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How to create your very own virtual arcade!



I've always been an arcade junkie since I played my first game back in 1983. The game was "Burnin' Rubber" and was in an upright cabinet. It was also the only game I remember being 10 cents per play. I spent a whole dollar in about half an hour and was in trouble when I got home for spending all my pocket-money (oops!).

Burnin' Rubber screenshot Burnin' Rubber screenshot Burnin' Rubber screenshot

I remember playing most of the 20 cent (closest denomination to US quarters) classics, such as 1941/1942, Arkanoid, Bubble Bobble (my all time favourite), Elevator Action, Gyruss & Galaga.

I missed out on the all-time greatests such as Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Donkey Kong as the local shops weren't that big. I did get some of them on cartridge for the Atari 8-bit computers a few years later though.

Bubble Bobble screenshot

I stopped playing coin-ops in around mid-1990 as I got my first 'real' computer (an Atari 1040 STfm). The next time I was around arcade machines, they'd shot up to $1 for 2 games, and all the old classics had disappeard from sight. *sobs* The leading reasons were loss of popularity (fighting such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat were all the rage) and hardware failure. Old cabinets were thrown out int the trash, or had their PCBs thrown out to be replaced with newer games...

Thanks to the initial efforts of Nicola Salmoria and now countless others, these classic games will be preserved for the foreseeable future. MAME is free, world-wide software project that now emulates (the hardware) for over 3000 arcade games. The first version of MAME I saw was 0.24, and I think it only supported a few hundred games (anyone have an exact figure?).

So the reason for the cabinet? To preserve a bit of computing history & to enjoy the nostalgia of playing old arcade games in as close to their original environment as possible. Plus, you have to admit, it'll make a rather impressive and unique coffee-table! :)


Current status

Well, the cabinet is pretty much finished apart from a few tweaks to be done
to the coin-mechanism and the addition of a couple of decals.

Here is a picture of the finished cabinet, and an overview of the case layout.


Cabinet building steps

1. Get a cocktail (tabletop) arcade cabinet. Done!
2. Remove the old/dead bits from the cabinet. Done!
3. Cleaning, sanding and painting the cabinet. Done!
4. Buy PC parts/assemble. Done!
5. Fit the PC inside the cabinet. Done!
6. Replace the old cabinet controls. Done!
7. Installing new speakers. Done!
8. Connecting the new cabinet controls to the PC. Done!
9. Install OS, frontend & custom version of MAME. Done!
10. Finish up and clean the cabinet. Done!


Parts / Costs

All amounts are in Australian dollars... (1.00 AUD ~ 0.56 USD at the time)

Part description Cost
Arcade cabinet $150
BX m/b, Celeron 433 & 64MB SDRAM $400
ATX tower case $42
14" screen $40
"600W" powered speakers
Arcade controls $85
Power board $15
1.44MB Floppy & 2GB HDD, keyboards, cables, etc.
This stuff is from loads of computer junk that I've gathered over the years.
2x PS/2 & VGA switchbox $45
Sheet of glass for the top $50
Misc wiring, timber, paint, screws, fasteners, latches, etc. $100
Total Cost (AUD): $937


Helpful resources

· Build Your Own Arcade Controls FAQ
· PC and Console to JAMMA Page
· Hagstrom Electronics - Encoder Modules
· Happ Controls Amusement Products
· List of other arcade cabinet projects.
· Retro fitting a low-boy arcade machine with a MAME setup

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