may face problems in terms of how they can move the controller. If they use it for a long time, the buttons of the joystick can become stuck. Hence, they may only able to perform actions up to and down or left and right with the joystick. If you get stuck with this problem and only you are able to move the controls and cannot maneuver the objects in the game, in this situation, you may need to rewire your gaming system. Sometimes, it could happen with a joystick that it accidentally breaks off.

Hand Injuries with Joysticks

If you are using a joystick very frequently or for a very long time can cause repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. When you place too much stress on a particular part of the body, there are many chances of repetitive stress injuries. Players who use joystick continuously may experience soreness, tingling, or numbness in their upper hand area. Additionally, some players are more prone to such symptoms, which play particularly rough with the joystick. They got hand injuries in the form of tenderness, tissue damage, or muscle strain. You should concern with the physician to reduce your strain if you feel any discomfort or pain. You can also help prevent serious problems by limiting or stopping your use of joysticks. If you are feeling strain due to joystick and do not seek medical help, your problem can become more serious that may prevent you from doing everyday tasks, or you may need surgery.

Limited Game Genre

The joystick is more appropriate for some kinds of games such as shooting games, fighting games, flight simulators, and more. Unless you do not use the joystick, you really will not get the experience of the difference between both the control pad and joystick. Also, the joystick limits you to with few genres, and buying a decent quality joystick needs a high price.

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