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‘Duke’ …back together again!

We start off this post with the solution to our button feel issue from the our previous build. And here it is, we used the original ‘Duke’ board. Pretty obvious, eh? At least, it seems so now. Reusing the original PCB is a great choice; not only does it have the absolute correct locations for the buttons and joysticks, it also has the carbon traces that will let us use the original silicone button pads. This will give us the authentic button feel from the original ‘Duke’ we are looking for.

But our previous efforts were not completely wasted. There were some advantages to creating our own board. We now have some valuable build thickness data that lets us reshape the ‘Duke‘ internals (including the trigger mechs), and we also have a great template to trim the ’Duke’ board by.

After desoldering all the large components, and scraping all the small bits from the ‘Duke’ PCB were left with a perfectly flat board we could cut into shape using the previous template. During this process we noticed a lot of the ‘Duke’ components and buttons used a common ground trace and found the same to be true of the 360 controller. Not knowing how similar or different this common ground usage was could possibly lead to accidental cross-wiring or unintentional activations. To remedy this I quarantined the traces on the ‘Duke’ PCB by cutting through the copper on both sides around the button cluster zones. This step was probably not necessary, but I figured it would be better to eliminate these possible issues now rather than risk errors after everything gets soldered up and put together.

The next step was to sand the enamel off the surface traces in the appropriate spots around the buttons so we could solder on the bridge wires. And then the most grueling process yet; cutting, stripping, and soldering the 48+ wires that will bridge the relocated buttons and joysticks of the ‘Duke’ PCB to the 360 PCB. This was pretty straight forward but also quite time consuming, and with that done a significant step in this project is complete.

I think it’s time to mention an oddity of the ‘Duke’ PCB that, until this new direction in the build, wasn’t anything more than a curiosity. The peculiarity I am referring to is the strange sticker that covers the carbon traces of the ‘X,Y,A,B’ and ‘Black, White’ button cluster.

Typically in silicone button design, a small patch of carbon is baked into the silicone mat that contacts and connects the carbon traces that are on the PCB. And indeed the ‘Duke’ PCB employs this setup for all of the buttons except for this cluster. My best guess is that somehow this specialized mat could be an analog button design mechanism. Now, I can’t recall from my original Xbox days if there was ever any game that had analog button controls, but I do remember pre Xbox release rumors stating that the controllers would have analog buttons. I have no idea what its function really was, but I do know that the patch complicates our new button setup. Because we have to solder to the top side of the board exactly where this sticker will sit, this once-flat material will now be distorted as it rises and falls over the solder bumps. And who knows how that affect its performance; for now we are going to run it as is and see what that gets us. If anyone knows what the deal is with this patch we would love to know.

Once the wire bridge was completed and all wires were soldered and secured with hot melt glue the controller went back together pretty easily. There is still a little bit of binding on the triggers for now but everything else feels just right. Using a temporary battery pack I did a quick test to see if at least the guide button works and — eureka! — it turned on.

Exciting stuff! Next up, we’ll see if it can connect to a 360 and test all of the buttons. Stay Tuned!

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