This study is about a device which is probably the best joypad of all times: the Dual Shock. It has many variants and we can expect it to keep evolving in the coming years, however, we will focus here on the current version, the Dual Shock 3.

In this article, we will go through the history of the game controller in general and then focus on the history of the Dual Shock itself, so that we understand how it was built. In a next parts, we will carry on with the context in which the device was built and then analyse the controller by studying its specifications.



There are many categories of game controllers, among which we will retain the most popular one, the gamepad, as that’s exactly what the Dual Shock is. Gamepads, also known as joypads, can have many action buttons combined with one or more omnidirectional control sticks or buttons. They are held using both hands with fingers (typically thumbs) used to provide input; as mentioned on Wikipedia, most modern game controllers are a variation of a standard gamepad. Common additions include shoulder buttons placed along the edges of the pad, joysticks, centrally placed buttons and internal motors that provide haptic feedback (as in, they typically vibrate).


Some history

In his article intituled "History of the game controller", Catalin Ivan stated "Ever since the very beginning of video gaming, the controller has been the best (and usually the only) way of man-machine interaction." That’s actually an interesting fact, and it would be good to follow the evolution from that “very beginning” to see how we reached the current gamepad technologies. There had actually been many, many gamepads released throughout the history, we are not going to study all of them, we are just going to review those who appear like important milestones that we observed from a study by John Honnibal and that we are summing up in the following table:

Controller Name



The TV Tennis Game Paddle

- An analogue control based on a monostable

- Game-start buttons were located on the console, not on the paddles

- One variant was the use a slider control


- Some TV games didn’t even put the paddle on wires but place them on the front of the game itself

- Generally, with the early models, there were no buttons on the pads



The Atari 2600 Joystick

- A digital four-way joystick with a single fire button

- Again, game-start button on the console itself

The Atari 7800 Joystick

- A digital four-way joystick with two fire buttons

- Simply add an extra-button to the 2600 Joystick

The 8-bit Home Computer Joystick

- An analogue joystick with a single fire button

- Here, the game could be started using the keyboard

The Vectrex Joystick

- An analogue joystick with FOUR buttons

- Games were started from the controller using the normal fire buttons

- The fire buttons are labelled '1' to '4'

The Nintendo Entertainment System Joypad

- A digital joypad with two game-start buttons and two fire buttons

- introduced the idea of placing active components and circuitry inside the joypad.

- The shape of the game pad, however, is a very basic rectangular box.

- The two fire buttons are both red in colour and are labelled ‘A’ and ‘B’.

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System Joypad

- A digital joypad with two game-start buttons and six fire buttons.

- introduced the idea of shoulder buttons

- shaped much more naturally to fit the player's hands.

The Sony PlayStation I Joypad

- A digital joypad with two game-start buttons and eight fire buttons.

- adds more shoulder buttons to the SNES pad

- an even more ergonomic shape

The Sony PlayStation II Joypad

- An update to the PlayStation I controller that adds analog controls and a pair of vibration motors.

- the analog-to-digital converter (ADC) is in the controller and the interface is digital.

- The two motors are fitted with eccentric weights of different sizes, and can be independently controlled by the game.


From this brief summary, we can see the different steps in the history of the game controller before the Dual Shock took over. A few deductions we can make are firstly that we slowly went from controllers with zero buttons to controllers with one, two buttons and so on. Those buttons became more and more meaningful with colours and labels. We also observe that the commands slowly moved from the game console to the controller. Further, we note that controllers got more and more ergonomic with time.

Now, let's revisit the amazing story of the DualShock.