In my teenage years on my then local residential estate, there was a yard sale with a Commodore 64c computer. After a bit of haggling I became the owner of the computer, a cartridge with a few C64 games on and also an Amstrad controller that was sat with it. At the time, I had no idea what device it originally belonged to, however it was very comfortable to use and it became my main controller of choice for the system.

Digging through my garage of boxes in the last few months, I came across the controller again and after years of being sat unused it was time to bring it back to as close to its former glory as I could, ideal for use with my recently purchased Acorn Electron, Acorn Archimedes A3010, Atari ST and Amiga.

The image shows the Amstrad GX4000, a video game console released by Amstrad. It includes the console itself, which is a compact, off-white unit with a red power button, and a matching controller with a directional pad and two red action buttons. The design is characteristic of early 90s gaming hardware.
Amstrad GX4000 console & controller – Image by Evan-Amos

The Amstrad GX4000 console made quite a brief appearance in the console wars in 1990. Many brands were hoping to get in on the excitement of a console-like device with its simple accessibility rather than a full on computer while also utilising an already established library of games that could be ported over to the system. In the end, the console sold just 15,000 units so has become quite a rarity in the current collectors market. Yet, somehow I have one of the controllers…

I was very pleased to come across the controller again, an item of retro I thought I had lost a decade or more ago. It had seen better days though and certainly needed attention. Beyond that, the back of the controller was quite rough with micro scratches all over the surface and needed more attention than the rest of the casing. No good to use in its current state as it would be uncomfortable to hold with such a noticeable textured back and just unpleasant to the touch.

The image shows the disassembled parts of a game controller, from an Amstrad GX4000 system. It includes the internal circuit board with conductive pads for the directional controls and buttons, the rubber contact pads that sit beneath the buttons, and the underside of the controller's casing.
Inside the Amstrad GX4000 controller

Opening up the GX4000 controller was easy enough, just a few screws on the rear to remove and everything popped open. Amazingly, the inside of the controller was in good shape and just needed the lightest of cleaning. The pads needed a little more attention to be sure the contact of them with the directional pad and two action buttons would be picked up correctly by the computer.

A toothbrush with water plus a little car wash solution does the trick nicely on the outside of the controller case and the inside with isopropyl alcohol on the pads and main board. The back of the case needed something a little more robust though, so baking soda rubbed lightly with a cloth managed to remove that horrid rough texture.

The image displays a close-up of a hand holding a restored and cleaned Amstrad GX4000 game controller. The controller looks in excellent condition with its directional pad, two red buttons, and the Amstrad logo prominently displayed. The restoration appears to have returned the controller to a state close to its original appearance.
A cleaned and scrubbed Amstrad GX4000 controller, looking much better
The image shows a hand holding the underside of a restored and cleaned Amstrad GX4000 game controller, displaying the screw holes for internal access and the clean, off-white finish of the controller's casing.
The back of the Amstrad GX4000 controller, now nice and smooth without the scratches

After putting the controller back together, I am left with a wonderful retro nod to the past, a more obscure entry into the nostalgic controllers of yesteryear. Even better, it works really well with the selection of retro computers I have that more often than not only use one single action button, so I am pretty spoilt with an extra one should I ever need one.

This is the funny thing about car boots or yard sales, you often come across retro technology of some kind. Parts missing or in this case a part orphaned from its original console and placed with something else entirely. A lucky find indeed and one that will be used with pride with my collection.

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James Woodcock

James is a Freelance Journalist, Copywriter, Author, Blogger & Podcaster specialising in gaming, gadgets and technology, both retro and modern. Ever since he experienced the first controllable pixel movement on the television screen, he has been entranced by the possibilities and rewarding entertainment value generated from these metal and plastic boxes of delight. Writing hundreds of articles, including commentary and reviews on various gaming platforms, whilst also interviewing well-known industry figures for popular online publications. Creator of the ScummVM Music Enhancement Project and host of the Game & Gadget Podcast. View his portfolio for more information.

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