Getting Android emulators for rhe ZX Spectrum to work with "Ye Olde" 9 pin "D" joysticks circa 1984!

I suppose people could say "Why Bother" ? Well at least I have an answer (I have a lot of these old joysticks!) .

So if I am minded to try and get these old joysticks working on an Android tablet how far will I get? Well I have found out (on another thread) that my Mayflash Megadrive Controller adapter for PC USB does not work perfectly in this role with Android : it tends to "rudely interrupt" the games . So something else is needed as it was not designed for Android. But does does such an adaptor even exist ? Just because an adaptor like this Mayflash plugs in nicely and happens to work well with Windows and PC Windows based Emulators like Spectaculator , does not mean that that an equivalent adaptor can be found for Android . But it must be worth a look surely ? Basically to do this job it would have to connect a 9 Pin D type joystick to the the standard female USB port on an Android tablet in a in a compatible way and do it without "interrupting" the games. What chance of finding on of those?

Or it could be that I am going completely against the technological "grain" and should instead be seeking out a compatible new gamepad either wired or wireless . But I would not want to do this unless it was really necessary . I suppose I am thinking this :- If an adaptor can be made for the PC (the Mayflash as per above) then someone somewhere may have already come up with one for Android . Or is this a step too far? This thread will attempt to look at this this area and see if anyone has any ideas on this .


  • There are arduino projects to achieve this.

    This one says it works with Android, and it's using a cheap Arduino
    Thanked by 1harriusherbartio
  • It might be possible to wire a 9-pin joystick up to an ESP-32 and turn it into a Bluetooth controller...

    Thanked by 1harriusherbartio
  • edited May 28
    Yes thanks for that . That is one way to go but for me Bluetooth or other wireless would be a last resort . I have been looking at this but it involves buying a new stick ( I want to reuse the old ones) but at least there appear to be some options:-

    So it appears from this that this "incredibly simple" DB 9 pin Atari style joysticks do work with Android in USB form . So it could be that it was the Megadrive Adaptor that I was using with Windows that was causing the problem with Android . So would a simple DB9 to USB converter (without all the Megadrive Adaptor chips in it) do the job? In other words would a very simple adapter solution work? First of all though does such an adaptor exist ( and have I already got one but forgotten about it?!!)

    No I don'[t think I already have one but this looks intereseting:-

    This one looks cheap enough but is female so would need a male to male bit in the middle :-

    This one is also cheap and has a male connector:-


    But it mentions a CH340 chipset for Windows. That might be similar to what is on the Megadrive connector - I do
    not know . But at least this is an interesting area with some cheap adaptors !
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • Those adapters you are listing, harriusherbartio, are for serial to USB conversion.
    Either you need a premade cable such as fms has listed, or you can build one with an Arduino such as I linked to.

    A 3-button megadrive pad should also work with the Atari type to USB adapters.
  • edited May 29
    Thanks guys . I now realize I was taking much too much for granted when I jumped in to this area .At least this is "turning over" an interesting area where knowledge and expertise is a bit thin on the ground amongst average users.

    The above video does explain why the screen resolution is so good on this model . I agree about the grease on screen problem but it is not much of an issue.

    And thanks to fms for the Atari 2600 to USB adapter link . If I can find this on UK Ebay that would be ideal postage costs wise.And it has to be said this is an interesting area: look at this:-

    But trouble is this is on a PC not Android ( I think). Still it is interesting
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • edited May 29
    And it is good to see Tynemouth software in this market:-

    But again no mention of Android that I could see from a quick look . So, so far the problems for my particular "take" on this are:-

    1) Sorting out the "wheat" (Android) from the "chaff" (Windows PC as I already have an adaptor for that) I do not want to accidentally buy another Windows adaptor! (which appear to be quite likely actually!)
    2) And absolutely massive postage costs from the USA .
    3) The original joystick should be unmodified (a lot of the solutions involve joystick modification ). This should not be necessary .
    4) Most of the emphasis is on Android phones not tablets so this why it is such a small market in the UK . But the tablets are potentially massively better than phones for retro gaming with authentic old style wired joysticks like this with Android.
    5) I am "rudely" discounting wireless solutions.My justication for this approach is :-"Its more retro"!

