Main Restorations Software Audio/Jukebox/MP3 Everything Else Buy/Sell/Trade
Project Announcements Monitor/Video GroovyMAME Merit/JVL Touchscreen Meet Up Retail Vendors
Driving & Racing Woodworking Software Support Forums Consoles Project Arcade Reviews
Automated Projects Artwork Frontend Support Forums Pinball Forum Discussion Old Boards
Raspberry Pi & Dev Board controls.dat Linux Miscellaneous Arcade Wiki Discussion Old Archives
Lightguns Arcade1Up --- Bug Reports --- Site News

Unread posts | New Replies | Recent posts | Rules | Chatroom | Wiki | File Repository | RSS | Submit news

  

Author Topic: User review: Blackhawk Push/Pull Spinner from Apache Controls  (Read 4257 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

erictrumpet

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 375
  • Last login:February 17, 2016, 11:59:23 am
User review: Blackhawk Push/Pull Spinner from Apache Controls
« on: August 28, 2006, 03:54:55 pm »
Hey folks,

I mentioned in another thread I got the Apache Blackhawk Push/Pull spinner and I finally took some pictures of my cheesy test-bench I built for it (see pics below) to try it out. This is a long and wordy review but I am trying to point out things that I haven't seen anyone else mention yet about this great spinner.

A little background. One of the reasons I got into MAME is Tempest. (That and Galaga.) Since Tempest is an all-time favorite I always knew I had to have a spinner. So an Oscar V2 was one of the first controls I ever bought (along with a Galaga/MsPacMan reunion stick for Galaga). I got the V2 with a push kit because my #3 favorite game is Discs of Tron. I figured, I could at least have HALF a push/pull, then maybe use a button on the flight stick to substitute for the "pull" function. At the time Oscar's DOT spinner was not available. Needless to say playing DOT with a push-only spinner and halfassing the pull function with a button didn't work at all, so I simply never played DOT. And forget the wild prices original DOT spinners (and even Oscar copies) were costing on Ebay! And anyone who thinks you can play DOT without a push/pull, forget it. Even if you've worked out some system with buttons on your CP that seems to work, it's not the same. Thank goodness Apache came along with the Blackhawk. Once you play with a real push/pull, your scores will soar and you will know THIS is how the game is supposed to be played!

Okay on to the Blackhawk. First of all, the name Blackhawk is cool but even cooler is how the spinner chassis itself is anodized black! The chassis is designed as a single piece, a square cube with two open sides. The company logo is etched in the metal, cutting through the black and showing the silver metal. Very slick. The "wow" factor of this unit is really impressive. Of course, all this is invisible under your control panel, but let's face it, we got into this hobby because we're do-it-yourselfers and take pride in well-made stuff. Why else would so many people share pics of the undersides of their CP to show off tidy wiring? This is definitely a great looking piece of hardware.

More about the construction of the Blackhawk. It's totally bulletproof, every part is metal, the bushings are brass, the flywheel is machined, even the pre-wired USB cable (if you get the "Primary" configuration which I did) is a better-than-average piece, pre-connected and held securely by a little metal clamp thingy that makes it impossible to accidentally pull the wires out of the connectors on the PCB. Speaking of the PCB, it looks like it was designed along with the chassis itself, because it fits perfectly on one side of the chassis, and even the circuitry is laid out efficiently. I've seen some ugly PCBs that are larger than they need to be. Not so with the Apache. As for the general design of this thing, all I can say is these guys are clever. As a DOT lover I thought of trying to either convert my V2 or make a spinner from scratch to do the push/pull but I couldn't ever think of how to do it without simply copying the leafswitch mechanism in the original DOT part (or Oscar's copy). And whatever I could build would never be as slick as this. The Blackhawk is totally reliable and the use of microswitches means no tweaking or adjustment needed. The chassis does allow up and down adjustment of the microswitches to fine-tune the range of push/pull motion needed to activate the switches. But this is fine-tuning for individual feel preferences, not adjustment for the purpose of keeping it functional. This design seems pretty much maintenance-free. The way the design uses a flywheel with two flat circle pieces -- one with teeth for the optical thingy to read and the other without teeth to activate the switches -- is one of those slap-your-head and say, "Why didn't I think of that?" things. :) It's a really smart design and it works great.

I notice in some of the stuff written about this spinner it is mentioned that there is a "grinding" noise when pushing/pulling and spinning simultaneously. Well, yeah, the design is such that if you activate a switch and then twist the knob, it'll scrape. But when the heck would you ever do this? Until I read this online it never even occured to me this would be a problem. By then I'd played a couple hours of DOT (I can make it to the push/pull levels pretty much every time now yayyyyy) and never once did I encounter any ugly noises. For one thing, unless I use both hands I can't even pull or push and turn the knob at the same time. So don't be concerned about this... I don't think it's an issue at all.

