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Using SNES-Controller at a PC

Small note: the SNES is also known as Super Famicon

Starting Idea:

The SNES controller is a beautiful Gamepad:

Look at it! Isn't it a real beauty?

Still that Pad has an enormous disadvantage: It is for SNES only. The average PC is definitely missing a connector for those wonderful pads.

Still you might want to connect those beauties to your PC. Like you may have guessed, there is a way. (Else there wouldn't be much sense in writing this guide)
It isn't only possible to connect them to your PC, there is also some software that supports it.

Of course it is illegal to play pirated games on emulators. So just play games you own!.

In order to connect your gamepad to the PC you need to build a small adapter. You need to plug it into the parallel port of your computer. So if a printer or some other hardware is blocking that port you need to unplug it, use a data switch or install another parallel port. Unfortunately some very new PCs don't have that port any more.
In case you don't know what that port looks like: It's a D'Sub25-pin-female port.

(Don't expect many more of that kind of simple help from me. If presume you know some technical basics and have soldered once or twice before)
So of course you need a D'Sub25-pin-male plug on the other side. If you are rather new to this, you should try to find one that you can easily solder with. It's also a big help if it has the pin numbers printed on it. You can get them easily at electronic stores like "Reichelt" (mail order from germany), "Electronic Conrad" (tends to be a bit expensive, but it has a store in larger cities in germany), or "Radio Shack" (I've heard that this is the place to choose in US). In case you're not playing with electronics first time, you should already know your favourite near by.

Although it might be possible to build that adapter in a single box, I recommend using some cable. It doesn't need to be very long (as stated before, the controller cables are rather long themselves), but should suffice to keep some room behind your PC. More important is the number of wires you need.
Generally you need 4 wires plus one wire for each controller you want to attach. You can save one wire if you want to connect a power souce directly and not to use the LPT-Port for power.
You can connect up to five Pads to the PC with the right adapter. I decided to connect two controller. The original SNES has two connectors and it's what the DOS-version of ZSNES supports. Also I only had two connectors. That makes a total of six wires for my adapter.

Many guides on the net recommend buying an extension cable and cutting it. Some people cut their controller cable and attach a more common connector (like D'Sub 9) and then build another small adapter for connecting that pad to SNES again.
I wanted to have a "native" connector, so I decided to open a real SNES and use the controller from there. On EBay you can sometimes find a defect SNES. Let me tell you that most defect SNES at least still have a working connector for the controller pads. We don't even need any electrical function, we just need the mechanical connectors.
It seems the first thing going down the drain is the antenna connector - at least thats the most common mistake I found. So when the TV set can't find the channel with the SNES signal any more, many people consider their SNES as garbage.
If only the antenna plug is defect, you can have your SNES up in hardly any time at all: On the back side of the hardware, there is another connecor called "multi-out". Sometimes it is hidden behind some plastic cover that you can easily remove.

Now you just need an adapter cable (this connector is the same on N64 so you can use the cables from there). Very common is the Adapter to three cinch connectors (1 composite video plus 2 audio channels). Then connecting those cables to your TV-card input or your TV-set using a Cinch-to-Scart-adapter is rather easy.

I've also seen an adapter to S-VHS. So the quality of the RF-connection really wasn't the best you can get.

Well, I kind of got away from the topic. Let's just assume that we have a SNES that really is garbage except for the connector.

You could use a saw to get out the connectors with brute force. I rather prefer using screwdrivers. So turn the SNES over and unscrew the six screws.

Okay, This will get a bit difficult: Nintendo uses some very interesting screws in their hardware. They are a bit uncommon so you won't find them in your average screwdriver set. At the SNES you will find outer-hexagon screws. If you don't care about the SNES you can try to drill those screws down. You can also search for a special screwdriver at "Conrad", "Reichelt" or "Radio Shack". Although I have read, that the exact SW-value is 4.2, I found it much easier aquiring a 4.0. It's not hard turning the screws with this one. (The Conrad order number for my one is 824283).

Put the screws where you won't lose them and open the console. Beware! You are about to see the inner side of a Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

Well. Nothing much to see. Lot's of things are covered with metal sheets. Still you might find the reset button, the power switch and the sophisticated (grinning) Eject-button.
In case you wonder: Even without the metal sheets you won't find wonders there. Just a lot of black ICs some labeled CPU, some DSP etc. You can also peek inside the antenna converter box. Still it's rather boring, but I never promised you roses.

Let's turn to the joystick connector again.

