MAME - My Personal Journey - A Passion - An Obsession
In November 2001 I discovered a free software package called MAME, over the next 3 months I would learn everything I could about MAME, I would design and build a cabinet and I would learn how to compile my own versions of MAME. This web site is meant to help document this journey.
After reading everything I could find on MAME and playing games using my PC's keyboard as the 'Human Interface Device' I decided to build my own "Arcade Control Panel", I decided on the I-PAC adapter (http:\\www.ultimarc.com) as the best interface to allow my controls to talk to my PC. The panel can be seen below, the I-PAC adapter is hanging below it. This adapter converts the various buttons and joysticks to 'KeyCodes'. The PC's keyboard plugs into the I-PAC then the I-PAC plugs into the PC's Keyboard port.
My home PC with my prototype control panel. The I-PAC adapter can be seen
hanging below the panel.
I decided I really wanted to build an entire arcade style machine, I choose to use an arcade style monitor instead of the typical PC's VGA monitor as I was looking for the ultimate arcade experience. On E-Bay I came across a used 'Jaleco Pony' arcade cabinet imported from Japan.
Jaleco Pony Cabinet
The cabinet itself is ugly as heck however inside it were a number of the goodies I needed to make my cabinet real. I purchased the cabinet and had it shipped to me. I stripped if down and began working with the electronics on a bench in my shop.
WARNING: Monitors use very high voltages, these voltages are deadly. If you do not understand electronics and the practices to make yourself safe when working with them DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS YOURSELF.
WARNING: Switching power supplies as are used in some arcade games and in PC's produce high frequencies and high voltages, these are deadly. If you do not understand electronics and the practices to make yourself safe when working with them DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS YOURSELF.
WARNING: The wiring for the lines main coming into an arcade cabinet may expose you to a shock hazard (IE: The noise filter for my florescent light behind my marquee exposes terminals that are hot!). Line voltages are deadly. If you do not understand electronics and the practices to make yourself safe when working with them DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS YOURSELF.
The monitor from the Jaleco cabinet on a bench in my shop.
The monitor and some of the various electronics from the Jaleco cabinet on my test bench running a game. I soon discovered that the VGA card didn't produce strong enough signals to get a good picture on the arcade monitor I bought so out came the protoboard and a simple video amp was born.
Video amp prototype
One stage of the video amp.
As I discovered more about arcade Cabinets I discover the JAMMA standard, JAMMA is a standard that allows any game board that meets the standard to be played in any game cabinet supporting the standard. I decide I want my cabinet to follow the JAMMA standard, luckily the Jaleco cabinet I stripped was a JAMMA cabinet, it had all the parts I needed such as the wiring harness and edge connector, power supply etc. I picked up a J-PAC adapter (again from http:\\www.ultimarc.com) and rewired my test system to JAMMA.
Addition of a JAMMA wiring harness and the J-PAC adapter.
The wires running from the JAMMA connector go to the arcade controls, to the monitor, to the coin mechanism etc. The board with the two lights interfaces these JAMMA signals to my PC, again through the keyboard. The J-PAC also deals with some of the issues involved in getting video from a VGA card to display on an arcade monitor.
You can also see my video amp in this picture, it moved from the protoboard to the working circuit. Note that the right side of this board has two audio amps which I later scrapped.
I also realized I needed more controls then just a joystick, back to E-Bay and I now own 4 trackballs. I am able to build 2 working trackballs from the parts of the 4. Again the guys at Utimarc rescue me with the OPTI-PAC interface, it makes the trackballs appear to be serial mice to the PC.
Addition of two trackballs using the OPTI-PAC interface.
The test system is now JAMMA based and has trackballs. I've also upgraded the PC to a PIII-850/133 with 256megs RAM (again thanks to E-Bay).
The test system - JAMMA based - two trackballs - two player control panel.
I realize one day that I have a control panel prewired to plug into the JAMMA wiring bundle, I plug in this panel which then becomes player 1/2 - my prototype panel is configured to connect to the PC as player 3/4 using the I-PAC adapter.
The Jaleco Pony cabinet control panel plugged into the JAMMA wiring loom.
I plug in the coin counter from the Jaleco cabinet into the JAMMA wiring loom and it works, the J-PAC is simply amazing. :)
Coin counter - the button is Coin 1 - the cable to the actual coin mechanism connects
to the open connector on the PCB.
I begin to design my cabinet - I looked at a number of commercial cabinets along with a large number of home built cabinets, my design starts out very complex, the cabinet would be built in two parts, a freestanding lower section to house the electronics and a hood which would sit on top of the base section. The unit would also have a separate control panel assembly.
One of many early drawing of the cabinet.
