To a certain group of dedicated dorks, videogame controllers and their history is fiercely interesting, even to the point of having dedicated T-shirts. It's to those folks I present this discovery: this looks like it may be the first product (image from a 1977 ad) with a joypad-like device, used for user input (enlargement mine):
Ah, the CALCUPEN. Now, I know Gunpei Yokoi usually gets credit for those little 4-way rocker switches first used on the famous Game & Watch series, but it sure looks like our little Calcupen has five of the things running up its nerdy spine there. Granted, they're used for numerical input as opposed to direction control, but it's essentially the same device. I bet, if one was lucky enough to find one, a Calcupen could be wired to act as an old Nintendo controller!
Maybe the Calcupen is really that missing link between nerd productivity culture and nerd time-wasting culture. I smell a dissertation.
Carrie McLaren & Jason Torchinsky are coeditors of _Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture_. In previous lives, they worked together on the hopelessly obscure and now defunct Stay Free! magazine. He lives in LA and writes for the Onio