Switch Input Devices
for Early Learning and Special Needs

Simple switch inputs enable the user to activate or move an object on-screen, or to navigate a user interface, just like using a joystick or a mouse. Our concept system is also compatible with two-switch operation for more specialised software.

A good switch connector must be solid and robust. The 1/4 in. jack and 9-pin D types have longstanding track records of proven reliability and repairability. The connector must also have a simple but firm and reliable alignment needing only a pull to release. All too often designers add locking latches or screws to hold the connector firmly in place. As any experienced teacher or therapist will tell you, such hardware invariably gets damaged or ripped apart by a good yank and needs constant repair. Holdfast never make this mistake – and leaving out the locking gadgetry saves money too.

The Holdfast direct switch connection is therefore based on the old 9-pin D-connector standard, once popular for 'Atari' compatible joysticks. For modern computers, Atari-to-USB adapters are widely available.

In general we recommend the use of a wired-up connection wherever possible. Unlike a wireless link, the cable provides a visible and tangible functional association between the input controller and the computer or other gadget being controlled. Especially when there may be other distracting gadgets close by, this helps to avoid confusion in the mind of the user. It also reduces the need for staff to be proficient in IT.

Please note that large quantities are no longer available. We have a small number of units that we can provide for demonstration and trial purposes. For modern PCs you will need your own adapter or controller, such as an Atari-to-USB adapter.

See also our keyboard concepts.


Our robust Joypad is designed for Early Learners and Special Needs, and also finds use wherever a friendly, robust controller is needed:

  • Bright attractive colours.
  • Well-spaced, 'feely' keys for small hands, wobbly fingers or gloves.
  • Robust design, 150 x 100 mm (6" x 4").
  • Robust cabe visually associates user input to the display device.
  • Handheld, tabletop or floor use.
  • No delicate parts exposed, no need for a special surface - even works on the carpet.

Small children can find mice, trackballs, keyboards and even gaming joypads too difficult to use. The Holdfast Joypad gets them interacting sooner, easing frustration and encouraging exploration.

The Joypad is also valuable in any situation where a simple, robust directional controller is needed.


The original JackBox connects up to five special input switches fitted with the tough old 1/4" (6.35mm) jack plugs, to any device which accepts Atari joystick input.

Other output connectors such as USB are envisaged. Wireless Bluetooth would require an internal battery.


The Joyball is a switch joystick with a big dome attached to the top of it. To use it you rock the dome back and forth. It has proved valuable for some special needs, where the user has no strength in their hands and cannot grasp a mouse, joystick or pen.

It also features two big, light-movement buttons which operate under the weight of even a small hand.

The Joyball is a third-party commercial gaming product. Its lack of robustness is not a problem for the intended users. Holdfast modify its connections slightly, to make it compatible with our standard two-button input.

Holdfast Technologies, Park View, Queenhill, Upton-on-Severn, Worcs, WR8 0RE, United Kingdom.

Tel: +44 (0) 1684 594728         Email: holdfast@steelpillow.com