    But postage costs on their own should not be an indicator that the project itself is bad . Personally I think tablet use has the best potential for old school joystick enthusiasts ( and hoarders!) and I think it has been shown that "in theory" it is doable . So it is all about the price!
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • edited May 29
    fms wrote: »
    And thanks to fms for the Atari 2600 to USB adapter link . If I can find this on UK Ebay that would be ideal postage costs wise.
    Can you please tell this ebay UK Link? I own such an Retro-Bit Adapter but want to buy another one. And can´t find it anywhere on the net. And the above needs a login? (I don´t think they actually have them available for delivery?!)

    Post edited by Luzie on
  • I have not found a UK one yet . The one fms gives (see above) is US based I think judging from the postal costs . The postage from the US is a killer so finding a locally sourced UK one will be the main thing for my project. I will keep looking but so success so far.
    Thanked by 1Luzie
  • edited May 29
    I took a look a Pobbit,s link . This takes you to a video that describes a solution that does not involve modifying the joystick . The presenter shows how to make an external plug and programmable connector that can be made up if you have a 3 d printer and the time and expertise to attempt . I would class this as "quite hard" . But he says these are also for sale but this would be from the US which would be expensive .. This project though does seem to offer great flexibility as it is progammable . Maybe this could be kept in reserve as it may be needed later if nothing easier turns up

    So so far , the evidence indicates could be do-able but not cheaply or easily . . I decided to recheck the link provided by fms to the Atari 2600 to USB adapter . Guess what ? The compatibility list mentions PCs and Windows but not Android . So the risk of getting one of these is that it could turn out to have exactly the same chips in it as the Megadrive Conroller adapter for PC USB . In other words to get this I could pay a lot for postage and then find it works with PC only (Back to square one)

    This You Tube video is very interesting:-
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • I think you could do the Arduino one without 3d printing. You just need a DB9 socket, Arduino, small project box. Cut a hole in the box for the DB9 socket, cut a hole in the box for the Arduino usb socket. Mount the socket on the box, mount the Arduino in the box, wire the socket to the Arduino as in the guide. Program the Arduino. Job done.

    You could probably use a small piece of prototyping board to mount everything on, and then it would work without a box even.
    This Arduino code supports two joysticks, which can be set to act as keyboard keys or USB HID joystick
  • edited May 29
    This should allow the cheap Arduino Pro micro linked in my first suggestion to make your joystick appear like an XBox controller - they should also work in Android from what I can tell.
    Post edited by Pobbit on
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  • edited May 29
    Thanks Pobbit .I am a bit hesitant as I have not worked with an Arduino before so lack experience with these. There is certainly more than one way to go with this. I found this :-

    It mentions the ZX Spectrum so it appears to be a good replacement for the Mayflash Megadrive Genesis PC USB adaptor now unavailable or difficult to get . But Android is not mentioned . But at least it appears there is a suitable alternative to the Mayflash (perhaps)

    The apps on the link below are for phones but I wonder if they would work on Android tablets .It look interesting anyway .Could these apps be made to work with the Mayflash adaptor :-
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • One more time:

    Your Mayflash MD adapter is made for MD gamepads. MD gamepad will report two different button states depending on the TH/TL pin (four states for six-button gamepads).

    Your normal Atari-style joystick will report the same state, independently of the TH/TL pin. Hence, when you press a button on your Atari joystick, your Mayflash adapter probably reports two different buttons rather than one.

    There is no point making any apps, Android or Windows, work with incorrect setup. You should either get yourself an MD gamepad or get an Atari-to-USB joystick adapter.