Another thing people talk about is this "resolution" thing. I don't fully understand all the technical mumbo jumbo on that subject, but I do know this: both this spinner and the Oscar V2, which have different tooth counts on the encoder wheels (the Oscar actually has fewer teeth than the Apache), both worked totally fine in all games. The Apache is especially good at Tempest. This spinner has just the right feel for this game. Kevin noted this in his Retroblast review too so it's not just me. This spinner required virtually no adjustment in MAME (but if it does, hit TAB in-game and adjust the sensitivity as needed, no biggie), and it moves the cursor/ship/whatever with even the slightest touch. The most adjustment I needed was for Arkanoid, all I had to do was bring the sensitivity down a ways and it plays pretty good now. I know some people are really hardcore about Arkanoid, but let's face it if that's your #1 game you should get an original Arkanoid spinner with the geared mechanism. No free-spinning spinner like the Apache or V2 or Tornado or whatever is going to give you that geared feel. But for me, with adjustment the Apache works just fine on that game too.

Okay this review is way too long already so let me wrap it up. The main feature of this spinner is the push/pull capability which is expertly executed and works great. But that is not the only thing the Blackhawk offers. It is a well built, tough, and very cool looking spinner and with the Primary USB configuration it takes the place of my OptiPac as well! (You can hang a trackball off of this thing.) So the price of the Blackhawk is totally worth it. Oh yeah and the knob is AWESOME. It has grippy knurling grooves but it doesn't feel like a pumice stone. :)

Oh and as for the customer service and all that stuff, David at Apache was great answering questions and the thing came packed perfectly and even included a cool little hex screwdriver for installing the knob. Yeah, I know, who would buy an arcade part for a home project and doesn't already own a set of hex keys, but this was a very nice touch. And my hex keys are the basic L-shaped things not a nice "real" tool like this so it's actually a useful little free gift.

Some links...
http://www.apachecontrols.com/
http://www.retroblast.com/reviews/apache-070106-01.html

Okay that's enough typing... below are some pics of my lame spinner test bench... notice I am getting my DOT game on! :)

Eric.









RandyT

  • Trade Count: (+14)
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 6249
  • Last login:May 23, 2019, 01:06:46 pm
  • Friends don't let friends hack keyboards.
    • GroovyGameGear.com
Re: User review: Blackhawk Push/Pull Spinner from Apache Controls
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2006, 08:55:14 pm »
Another thing people talk about is this "resolution" thing. I don't fully understand all the technical mumbo jumbo on that subject, but I do know this: both this spinner and the Oscar V2, which have different tooth counts on the encoder wheels (the Oscar actually has fewer teeth than the Apache), both worked totally fine in all games. The Apache is especially good at Tempest. This spinner has just the right feel for this game. Kevin noted this in his Retroblast review too so it's not just me. This spinner required virtually no adjustment in MAME (but if it does, hit TAB in-game and adjust the sensitivity as needed, no biggie), and it moves the cursor/ship/whatever with even the slightest touch. The most adjustment I needed was for Arkanoid, all I had to do was bring the sensitivity down a ways and it plays pretty good now. I know some people are really hardcore about Arkanoid, but let's face it if that's your #1 game you should get an original Arkanoid spinner with the geared mechanism. No free-spinning spinner like the Apache or V2 or Tornado or whatever is going to give you that geared feel. But for me, with adjustment the Apache works just fine on that game too.

Nice review, but I need comment on this paragraph.  Comparing to a spinner with a lower tooth count (The Oscar2) doesn't really sell the "resolution" point.  It's not a matter of whether something "moves at the slightest touch", but how much does it move?  Does the paddle jump 3 pixels instead of one like it should?  Do you have to spin the spinner 360 degrees (or more) to get across the screen instead of the 120 degree rotation intended by the original game designers?  These are the places where resolution can, and does, make a difference on a number of titles.  If those titles are important to you, then so is this specification.  Tempest has very low resolution requirements, so that title will usually work perfectly, even with a mouse hack.

Also, playing "higher-res" games like Arkanoid, or the many games that used analog paddle controls, on a spinner with a reduced tooth count requires one to increase the sensitivity in MAME, usually to the maximum allowed, not decrease it as you stated.  Depending on the spinner technology, sometimes the MAX doesn't even get it where it should be. 

The resolution issue is one of  those things that most won't understand or really appreciate until they have experienced the difference.  You can think of it like the difference between a keyboard hack and a performance-oriented keyboard encoder module.  Both "get the job done", but one of them is quite a bit more capable than the other.

