Monday, March 9, 2009


We are both really pleased with the final product. Two months of work and we have an arcade machine in our dining room!

Video of the startup (with custom graphics/sounds) to come soon!


Installing the marquee wasn't the most fun thing to do, but I'm happy with the way it turned out. TIP: If you are building one of these things, print two copies of your marquee graphic. The guy at formerly-Kinkos accidentally printed two, and gave me both. I'm glad he did. What you see in the photo is both copies of the graphic stacked on top of each other, lit from behind. With just one copy, the paper isn't thick enough and the graphic gets washed out by the light. Just make sure they are lined up exactly. A thin strip of gaff tape held the 2 prints and a piece of acrylic on either side. The ribbing of the t-molding was stripped out and glued on, then the whole thing stuck on the front. Looking back on it, I would have rather used magnets.

Bo Jackson from Tecmo Bowl is the unofficial mascot of Return of the Super Kombat Turtles from Space II Turbo Remix. "So real it hurts" comes from an old ad for the Mortal Kombat arcade game.

The Guts

Here's the inside of the cab, under the monitor shelf. The PC with all the MAME software/roms, subwoofer (doom doom), speaker controls (in plastic baggie for dust protection), and Smart Strip to turn everything on at the same time.

We drilled a hole under the CP box and installed the secret power button. One push turns everything on, one push turns everything off.


We trimmed down the monitor bezel and acrylic with the Dremel and a razor blade for a more precise fit. After giving the TV a good Windexing, we lined up both pieces, tucked them behind the speaker panel, and drilled 2 screws (bottom left, bottom right) into the 2x2s to keep everything in place.


The first order of business after the paint was completely dry was to install the speakers. We used the screws that came with them, originally for holding them into the plastic cases. I extended the length of the wires so the control board (volume, treble, bass) could rest on the floor of the cab instead of dangling behind the monitor.

And from the front:

Friday, March 6, 2009

MAME Monitor Button from Dan Price on Vimeo.


Not much to say...high gloss, black, oil-based enamel. Used foam rollers.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


While we were moving the CP panel off of the box to prime it (the box), the PS/2 cable got caught and ripped from the interface, leaving the connector still in it, and the cable on the floor. I won't go into detail on the expletives used, but they were bountiful.

"I'll just pick up another cable." Dumb.

Unfortunately, male-to-male PS/2 cables (PS/2 being a connection of the past anyway) are impossible to find in a store. Sure, they sell them online, but this thing is going to be finished by the weekend.

Thanks to Dave at work, who "lent" me 2 male-to-female PS/2 cables, I able to have at it with an old Weller soldering gun. Clip-clip go the female ends and strip-strip go the wires. Then strip-strip-strip-strip-strip-strip (x2) go the wires inside...PS/2 has 6 shielded connecting wires and 1 unshielded ground wire. Thankfully they were color-coded and matched up easily. Here was my set up.

Two battery clips to hold the two cables in place, and two clamps to hold the clips upright. I had a wet sponge to keep the gun tip clean. The first 4 or 5 went swimmingly, the solder melting like a champ, me breathing in all that glorious lead smoke.

Then, the gun decided to give out, and I resorted to soldering the that last two wires using my cigar lighter. Not the cleanest connections, but it worked! I electrical-taped everything together, and used the clamps (now zip ties) to keep any undue pressure or pulling away from the new connections.

Alex figured out what was wrong with Player 3 controls! It was just a break in one of the ground lines. One re-crimp and we were back in business! Now ALL the controls work, and we are happy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Up and Running! (for the most part)

We finished wiring the CP yesterday. All in all, connections and grounds, it maybe took 3 hours total. Not bad. Here's the orgy of wires that resides under the buttons and joysticks (black is ground, red, the connections):

And hooked it up to the monitor (X-Men vs. Street Fighter):

Going CRT for the monitor can't be beat. It looks like the real deal, and not distorted like it would on an LCD. Here's Rambo:

(Note: "for the most part" means that the Player 3 controls, as well as 4/6 Admin buttons don't work yet. Not sure why; we haven't done any troubleshooting (too busy playing :). Hopefully it's a quick fix.)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cut, Strip, Crimp (Repeat)

We began wiring the CP last night, specifically daisy-chaining the ground wires. It was much of the same process, but we got it down to an assembly line sort of, and it really didn't take that long. Cut wire to length, strip both ends, stick into quick connect, crimp. Repeat 54 times. (Pro Tip: get GOOD wire strippers, it will make your life easier).