    You probably should not get yourself an Arduino, since it is going to confuse you even more. Simple solutions for simple problems.
    Thanked by 1harriusherbartio
  • edited May 29
    Reply to fms

    Yes I was surprised (about 2-3 years ago) that the Mayflash could work perfectly with ZX Spectrum software and Spectaculator .But nevertheless , the Mayflash did work well with Windows 7 and the Spectaculator emulator . This emulator has facilities and options which made it easy to configure it in an individual way for specific set ups (I think from memory it only stores 1 though) .So , my question is "Why is this "two state" problem only showing up on Android but not with thisWindows/Spectaculator/Mayflash setup?" - so what is the substantive difference that makes it a problem on the one O/S but not on the other? Mind you ,I could be wrong . And I am not an expert . But I remember. Mark did a pretty good workthrough thread at the time and I do not remember any problems with "two states" but I could recheck this as it was awhile ago . But I agree simple solutions are best.Here is a link to Mark's thread:-

    But of course as this Mayflash is not available so much now this is not of the same signifance that it once was.
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • edited May 30
    Yes times have moved on since the original Spectrum . The "support kit" that is easily take for granted is really very transitory any very specialist . So really I should not be assuming that everyone else is on "the same page" kit wise . Back in the day we only had our Spectrums but now we are in the world of the "Weekend Steam PC Games Sale" . So if I have £20 to spend I can buy a discounted Steam game or a "backup" controller adapter for a Speccy emulator . Now which will it be?

    But seriouly though doing a review does make me realize that stitching this stuff together ,although fun , is not always easy . At least the Windows7/Megadrive Genesis adaptor /Spectaculator emulator concept does work even though the"parts" for it are hard to get . So some attention to getting substitutes may be worthwhile . So in a way this thread is also a way for me to rethink "known ways" and assess if they are still viable. I think I need recheck what I am talking about ( Mark was way ahead of me on this)

    Although this thread is about Android emulators a quick detour back to Windows emulation may be justifiable ( especially now the support kit is known to be in short supply)..

    The "Railway Tycoon" game metaphor:- Is keeping known and viable "routes" open as important as building "new routes"? What is the wise investment "route" choice for "old kit" emulation enthusiasts?
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • edited May 30
    Taking a step back

    Apparently another Android emulator called Spectacol is based on Fuse . I have used Fuse a few times but have no detailed knowledge but I can see that the next step back should be to see how Fuse copes with the Megardive controller (its been a while so I have forgotten)

    A quick revisit made me aware of one of the features of Speccy that I like . Speccy would allow you to cycle through using the "touchscreen" . Its amazing quickly a useful facility like this can be taken for granted . But with Fuse to stop file association problems between Fuse and Spectaculator , I try to keep these emulators away from each other using the dual boot PC . So this will take a while to set up.
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • edited May 30
    Back to Windows.
    Well when devices have not been used for a while the easy mistake to make is that they are still working . I referred to Marks info and relaized I had forgotten about the Mayflash driver (arh!) - I had a bit of a scare when it it non available but then it said device installed . So I needed a refresher on this . This thing has a driver! Well I tried it with Spectaculator . I went to Option/PC joystick and the Mayflash MD USB Adapter has shown up .I set it to Kempston . I tried Theatre Europe with a very old Archer joystick and I was able to move he NATO armies around OK . Mark's refresher guide was very useful as I had forgotten about the drivers . They explain why it overcomes the problems mentioned above . I must remember to try and get a copy of this driver in case it becomes unavailable.
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • edited May 30
    More blurb on the Mayflash here:-

    Interestingly the blurb says "no driver" needed which probably means Widows is meant to "do the heavylifting" seamlessly without anyone noticing . But as Mark has shown on his thread ,in practice you probably have to nudge it in the right direction . But at least it works with Windows 10 so this adapter should have a reasonably long life.