Otherwise, a nicely written piece

RandyT

erictrumpet

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 375
  • Last login:February 17, 2016, 11:59:23 am
Re: User review: Blackhawk Push/Pull Spinner from Apache Controls
« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2006, 11:02:05 pm »
Randy, thanks for your post. I just checked my Arkanoid settings and I actually did decrease the sensitivity, but I did this based solely on the feel I liked for playing the game. If you are right that the game designers intended for 120 degrees of knob rotation to equal moving the bumper one full width of the playfield, then the sensitivity must be increased, not decreased.

The good news is, although MAME maxes out at 255%, that is enough for the Apache to produce the proper 120 degree result. Of course, this may depend on my mouse settings in Windows and such. So this is by no means scientific, but here's more or less how the Apache functions in Arkanoid on my current setup:

75% sensitivity = 360 degrees for full width of playfield (this is where I had it set and I liked it like this, but apparently this is not faithful to the original).

150% sensitivity = 180 degrees for full width of playfield (better but not yet as "intended by the original game designers").

220+% sensitivity = 120 degrees or so (approx 1/3 of a full rotation) for full width of playfield.

It's hard to judge 1/3 of a rotation during gameplay, but from what I can tell if I up the sensitivity to 250% (255% = maxed out), it is definitely well under a half-turn to move the bumper all the way back and forth. And the Blackhawk still seems to move smoothly with tiny incremental turning of the knob. It also did not seem to give me any backspin or anything weird like that. I'll have to experiment with it some more, but it seems to be okay.

Thanks Randy, I actually kinda like Arkanoid set more faithfully to the original in terms of the amount of dial rotation used to play. I think I will keep my sensitivity high for this game. I am an authenticity freak when it comes to button mapping and such so I will force myself to like it this way. :) After 4-5 games I am already getting used to it.

Eric.

Edit: fixed a typo


« Last Edit: August 28, 2006, 11:05:42 pm by erictrumpet »

Texasmame

  • No, no. He's in charge here.
  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1239
  • Last login:December 04, 2018, 12:51:36 pm
  • Ba, ba, boom!
Re: User review: Blackhawk Push/Pull Spinner from Apache Controls
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2006, 04:33:34 pm »
What do you mean "you could hang a trackball off this thing?"

NightGod

  • Trade Count: (+1)
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1052
  • Last login:July 26, 2017, 06:59:58 pm
Re: User review: Blackhawk Push/Pull Spinner from Apache Controls
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2006, 06:49:19 pm »
What do you mean "you could hang a trackball off this thing?"
You can connect a trackball to this in place of using an Optipac.
$6.75 the hard way-one quarter at a time.

erictrumpet

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 375
  • Last login:February 17, 2016, 11:59:23 am
Re: User review: Blackhawk Push/Pull Spinner from Apache Controls
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2006, 07:39:51 pm »

Right. The "Primary" configuration of the Apache Blackhawk not only connects the spinner itself to your PC via USB (without drivers), but it also offers inputs on the PCB for two other axes' worth of rotary devices... a second spinner, 360-degree steering wheel, trackball (tb obviously would take up both available extra axes), or whatever combination, plus two pushbuttons (not counting the push/pull "buttons" of the spinner itself).

From the Apache Controls info page on the Blackhawk:
http://www.apachecontrols.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1

- Capable of running 2 Blackhawk spinners at once on the same machine
- Capable of running 1 Blackhawk and 1 trackball on the same machine
- 5 switch buttons built into the board design (Mouse 0 thru Mouse 4)

Since I don't need an Optipac with this spinner, it saves me some money on my overall project build cost, even though the initial cost of the spinner was higher.

Eric.

Edit: typo

RandyT

  • Trade Count: (+14)
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 6249
  • Last login:May 23, 2019, 01:06:46 pm
  • Friends don't let friends hack keyboards.
    • GroovyGameGear.com
Re: User review: Blackhawk Push/Pull Spinner from Apache Controls
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2006, 10:40:46 pm »

Right. The "Primary" configuration of the Apache Blackhawk not only connects the spinner itself to your PC via USB (without drivers), but it also offers inputs on the PCB for two other axes' worth of rotary devices... a second spinner, 360-degree steering wheel, trackball (tb obviously would take up both available extra axes), or whatever combination, plus two pushbuttons (not counting the push/pull "buttons" of the spinner itself).

From the Apache Controls info page on the Blackhawk:
http://www.apachecontrols.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1

- Capable of running 2 Blackhawk spinners at once on the same machine
- Capable of running 1 Blackhawk and 1 trackball on the same machine
- 5 switch buttons built into the board design (Mouse 0 thru Mouse 4)

Since I don't need an Optipac with this spinner, it saves me some money on my overall project build cost, even though the initial cost of the spinner was higher.

