Like a lot of other people it was decided that it would be fun to build a MAME powered arcade cabinet, not only to play the games after but the building experience too. Like many projects, it is still a long way from finished even a year on from when it was started.
There is a lot of information about using original cabinets, but it seemed a waste to butcher one in order to run MAME. Besides, even if one could be found it would be far better to keep it as is/restore it. So, an original cabinet design was produced using SketchUp. The SketchUp file is available for download here.
A lot of MAME projects use an original arcade monitor to provide that authentic look to the games. However, again this was something that could not be sourced for this project, so a standard 21" TV was used. This is connected to the PC via S-Video connection.
The PC is of course one of the major components of the cabinet. The specification needed for the PC depends very much on the games to be played on the emulator. The specification used in this cabinet is listed below. This allows play of all the 80s classics, upto thinks like MKII with ease. More recent arcade games have not been tested.
- AMD Athlon XP2200+
- 512MB DDR2100 memory
- 40GB ATA133 7200RPM PATA Seagate Hard Drive
- ATi Radeon 8500 AGP video card
- Abit NF7-S motherboard
Controls were purchased from Gremlin Solutions, an arcade parts supplier in the UK. The joysticks are 8-way Sanwa items, with 6 buttons per player, along with a P1 and P2 start, and coin input button.
The controls are interfaced to the PC via a MiniPac USB board.
The cabinet has been built out of 9mm MDF. The images speak for themselves. Essentially, the two side pieces form the base to which everything else is fixed to. A frame is fixed to the inside of each side panel, a specific distance from the edge of the panel all the way around. This then allows the panels which make up the middle of the cabinet to be fixed to this in order to create the box. Similarly, batons were fixed to the side panels where required to create the shelf on which the monitor is placed.
Things left to do
There are a fair amount of jobs that need completing on this cabinet, mostly involving some kind of artwork.
- Control panel artwork
- Control panel plexiglas overlay (cut, drill and fit)
- Monitor surround artwork
- Banner artwork
- Side artwork
Even though the cabinet is not yet finished, some things have become apparent that could be improved upon next time, or for anyone reading this.
- The control panel is too low. I am 6'3" and find the control panel to be too low, just a few inches higher would make a lot of difference to the comfort level when playing the games.
- 9mm MDF is too thin. Work was started on this cabinet before a close look had been taken at any originals. The pinball and fruit machines use materials of at least 18mm thickness, which makes 9mm look like paper.
- Do not make the cabinet playable before you are finished!