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I'm sure 1 and 2 apply. About 3-4, have no idea. They work normally under emulators like MAME or WinUAE. They don't really need calibration, although one of them might require it every once in a while. Here's a video:

Thanks a lot for the video! From what I see, it looks like the system treats your device as if it were analogue: in fact, a digital device doesn't need calibration at all (each direction is either on or off, so all that's needed is 4 bits) and your test/calibration program assigns an 8 bit value to each axis (0 = left/up; 128 = center; 255 = right/down).
If it's OK with you, tomorrow I'll send you a test program that will show us how the joystick is reported to the game. Can you contact me by email, please?

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Sent you an email. I thought so too about calibration but as mentioned, every once in a while at least one of these joysticks "loses it" and stops working. Re-calibrating makes it work again. The 're-calibration' process of course is just moving the stick into all 8 directions and pressing a button. I agree it shouldn't be necessary but I'm guessing the USB conversion/emulation is dodgy, since these aren't really "native" USB devices.

Email received, thanks. I'll answer as soon as possible. In the meanwhile, my guess is...

The chain is like this:

joystick -> OS <-> SDL ->Blastaway

The problem probably lies in the fact that something in the joystick -> OS part (I'd say the default OS drivers) make the joysticks look as if they were analogue. As a consequence, SDL and then Blastaway are told that the joystick are analogue.