    However when the "where to buy" tab is pressed it comes up with unavailable on the Amazon site:-

    The fact that it requires drivers (even if possibly fairly generic ones) explains a lot and probably rules it out (as explained above by the experts) for Android . But at least I have reacquainted myself with the basics of its use and I now know to look after it well as it is now a hard to get.item.
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • edited May 30
    And I had to try 3D DeathChase with the Kox Speedking joystick from 1987 . This was new for its time as it was equipped with the "new" micro switches. Today It worked fine , but the micro switches are very noisy . I had forgotten just how noisy (or clicky) old joysticks could be ( very authentic though!)

    On another tack ...

    I did see these . I will need to check back on previous advice in this thread from the experts but these products do have the magic words ANDROID EMULATION mentioned in the description (more word needed on this)
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on

  • Another thing I noticed .(having to wait for the drivers to be reinstalled each time)

    I unplugged the Mayflash connector and shut down the PC .Then I plugged it in again awhile later it seemed to go through this driver installation process all over again . So , to get around this waste of time , it seems that the Mayflash needs a permanent "plug in" home at the back of a PC or somewhere ,simply to avoid the driver reinstallation process . Ideally this could be the one the emulator works best on and there was one . PCs are complicated so I suppose it was inevitable that it would work better on one PC than another ( for some reason the Kempston joystick fire button would not work on the other PC - so emulation can be fickle it seems)
  • edited June 1
    I will get back to the original subject of this thread eventually..........

    But in the meantime I will look at the number of main CONSTITUENT parts in each approach

    A) PC WINDOWS EMULATION APPROACH . The parts needed are:-

    1) The PC
    2) The Megadrive lead
    3) The drivers for the Megadrive lead
    4) The "old" style game controller .

    There are also a huge range of variables with in each part eg for the PC , its age and number of spare USB ports and their type (USB1 ,2 or 3) . And with the lead there is the question of whether it is still made (We now know it is not)

    B) MY ANDROID TABLET APPROACH. ( this approach has not got very far as yet!)

    Comparing this with the Android ,at the moment there are only 2 known parts :1) the Android Tablet with keyboard . ::2) The joystick/gamepad controller type (yet to be specified as the expert suggestions as per above have not yet been tried out) . But the interesting thing is what happened when this 3rd part , the Megadrive lead , was "illegally" substituted (so there were now 3 parts) it got "all excited".

    Re Speccy Without my "illegal" substitution of the Megadrive lead my existing controllers generated no response from the Joystick options (Settings Menu) but with the Megadrive lead "illegally" inserted it got "excited" and pretended to respond (until later when it kept cutting back from the gameplay itself to the Settings menu , and other areas a bit randomly) . This was interesting as it sort of stimulated the system albeit in a "wrong kind of way.
    Otherwise with only 2 known "good" parts the risk of picking up the wrong part is quite high . So it is a bit like a game of "who goes first?" in buying possibly the wrong controller. Obviously it is my thread and I should feel interested but ,somewhat perversely , my appreciation of the Windows system and how good it is has leapt ahead : playing Batty and 3D Death Chase with a Konix Speedking Zip stick from 1987 now goes perfectly . So I am now at square one which is where I should have been when I started this thread .

    But the PC /Windows/Megadrive lead/Spectaculator set up does still have some disadvantages 1) I am no longer trating the Megadrive lead as portable ( it is too useful too lose) .2) It takes up "scarce" USB port 3) So with my usage of it now it is not portable (too risky to use with a laptop) 4) Spectaculator can only save one joystick configuration at a time ( I think , Mark may know better) 5) I have not optimized this approach for touchscreen use .

    But overall I am pleased with "my" progress so far! Now I need to re read the expert advice (and digest it) given above in this thread and decide what to do next if anything! The outlook for the original premise of this thread which seemed doable at the time now looks extremely unlikely ( from whichever way you look at it) so as the experts suggested ages ago it appears that a new contoller is the way forward ( with Speccy at least) . But there are other Android ZX Spectrum emulation apps available that might be worth a look 1) Spectacol 2) The Android special Fuse based app version.