Half of the CP is daisy-chained together and goes into one ground on the interface. The other half? You guessed it.

All buttons and joysticks are grounded.


Well, primer, if you want to get technical (and a severely underestimated amount of it, at that).

CP Box

There is probably a better term for what we keep calling the control panel "box," but that's really all it is. The box that goes under the CP. We built that yesterday. Here it is.

Box on cab.

We (read: Alex) also routed for the T-molding. I didn't get a picture of the routing work because this was more interesting.

Bad guy smoke. Don't breathe this.

CP Assembly

The final step before we could start putting the CP together was to countersink the joysticks so they would be taller on the top. We did this with a Dremel and a woodcutting wheel (part no. 543).

We then bolted the joysticks down (countersinking the heads on top to fit under the graphic) and mounted the feet for the I-PAC 4 controller.

We layered graphic and acrylic, then started poking holes and installing buttons (not before lining it up numerous times, clamping, unclamping, and dremeling out more acrylic for the ones that didn't fit).

Aaannnnd the front (before the graphic got trimmed):

Saturday, February 28, 2009

MAMEing in a Winter Wonderland

It rained this morning. Then it sleeted (slate?). Before we knew it, we were drilling joystick bolt holes in this:

Snow aside, we managed to get a fair amount done. We got the casters on (two turny, two not turny) making it much more easy to maneuver:

We also got the speaker panel installed and puttied the screw holes:

Some brainstorming work went into today as well. We finally came up with a solution for installing the marquee graphic and acrylic. It involves cutting the "ribbing" out of the t-molding and gluing it on, for a much cleaner seam (and less Dremeling of MDF).

We are not done for the day. The Dremel's battery is currently charging, after which we are going to finish routing out the spaces to countersink the joysticks. Tonight will be devoted to installing/wiring buttons and joysticks (and consequently applying the CP graphic).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tag You're It

Tags (labels) have been added to all of the posts for easier searching if you're just looking for one specific part of the building process.

Speaker Panel

We've built the speaker panel, drilled the two 2 1/2" holes (small speakers...but "WITH BASS YOU CAN FEEL!"), beveled the front edge at a 40 degree angle so it will be parallel with the marquee when it is installed. We have to rout that same edge for the molding before we put it in the cab.

Here are the speaker innards. They're just going to be floating around somewhere in the bottom after the speakers get wired back together.


We got the final CP graphic printed, here's a teaser:

Also, our special power strip came in. This will turn everything (lights, speakers, computer, TV) on and off all together. We are going to plug the TV into the blue Control socket, and everything else into the white Auto sockets. When the TV is turned on (the method of which we are still debating), everything plugged into an Auto socket will turn on as well (thanks to a BIOS adjustment on the PC).

Grinding, Putty

All of the protruding screw heads ground down (Dremel), we puttied last night. Next steps: rout, sand, paint! (Alex: This is the side of the cab that Dan puttied, so I'm glad it's the one he took the picture of. The other (my) side looks like a 6 year old found a putty knife and went wild.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

All Together Now...

Monitor in, we placed the bottom of the CP box (along with some stacked MDF for height) under the CP/acrylic to get a feel for the overall size. We were pleased.

Monitor Shelf

It's taking shape. We built and installed the monitor shelf (which fit perfectly, I might add) and put the TV in to get a feel for where we need to put the speaker panel (we have to take it out to paint).

1 piece of MDF
3 2x2s (2 support, one brace in the back so the TV doesn't slide off)
22 screws to hold it up and keep it together

More CP work

The control panel piece and acrylic top have been both been cut and matched up:


Here is one of the many uses of a Dremel. Smoothing out acrylic.

