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I am currently in the process of designing a custom arcade-style joystick console for use with emulators on my PC. My design separates each joystick console from a single keyboard-encoder "hub" such that I may add additional joysticks or upgrade the encoder circuit without modifying existing joystick consoles. The connection to the hub may span several feet, much like existing joysticks connect to their game systems.

While designing, I became puzzled as to which cable and connectors to use for connecting a console to the hub. I need at least 12 signal wires for each console (joystick directions, buttons, and ground) and so I thought of using a standard HD-15 VGA cable and terminals. I am now dubious that this will work in general as I've read that some VGA cables don't wire all the pins.

Is the use of HD-15 cables suitable for my design and usage? It is definitely attractive as it is inexpensive and generally available.

What other cable and connector options are available to me and suitable for this project? Jumper cables are appealing as they connect without soldering, but they don't appear to be available in long lengths or as resistant to tangling as a VGA cable.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If in doubt, remember that assume makes an ass of u and me :) \$\endgroup\$ – freespace Apr 12 '11 at 3:24
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Don't assume. Most VGA cables use some sort of coax or individually shielded conductors for the Red, Green, Blue, and sync signals. The shields for these signals, which have their own pins, are commonly tied together inside the cable. Additionally, some older VGA cables might not connect the "unused" pins-- which are used on more modern devices.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I've seen some brand new VGA cables which didn't even have some pins on the connector, so +1. \$\endgroup\$ – AndrejaKo Apr 12 '11 at 12:43
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As stated earlier, some cables may not connect everything. Instead, try using a 25-pin parallel port cable instead, pins 1-17 are guaranteed to be connected. From my experiences so far, all 25 wires seem to be connected individually.

I've opened up a few VGA splitter/switchers before. I was surprised to see that those switchers only switch 4 wires. I assume they were 3 color components and 1 ground.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the info. The parallel cable should work and I can probably accommodate the larger size. What about a gameport-style DB15 cable? Do you think it will suffer from the same connection-shortcuts that a VGA cable may exhibit? \$\endgroup\$ – Steve Guidi Apr 12 '11 at 18:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ You'll have to look at the pin outs online. So far it doesn't seem that that game port styled cable is very standardized (though I'm not sure, I never used them) so it may vary from cable to cable. The parallel port on the other hand is very standardized and the minimum specifications guarantee at least those 17 pins be connected. \$\endgroup\$ – Faken Apr 13 '11 at 0:19
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You should not assume it, get out an ohm meter and check it out.

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Not directly the answer you were looking for, but some consoles, like the SNES, use a simple shift register system to pass data with fewer connectors. Something like this may be easier than a N-conductor cable to each controller.

Info on pinning, etc:

http://hackaday.com/2011/01/30/snes-arcade-controller/

http://pinouts.ru/Game/snescontroller_pinout.shtml

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The old standard PC joystick pinout seems suitable, and all-connected:

http://pinouts.ru/Inputs/GameportPC_pinout.shtml

Presumably you can buy premade cables for this. If you chose to match the PC pinout you'd also have the advantage of being able to test with pre-existing joysticks.

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