I simplified the design of the cabinet to a single piece cabinet. The final side design view with dimensions is below. This design still has a separate control panel unit.
Basic cabinet design with dimensions.
I cut the parts and assemble the basics over a week of vacation at Christmas. I move the electronics and PC from the test bench into the cabinet.
The basic cabinet assembled with some of the electronics in place.
The cabinet from the back - the PC and other components can be seen.
Back view of the basic cabinet.
The cabinet with a few coats of primer and side speakers mounted.
Gray primer and speakers. Tempest is running on the system.
Lots of work has gone by and I've been a little slow with the pictures, the cabinet as it appears now. You can clearly see the control panel assembly, the marquee, the subwoofer below the control panel and graphics.
The cabinet ready for 4 player Gauntlet.
After the latest addition to the control panel - Trackballs.
Trackballs make head to head games such as Marble Madness a blast!
The control panel is hinged across the from to allow easy access to the wiring and electronics inside.
The control panel is hinged to make working on it easier.
An inside view of the control panel. The I-PAC and OPTI-PAC are mounted in the bottom on the control box. The receiver for the wireless keyboard and mouse is also in this box. The wireless keyboard and mouse are stored in the control box.
Inside the control box
The marquee is highlighted in this picture. An aluminum frame is used to mount the marquee to the cabinet.
I removed all the controls and cleaned up the control panel. I finished labeling the controls and have added the cutouts for two Oscar Spinners (http://www.oscarcontrols.com) in the center of the panel. I've also added a nice little star graphic on the holes where the joysticks mount.
Control panel openings
A final high resolution picture of the cabinet.
The cabinet is finished in Gray Primer (Hey - I liked the look) with dark green T-Molding. It was sealed using clear enamel.
I made the templates for the MAME Logo and the Space Invaders using 8.5x11 Avery Labels. I printer a grid on the label and cut out the Invaders, stuck the template to the cabinet and painted away. The MAME template was three Avery labels taped side to side with the MAME logo cut out.
The Marquee is a graphic I found on the web, I broke it into 3 parts and printed it on 3 8.5x11 overhead projector foils using my color printer. I used 3 sheets of thin white paper behind the foils and sandwiched these between two pieces of 1/8 Plexiglas. Simple and inexpensive. The backlight for the marquee came from the Jaleco cabinet.
The control box is 4 feet wide and 17 inches deep. The top surface is a 1/2 inch thick 2 inch wide frame cut from plywood (like a big 'D'), on top I glued a sheet of 1/4 inch plywood. A little marble pattern shelf paper and a sheet of 1/8 plexiglas and and I have a great looking panel. Using a hole saw and jigsaw I cut the various openings.
The joysticks are brand new, the buttons and trackballs are used. All were found on EBay.
The PC is a PIII 850/133 with 256Megs RAM. An old 10Gig IDE hard drive and an old 2Meg VGA card. (Note that finding a VGA card that worked well with my arcade monitor was a pain, luckily I have a huge junk box of VGA cards so I had plenty to choose from. :)
The Audio is an older Sound Blaster 16-bit card. I'm using a stock set of PC speaker with subwoofer. The subwoofer can be seen peeking through the front panel below the control panel.
The side speakers hang on little custom brackets I made so I can remove them easily. The control panel removes with two screws. This will make moving the cabinet easier. The base cabinet is 27 inches wide so it will fit through a 32 inch door.
I'm using an I-PAC, a J-Pac and an Opti-Pac adapter from Ultimarc. The J-PAC wires the Player 1 and 2 controls to the PC, the JAMMA edge connector could also be used to play a JAMMA based game board in the cabinet. The I-PAC is used to connect the player 3/4 controls and the Opti-PAC to connect the trackballs and my spinners once they get here.
There are a number of different versions of MAME:
http://www.ultimarc.com - The various adapters I used to interface the controls.
http://www.hagstromelectronics.com - Other adapters to interface controls.
http://www.ebay.com - Search for JAMMA and
MAME - you'll find tons of goodies.
http://listings.ebay.com/aw/listings/list/all/category13718/index.html - Arcade hardware items on EBAY.
http://www.oscarcontrols.com - Spinner and other controls.
http://www.happcontrols.com - Arcade joystick, buttons etc. Lots of data sheets showing mounting hole sizes and patterns.
http://www.mameworld.net - Learn about and download the MAME emulator.
http://advancemame.sourceforge.net - AdvanceMAME - for power / experienced users only! Supports arcade monitors.
http://www.mame.dk - Download ROM images to go with the emulator.
http://directory.google.com/Top/Games/Coin-Op/Arcade_Games/Cabinets/Constructing - Other MAME Cabinets.
http://www.emuunlim.com/doteaters/index.htm - Video game history.