How Joysticks Work

Boy playing game with a joystick on laptop
Joysticks can take video gaming to another level. Andersen Ross Photography Inc / Getty Images

Joysticks pull off a really neat trick. They take something entirely physical -- the movement of your hand -- and translate it into something entirely mathematical -- a string of ones and zeros (the language of computers). With a good joystick, the translation is so flawless that you completely forget about it. When you're really engaged in a game, you feel like you're interacting with the virtual world directly.

In this article, we'll find out how several common joystick designs handle this translation. As we'll see, the technology has evolved a great deal from the first game console designs to the sophisticated "force feedback" models available today.