Other uses include, but are not limited to: T-molding routing; Joystick plunge routing; Screw head grinding.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cheating Death...sort of.

There seem to be two different schools of thought when it comes to discharging a CRT TV. The first (and unfortunately the less popular) is the "it's really not that bad if you're careful" school. The second, and more abundant, is the "this will probably kill you/there is no hope" school. I would like to say I was trying to adhere to the former, but its hard to deny the ubiquity of the latter when looking at the high voltage-conducting copper and steel innards of a piece of electronic equipment that was manufactured a decade ago.

But I digress.

Blame the cold, blame the fact that we did zero work on Saturday, but sometime Sunday afternoon we decided to tackle the TV portion of the project which involved removing the TV from the case and discharging it--removing the remaining voltage stored in the cathode ray tube so it is safe to handle (the shock from a still-charged tube can kill you). There are plenty of resources out there on how and why (to prevent your ceasing to be) to discharge a TV. We read most of them and were sufficiently scared, to say the least. While being fairly knowledgeable about computers and gadgets in general, the two of us have a combined electronics (read: volts, watts, amps, circuit boards and copper wire) knowledge of a whopping zero. That being said, if you are trying to do this yourself, do not use this post as a guide. We are not professionals, we are hobbyists. There are people with similar sites that do not post how to discharge a TV for liability reasons, but the information is out there, and you won't have much of a case if you try to sue us. Also, we had a different experience from others discharging a TV, and this is just to add to the knowledge base about the topic.

Here is what we did:

1.) Removed the back casing (our JVC had 6 screws).

2.) Performed the discharge (pardon the language, I was scared).

CRT Discharge 1 from Dan Price on Vimeo.

As you can see, our TV was no longer holding a charge. It had been unplugged for a few weeks, and in some TVs (not all) this is enough to drain the remaining voltage in the tube. Some TVs can hold electricity for years, even if unplugged. I was much more comfortable moving the TV around once we had done this step.

3.) We did it again (and again) to be sure.

CRT Discharge 2 from Dan Price on Vimeo.

4.) Removed the front casing (4 bolts, unplugged front control board).

5.) Attacked the front casing with the reciprocating saw. (Note: this is the best and worst tool ever invented. It will cut the crap out of stuff, just not very gracefully. This is not a precision tool. This is a "I don't really care what this looks like" tool. And since this will all be covered by the bezel...we don't really care what this looks like.) The point of this is so the bezel will fit flush to the glass.

6.) Put everything back together (with the help of some gaff tape).

We decided to keep the TV in its case for a few reasons: First, because we could. It fits perfectly inside of the cabinet (within 1/8 of an inch). Second, because it is safer. The TV will regain its charge once it is plugged in, and we don't want the insides exposed if we have to go in the back and do some work. Third, it eliminates the need for us to build a frame for the TV so it will stand up. We will place the TV on the shelf (once it is installed) and hold it in place with some 2x2 braces.

That's it! Monitor work = done (the scary stuff at least). It is a big weight off of our shoulders.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Quick Post

We went into the BIOS of the PC we're using and changed the power settings so that it boots when AC power is applied to it. This will let us turn on a single item in the whole cabinet (TV, speakers, marquee light) and the computer will turn on without having to push the power button (with the help of this special power strip). Bigger post coming tomorrow of the whole weekend progress.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Holy CP!

Exhibit A:
Alex, with the drill, on the patio.

Exhibit B:
Control Panel and acrylic, post-drill.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

State of the Union

Dan had a pretty epic post yesterday, but I wanted to throw a few pictures in, give an update on the progress thus far, and detail where we go from here. The only new addition since the weekend is the picture above: the light for the marquee. (Edit: Sorry again for the crap formatting, I can't get the two pictures below to resize.)