    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • If you really wanted to keep using old joysticks, a better approach might be cannibalising an Xbox controller for all the internal circuitry (since that will usually work with just about anything) and then creating an adapter to plug the old joystick into replacing the connections from the original buttons.
    Thanked by 1harriusherbartio
  • Reply to AndyC

    Thanks for that idea . So many cables on those old Xbox controllers broke that there were loads of people trying to recable them at one time . So durability wise the better old Speccy sticks lasted longer (eg my Zipstick) than these much later Xbox controllers .Some of the old sticks were good , durable (and authentic!)
  • You don't need to make one, unless you enjoy the challenge

    I've had 3 interfaces working with my chinese Android TV box, for Atari 9 pin joysticks. I still have some original Atari joysticks that came with the Atari 2600 (still my favourite joystick). Haven't tried them yet with Spectrum games as I tend to play with the keyboard on the Spectrum, but if RetroArch recognises them on the Android box they should work with whatever emulator.

    The 2600-adapter is relatively expensive but I really wanted one that would also work with paddles for VCS games (though the paddle emulation only seems to be recognised with my Raspberry Pi and PC)

    These worked also

    And these are available from AliExpress, have two ports and the cable is longer than my living room

    Good luck !

    Thanked by 1harriusherbartio
  • Thanks . That is very good quality information . There does not seem to be a UK supplier. I think the postal costs will keep me thinking about whether they will be available in the UK . But it shows it can be done with "loads of money!". For a lot of things what the USA gets we get 10 years later ( but does that apply to Retro?!!)
  • My step back to Windows/Megadrive Controller/ Spectaculator Speccy emulation continued yesterday and I asked for a second opinion on the old style joysticks from my sons . It was not complete joy for them. They said the Konix Zipstick worked faster on the left axix than the right . It was pointed out to me that I had nor even noticed this deficiency and they wondered why . The thing I DID notice was that my Zipstick was really for right handers so I was at a button control disadvantage hand holding it as a left hander . And next I found the Competition Pro joystick needed a bit more welly than I remember so much so that I also needed to hand hold that as well which I never used to do: I reckon the rubber sleeve washer around the stick had hardened up a bit making it more difficult to shift the stick . The other thing I noticed was my lack of desktop space .From the more recent past , I remember that I always thought that my joystick should be the most important element in this type of PC Speccy emulation . I felt that , with this usage , the PC keyboard did not seem justify the huge amount desk space it took up for this emulation - so for me it was time to park that and bring in my Tynesoft rubber key Speccy USB keyboard to provide the occasional key press needed in this joystick support role

  • My Best Set up So Far (Ref emulation with Windows/Spectaculator/ and Megadrive Cable)
    To this was added a Red Plastic Quickshot II Turbo joystick set to Kempston on Spectaculator. This surprised me as it was the best joystick I have tried so far with this set up . This joystick responded well and the suckers on the base gripped the desk top well . Just the thing for Batty. ( only another 25 joysticks to test !!)
  • edited June 7
    The thing I forgot to mention (that I used as per above) was the ZX Spectrum USB keyboard that I made up from the Tynemouth kit . I have done a few of these kits - the early ones being set up in big cases like the DKtronics keyboard . In fact , for this kind of "space constrained" "quick game" Speccy emulation , my smaller later efforts using an original Spectrum 48k rubber keycase were more useful for this minor joystick "support" role . After all , in this support role , the keyboard is there just for the odd keypress and an actual proper "fantastic" keyboard is not needed , just something small and convenient for the odd key press needed . This thread shows the type of thing I used yesterday as per above. The pic with the brass studs showing through shows how I could have made this kit up in a slightly " cleaner way (done it better in other words) .Yesterday , for "Batty" I just needed the "0" key to restart the game each time . And ,of course this time it was nice to have all the extra space on the desktop that was now available after I had "parked elsewhere" the main PC keyboard:-
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
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