What Is A Joystick In A Computer? Its Usage Explained!

If you play a gaming console, you first notice the device you hold, the ones with buttons and a joystick. Well, technically, what you are holding is called a gamepad. But we’re here to talk about the joystick itself. If you also go to an arcade, you’ll see a bunch of claw machines. And to play it, you’ll have to use a joystick to place the claw right where you want it.

what is a joystick
Image Source: Pixabay

Joysticks are basically everywhere, especially when it comes to games. These sticks help you maneuver around whatever you are playing. Well, there’s more to joysticks, so let’s get on it.

What Is A Joystick?

Joysticks are a vertical rod that you hold that is mounted on something like a base, an input device that manoeuvres the pointer’s movement. It’s almost similar to a computer mouse, wherein you just literally have to move the mouse to put your cursor where you want it. And the joystick is the same. However, the joystick is widely used in gaming.

Joysticks are more precise (which is indeed needed in gaming) and easier to handle when in intense play. But, it is a little tricky if you are not using it for games.

Outside gaming, you can still find a joystick. If you’re familiar with aircraft, they also use a joystick to maneuver the airplane, especially helicopters. It’s easier for them since joysticks can handle directions where you want to go (just like in gaming). Joysticks are also used in flight simulators.

How Does Joystick Works?

In simple words, a joystick is a control stick that rotates on a pivot and sends information about its position to the device it is used to operate. It can also have buttons that perform a specific task. Joysticks have the ability to direct movement along many axes and often have more than one shaft. It uses several potentiometers to identify the direction of the joystick, which is performed in the program.

Once a joystick is moved, the computer receives an electrical signal with an analog value, converts it into a digital signal, and sends it to the controlled hardware. The primary way to judge the quality of a joystick is by how smoothly the process works. The goal of a good joystick’s design and integration is to make it easy for the user’s input to be turned into the movement we see in games.

What Are The Uses Of A Joystick?

It’s not all about playing video games. However, it would be nice to play using a joystick and have a nostalgic experience like playing in an arcade when we were younger. As said before, a joystick is for controlling. Whatever you can think of controls, a joystick can be used. You can play games better when using a joystick, like the ones we have on gamepads. It’s easier to control characters. Another thing is flight simulators. Flight simulators are used with joysticks to control your flying airplane, which is better than a regular mouse. 

Speaking of a computer mouse, you can use joysticks on your PCs; however, it’s a bit tricky. I think everything is tough to use when it’s your first time using it. I personally think it would be cool to have a joystick as my mouse.

History Of Joysticks

Joysticks were actually invented for aircraft. C. B. Mirick came up with the first joystick at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. He got a patent for it in 1926. Eventually, in 1972, the first video gaming joystick was released by the Magnavox Odyssey, but they were already in the works since 1967. It worked only in a vertical and horizontal direction. 

It’s been everywhere ever since it was made for games, especially in video game arcades. In the early 1990s, analog sticks quickly became popular among video gaming consoles when Nintendo released the Nintendo 64 controller. 

In 1994, Playstation finally released the first gaming console with gamepads, which had two joysticks (also called thumbsticks as they are operated only by the thumbs). 

Slowly, actual joysticks had their own downfall since technology is growing. But today, having a joystick became popular again as a computer device for gaming. Some use it for roleplaying games handling their characters.

Components And Parts Of A Joystick

A joystick is not as complicated as some other parts of a computer. It simply functions as one or two or three (probably, at most) things. It’s like a mouse for using, a keyboard for typing, and a monitor for visualizing. So let’s see what it consists of.


The stick or the shaft is the main stand for a joystick or the rod we see when we use a joystick. It is supposed to be the body for the main handle to stick up.


The handle/top is the main thing a user holds to use a joystick. It is usually a ball or bat top that can be moved freely to any position.


It is where the mechanism happens. The pivot is connected to the stick and it gives the ability to move freely and swivels. Part of the shaft moves through the main shaft which helps to move it smoothly. They are usually cylinders and half-spheres that are placed on a special plate that is used to contour your move properly.


Springs are included in the joystick mechanism just for it to stand upright when not in use. It can also be used as a grip with resistance when using so it wouldn’t be so flimsy.


Actuators allow for more surface area at the bottom of the shaft and allow precise pressure to be applied to the switches. In some cases, it is as though a device has been placed around the bottom of the shaft or that has been attached to levers wherein microswitches allow you to activate them.

E-Ring (Retaining Ring)

A small, flat, curving metal plate that looks like the letter E is called an E-ring, a sort of fastener that holds something in place. Securing the pieces along the shaft is made easier with the help of this attachment. Compression and tension are applied to the spring as a result of this, allowing the joystick to return to a neutral position.

Mounting Plate

The joystick plate or mounting plate is directly and firmly linked to the control panel. The only two portions of the joystick that need to contact the control panel are this and the dust washer.

Guide/Dust Washer/Disk/Cover

The flat disk on top of the control panel wraps the shaft to conceal and protect the insides of the joystick and the hole in the panel. It also improves play when part of the hand sits on it.

Restrictor Gate

A restrictor gate is a plate with a specified form hole, such as a square or circle, that regulates where the joystick may travel around. It is often connected to the bottom of the joystick, constraining the shaft’s bottom. Many joysticks are circularly limited because they lack restrictor gates.

Wire Harness

Instead of wiring each microswitch around the bottom of the joystick, some joysticks have the microswitches connected to a PCB into which a wire harness is placed, protecting the main circuit.

Other Parts

The joystick may be customized and made more complete by a variety of joystick models and manufacturers. Some of the items they add are screws and housing, more spacers and securers along the shaft, additional plates for holding things like microswitches and the pivot, and other components.

Gaming Joystick Manufacturers

Since most of us don’t typically use joysticks, and if you’re considering having one, here as some of the top joystick manufacturers out there.

ThrustmasterThe best flight simulator joystick manufacturer
LogitechThe best budget joystick manufacturer
FR-TecThe best gaming joystick manufacturer
HoriThe best mid-priced HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick) joystick manufacturer
Mad CatzThe best fight stick for roleplaying games

How Much Does A Joystick Cost?

Gaming does include a lot of money and it’s not even just for the program itself. The output devices you use, the computer, and now, you can even add a joystick for a much more amazing experience when gaming. These ancient rudders may seem simple by current standards, yet they are the forefathers of all modern control techniques. This is why I think that joysticks are one of the best gaming control inventions. 

But, are joysticks really the one to go for? Aside from the astounding experience, we can never let go of the pricing. Some joysticks can cost you $20 at least and $300 at most. Although, some joysticks are included in a set like a pedal or with additional pads with buttons for the complete experience. Yet, the most expensive single joystick you can find can cost you around $100.

Frequently Asked Questions

Wrap Up

As I’ve said, I think joysticks are one of the best gaming controllers ever invented since you can engage with the game virtually and physically. Especially in flight simulators since joysticks are used in an actual aircraft. Talk about experience, huh? 

Hopefully, this helped you a lot with anything regarding joysticks. And if you’re considering stepping up your gaming experience, I do suggest that you go for the joystick. 

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Anna Bonilla
Anna Bonilla

Anna isn't just any ordinary Computer Hardware Expert, she's highly skilled and multi-talented. She's a graphic designer, a writer, and a social media expert. At ErrorBook, she helps her readers in understanding the purpose of different hardware components and also helps pick the best PC Parts for their money. She also loves babysitting her nephews, baking, and crafting coffee.

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