Here are some more technical comments and something people should at least ask Apache Controls to comment on before making the purchase if they intend to do this;

From the photos, this spinner appears to be using the HT82M980A 5-Button USB / PS/2  Mouse controller chip.  It is a fairly standard 3-axis controller but, according to the datasheet, it treats the Z-axis very differently than the other two axes.  From what I can tell, not only is the timing of the Z-axis much slower, but it also registers only 2 "counts" for each tooth on the encoder, as opposed to the 4 "counts" per tooth generated by the X and Y axes. 

This would effectively cut the resolution of the spinner in half and may inflict some backspin type issues due to the slower sampling if it is attached to the Z axis.  If one were planning to attach a trackball, it would need to be attached to the X and Y axes, which looks as though it would leave the spinner crippled on the Z.

Of course one could avoid this by sharing axes with a physical switch, but you can't, to my knowledge, just hook more than one device to the same axis without conflict.

Again, this is a question for them to answer.  I'm just a little confused by the apparent contradiction between what is being claimed and what is stated in the datasheet for the mouse controller being used.

RandyT

Texasmame

  • No, no. He's in charge here.
  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1239
  • Last login:December 04, 2018, 12:51:36 pm
  • Ba, ba, boom!
Re: User review: Blackhawk Push/Pull Spinner from Apache Controls
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2006, 08:38:20 pm »
What do you mean "you could hang a trackball off this thing?"
You can connect a trackball to this in place of using an Optipac.

Thanx, that's what I thought but wanted to be sure. . .

Snakebyte

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 47
  • Last login:September 18, 2014, 11:06:18 am
  • I'm building my own arcade controls!
Re: User review: Blackhawk Push/Pull Spinner from Apache Controls
« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2006, 02:38:11 pm »

Right. The "Primary" configuration of the Apache Blackhawk not only connects the spinner itself to your PC via USB (without drivers), but it also offers inputs on the PCB for two other axes' worth of rotary devices... a second spinner, 360-degree steering wheel, trackball (tb obviously would take up both available extra axes), or whatever combination, plus two pushbuttons (not counting the push/pull "buttons" of the spinner itself).

From the Apache Controls info page on the Blackhawk:
http://www.apachecontrols.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1

- Capable of running 2 Blackhawk spinners at once on the same machine
- Capable of running 1 Blackhawk and 1 trackball on the same machine
- 5 switch buttons built into the board design (Mouse 0 thru Mouse 4)

Since I don't need an Optipac with this spinner, it saves me some money on my overall project build cost, even though the initial cost of the spinner was higher.

Here are some more technical comments and something people should at least ask Apache Controls to comment on before making the purchase if they intend to do this;

From the photos, this spinner appears to be using the HT82M980A 5-Button USB / PS/2  Mouse controller chip.  It is a fairly standard 3-axis controller but, according to the datasheet, it treats the Z-axis very differently than the other two axes.  From what I can tell, not only is the timing of the Z-axis much slower, but it also registers only 2 "counts" for each tooth on the encoder, as opposed to the 4 "counts" per tooth generated by the X and Y axes. 

This would effectively cut the resolution of the spinner in half and may inflict some backspin type issues due to the slower sampling if it is attached to the Z axis.  If one were planning to attach a trackball, it would need to be attached to the X and Y axes, which looks as though it would leave the spinner crippled on the Z.

Of course one could avoid this by sharing axes with a physical switch, but you can't, to my knowledge, just hook more than one device to the same axis without conflict.

Again, this is a question for them to answer.  I'm just a little confused by the apparent contradiction between what is being claimed and what is stated in the datasheet for the mouse controller being used.

RandyT

Did anyone ever get an answer to this question or has anyone tried attaching a trackball to the Y and Z axis to see if there are any issues?

If not, I'll get in touch with Blackhawk and find out.

apachecontrols

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 25
  • Last login:June 07, 2010, 09:03:08 pm
Re: User review: Blackhawk Push/Pull Spinner from Apache Controls
« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2006, 02:03:37 pm »
Hi all,

All three axis (X, Y and Z) can be used to support several combinations of spinner and trackball configurations. Check the user manual for the blackhawk for more details.
  http://www.apachecontrols.com/manuals/ApacheControlsBlackhawk.pdf

Yes - Y and Z axis driving an external trackball will work just fine. We have many customers running in this configuration (X for Blackhawk spinner and Y/Z for external trackball).

At Apache Controls, we take pride in delivering the highest quality products to our customers and we stand by all of our products with a full 90-day Satisfaction Guarantee.

Reputation is everything in this gaming community.

You will not be disappointed by the Blackhawk and we guarantee it.

  :)

    David


Apache Controls, LLC
Honeoye Falls, NY (USA)

ONLINE: www.apachecontrols.com
EMAIL: support@apachecontrols.com