Who invented the joystick and how did the term joystick originate?

The joystick predates computers by decades.

It has been a part of airplanes almost since their introduction—its first known reference dates back to 1914. An airplane joystick works much the same as with computer games—you pull or push it, or lean it to the side, to control direction of movement.

Where did it get its name? The reference books don’t seem to be sure whether it’s a sexual reference or not. We do know that at some time or another a “joystick” was an opium pipe, but whether that’s related to its aviation usage is not completely clear.

One aviation source claims that it was invented by “a man named Joyce” and that the name Joyce stick got misheard and shortened to joystick. On the other hand, most aviation historians credit French flier Robert Esnault-Pelterie—not someone named Joyce—for inventing the joystick in 1907.

We do know that the joystick terminology got one of the early pioneers of personal computers in trouble with customs officials back in the 1970s.

He went to the airport to receive a shipment of boxes marked “Joysticks” and was taken into custody in the belief that the odd-looking plastic devices with the lurid name were some sort of exotic sexual aid.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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