Control Panel:
- We've mentioned before that we're working with acrylic as the CP overlay, and it's extremely difficult. We almost broke a whole sheet trying to cut it the first time and I think both of us got a little frustrated. Well, after all the building on Sunday, we tried a different approach and it worked perfectly. We clamped the entire piece in between two pieces of MDF, except for the portion that was being cut off. After scoring it about 10-12 times a side, we simply hit the exposed part with a hammer and it came right off.
- With that victory in our pocket, we decided to go for broke and start drilling holes. Using the same setup (acrylic in between two pieces of MDF), we starting cutting holes with a 1 1/8" boring bit. The fear here was that we would crack the acrylic, but after four holes, it looks pretty good. We still have another 37 to go, so we're not out of the woods yet, but it's a good start. (Cut some arcylic once, the sound and smell are interesting...)
- Dan has been working on the CP graphic, and it looks great thus far. We decided to go with an amalgam of classic game characters and arrange them. The version below is very low res and just a mock up with the images cut out and randomly placed; they will be resized and arranged in the final product. (Edit: direct link to the CP mock.)

- I'm hoping to pick up speakers in the next couple of days so we can go ahead and cut our speaker panel and get them mounted along with speaker grills. (Just not THESE speaker grills.)

- I think we'll start painting sooner than we think. We're probably using a couple of coats of primer and then black satin paint.
- Ordering T-molding this week and I'm guessing we're just going to rent a router from Home Depot to make the cuts.
- The marquee has been planned and making the graphic shouldn't be a problem.
- We're still in the process of planning an efficient power on/off system.

- This is our last big hurdle I feel like, and something that we still can't mess around with. We're almost certainly going to take the tv out of it's case, but that's as much as we can plan for right now. Once we get it out, we'll be able to see our options for mounting it. To ensure that we don't kill ourselves, we did make a nice little tool similar to this: (Edit: direct link to the discharge tool.)

- I still have a little bit of work to do in terms of the front end, but for the actual emulator is nearly 100% ready to go.
- I still need to program the interface, but I can't do that until we wire the CP.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Big Weekend

I'm posting these in reverse chrono to keep the flow of the whole blog thing going the right direction. Start from the bottom of this post to see it in the correct order. And sorry about the weird layout & formatting. Posting multiple pics w/text on Blogger kind of sucks. I'll be posting more frequently to avoid this problem.

This is essentially what we are looking at after this weekend. That's some progress if I do say so myself. It actually looks like a cabinet!
The bezel is just resting on the frame. It needs to be cut and mounted after the TV is installed, but we just wanted to see what it looked like.
And yes, it is almost in our kitchen (it's supposed to rain for three days...).

Sorry about the weird white balance on this one, it was about 5pm and we had half daylight/half patio light and cameras get confused when that happens. This is the cab frame from the back. We are trying to decide how much of the back to actually cover, be it a door or just more MDF. We have to consider ventilation, access, and safety (with the naked TV back there and all).

Is that 90 degrees or what?

The cab with front, back and side panels, now with marquee top. (Alex: The marquee is recessed 1" from the front and the top.)

Yours truly, with the cab, in what might just be the smallest MAME building space ever. The patio stops about three inches to the right of the frame.

First side attached!

The 2x2 studs on the inside of side one to hold the top marquee and slanted back panels. (Alex: We decided to use 2x2s to put the angled panel on because it was what we had available. Most others that I've seen have used L brackets, but this seems to work fine and maybe adds some stability to the frame.)

Both sides now cut, we clamped them together and took a sander to the edges to get them identical. Also notice the bottom piece under it with the newly attached front panel.

The base of the cab, now with bottom back panel.

Bottom panel w/ 2x2 studs for front, back and side joints. All studs attached with wood glue and #8, 1-1/2" screws every 5 inches.

Alex's "I'm holding the freshly cut 2nd side of the cabinet, along with the first side which was cut a week ago" face. (Alex: No, I was just excited because someone passing by finally waved at me.)

MDF scraps and panels. The circular saw got a workout. (Alex: I was relieved that it looks like we will only need three panels of MDF. Our 2x2 supply might run out though.)

Thanks to Will for lending us his worktable, which I promptly destroyed by running the circular saw through it. Alas, the only casualty of the weekend, save a couple of stripped screws. (Alex: This happened about 10 minutes into the day's work.)