You can easily lift the board with the connector. Then pull the flat cable out of the connector (shouldn't be hard) and you have your precious board disconneted from the rest of the console. You can now put away the rest of the console. Perhaps you want to use the power supply or build your own backup device or something. All of this is beyond this guide.
Now it's time to learn a bit about connectors: The SNES-connector has 7 pins, of which only 5 are used:

In case you open the cable, you might find that table helpful. I cannot guarantee that all SNES controllers in the world have that same colouring, but i found it on some american homepages, on some european homepages and in my own controllers so I think it's not uncommon.

All Controllers share their Power and Ground plus their clock and latch signal. So you can solder bridges between them. I think it looks better when you first pull the flat cable out of the ring-thing, then solder the connections and then put the flat cable back through the ring-thing. That way some of your cables are hidden under that cable.
Don't solder the data pins together!

In order for the pads to be powered (and that nice little lamp to glow) you need a 5V power source. Most guides on the net tell you to pull that power from the PC parallel port (using some diodes). The Direct Pad Pro driver comes with a scheme which pins need to be connected and what way the diodes should face.
I didn't use that method. To be honest, I tried it and it didn't work, so I decided to use some external power source. Still the power connection is on the 25D'Sub end of the cable. You might want to connect it right on the controller side. Simply solder the Power Ground to Controller Ground and the Power 5V to the Controller power.
Next I soldered my 6 wires to the controller board. Connect one wire to each of the Data solder pads, and one to each of Ground, Latch and Clock (you only need to solder one because the other one is connected with your bridge). In case you also transport the power through the cable, you need to connect one wire to the power solder pad, too.
I recommend writing down which wire colour is conencted to which solder pad. It makes tracing far easier.
Perhaps you would like to make some nice case for this connector board. Perhaps you might want to wait until everything is working. Perhaps you will have this cable menace until the end of time.

Now let's learn some things about the PC parallel port:

The first thing I usually do when working with the parallel port is bridging pins 18-25 with a lot of solder or a small piece of wire. Those are the ground pins. Usually they are already connected at the PC side, but I like to be sure.
Now you can connect your first wire to this ground connection. Of course it is the wire connected to ground on the controller board.
In case you want to take the power from the parallel port, there are several ways. I've seen pages that only use one pin (that gives 5V in normal operation), many other recommend using more pins (you need diodes to prevent short circuits). It seems reasonable to use five diodes, connecting them on their kathode sides (thats the side with the ring) and connecting one anode to each of the pins 5,6,7,8,9. Now you can connect the kathode sides to the wire that is responsible for power supply.
As said, this didn't work with my PC. So I threw out the diodes, put the cable outside and soldered a MOLEX plug to it. Molex plugs are the once you can find at most hard drives, CD-ROMs etc. That way you can even take the power from inside the PC without risking your parallel port.
Honestly: I didn't have a complete MOLEX plug, so I only used the Pins and plug them into the power supply. But I plan to put them into a real connector. I promise!

Side comment: On MOLEX-plugs the center (black) wires are for ground (and should be bridged), the yellow is for 12V and the red one for 5V. So if you work this method, be sure to plug them into the red wire.
Also note that all grounds (Parallel port, Controller Board and power supply - if used) have to be connected.
The wire leading to "Latch" has to be connected to Pin 3 of the parallel port (plug)
The wire leading to "Clock" has to be connected to Pin 2 of the parallel port (plug)
Now the only wires left should be the one connected to the data ports. If you decided to build a 5-player-adapter you will have five of them, if you only wanted to have one controller, you will only have one wire left. If you only want to connect one controller, it may be better to not build an adapter but to cut the controller cable and just put the LPT-plug at the end of it.
Those wires have to be connected to the input lines of the parallel port. It is standard to use Pin 10 for Pad 1, Pin 12 for Pad 2, Pin 13 for Pad 3, Pin 15 for Pad 4 and Pin 11 for Pad 5. I know that is hard to read, so I think a table is better to read.
Parallel Port PinSNES boardinsert your color here
(5,6,7,8,9 diodes - if used for power)Power
10Data for Pad 1
12Data for Pad 2
13Data for Pad 3
15Data for Pad 4
11Data for Pad 5

Well, that should be it. Try connecting it with your PC and find out if DirectPadPro recognizes the controller. There may be some problems with too new Operating Systems preventing hardware access (NT systems or XP, 2000 or so) better try it with Win98 or so.
In case you use an external power supply, turn it on before you plug in the LPT-Plug. I've heard that such constructions can drain power from and damage the LPT-port if they don't get the power they want. It never happened here, I just wanted to warn.
People get the strangest ideas, so note that you can't simply put a multitap on your PC adapter and connect more joypads.