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The Tempest Spinner: Feel the Need for Speed


5" x 4" x 1 7/8" depth


Not available for sale, but I found one listed on eBay for $15.

Quick Summary

The original "high-velocity" spinner, the Tempest is designed for quick direction changes, and is a fairly smooth spinner as well.


In many ways, this is the standard for arcade spinners, the original that all others are trying to duplicate — the Atari Tempest spinner. Built from a welded metal box frame, the Tempest spinner is fast, easy to spin, and very accurate in tracking. The Tempest unit I tested has seen use, and it does have a little of the well-known Tempest "wobble" that is familiar to die-hard Tempest fans — spin it hard enough, and the spinner will "buzz," vibrating to a sudden stop.

This wobble turns out to a design defect, not a sign of wear. As Kelsey of Oscar Controls puts it, "While it is commonly mentioned that the bearings need to be replaced to fix this, I found that the root of the problem lies in the shaft. The Tempest shaft is very slightly undersized (-.005") for the bearings, so the "brrr" is caused when the shaft loses contact with the bearing and chatters under heavy spinning..."

"When the Tempest spinner is lubricated periodically per the manual (3-in-1 oil seems to work best), the oil creates a film interface between the shaft and bearing to eliminate the chatter. On the Vortex, I increased the shaft diameter to the proper size for the bearing, and it won't chatter regardless if it is lubricated or not."


Installation of the Tempest is very simple, as long as you're mounting it into a metal control panel. It requires only a hole for the shaft and two for the mounting bolts. Mounting the Tempest spinner in a wood control panel, however, could prove to be a bit of a challenge, as the shaft cannot be raised.

Notice the shorter shaft on the Tempest spinner (Right)


Aside from the "wobble" defect mentioned above, the Tempest spinner design is excellent, with a wide encoder wheel that ensures accurate tracking, a good-sized flyweight with enough distance away from the shaft to give it a good sense of mass, and a metal box frame that seems designed to withstand heavy arcade use.

I found the Tempest spinner to be a lot of fun to use, and the feel was "perfect" to my fingers' "muscle memory." As soon as I started using the Tempest spinner, I immediately forgot about it and concentrated on the game. It worked as I expected it to, and it was comfortable. This is about the best you can expect of any arcade controller.

As one would expect, the overall fit and finish of the Tempest is excellent, with only the "wobble" issue to mar an otherwise stellar design. If you're planning on building a cab with a metal control panel, the Tempest spinner, combined with an Oscar Controls Universal Optic Board would make an excellent spinner choice.


  • Smooth spin
  • Quiet
  • An arcade original
  • Accurate tracking


  • A bit of "wobble" if not properly lubricated
  • Only for metal control panels
  • Hard to find
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