Mini-Mini Mame Arcade Cabinet pt7

This afternoon I began installing the arcade controls and getting them configured for the MAME emulator. Next to actually playing with the finished arcade cabinet, adding the controls is by far my most favourite part of the build.

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First job on my list was to install the joystick. I’m going to be using another Sanwa 4/8-way ball topped stick similar to the one used in my full size cab.

The joystick is mounted underneath the control panel via four screws/nuts and so I measured out the mount plate and fixing holes.

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Pencil marked and holes drilled with my Dremel.

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This is the underside of the joystick showing the four directional microswitches and the (clear plastic) restrictor plate. This is used to limit direction for either four or eight (diagonal) control. It’s down to personal choice but I generally leave this as an eight way stick and haven’t had any problems with control of four way controlled games such as PacMan and Donkey Kong.

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Joystick is now fitted but when I test fitted I realised I’d made a bit of a mistake! By moving the front panel towards the back slightly when putting the panels together, it doesn’t leave enough clearance for the joystick. I have two options here, move the front panel forward again or scrap the control panel, cut a new one and mount the joystick further forward. In the end I decided, for ease, to move the front panel forward.

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Next is the arcade buttons, three on the control panel and a 1-up and ‘coin’ button on the front panel. I’ve got lots of these arcade buttons in various colours and can’t quite decide which colour to use. I’ve settled for this Red/Blue combination but to be honest, now that I look at the pictures again, I’m thinking a single colour would look much better.

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I’ve added both the 1-up/start and coin button the front panel and attached the microswitches to each button. Clearance between these and the control panel buttons was about 1cm!

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To connect each control to my netbook I’ll be using specialist keyboard encoder called an iPac. I used quite a few of these before and they do the job perfectly. Once connected to the PC via USB interface, the PC see’s it as another keyboard and controls can be mapped in MAME as you would with a regular keyboard/controller.

The tiny circuit board is attached to the underside of the control panel via four mounting feet – although I’ve only used two here as space on my mini control panel is very short.

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Usually, the iPac is shipped with two cable bundles, the first contains coloured wires that terminate into a 40 pin IDC block and the second bundle (usually black cable) is used to daisy chain all of the negative/ground terminals together.

Wiring is pretty straight forward, you can either use the wiring diagram which accompanies the iPac or use software to reprogram the iPac chip. Either way, the wiring process is the same – connect a coloured wire to the ‘NO’ terminal on each control microswitch and a black ground wire to the ‘common’ terminal on the control microswitches.

For detailed information, you might like to visit here – http://arcadecontrols.com/arcade_wiring.shtml#General_Theory

Once completed, you’ll end up with a mess of cables like this :)

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At this stage it’s natural to start tie wrapping the cables and tidying them up, but until I’ve tested the controls I tend to leave them as is in the event that I need to make any changes.

With the iPac connected to my Netbook I can use a program called WinIPAC to test and/or program each control/button.

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WinIPAC let’s you create a replica of your control panel and provide tools for testing and key mapping. You can see here which keys I’ve mapped to each control.

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Satisfied that all controls where working as they should, I tie-wrapped the cables into neat bundles so that they wouldn’t snag on anything and used adhesive plastic hooks to attach the bundle to keep it of the ground.

The finished control panel.

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Mini – Mini Mame Arcade Cabinet pt5

It’s been quite a while since I last posted an update regarding my mini – mini arcade cabinet / DIY iCade as things have been a little hectic here to carry on.

After building the cardboard mock up (see previous posts and YouTube vids) and getting a rough idea on measurements and construction details, I’ve decided to slightly modify the design again. Originally, I’d thought to base the overall design on the iCade, albeit a slightly taller version to accommodate my 11.6″ tablet netbook fixed in portrait mode and also include enough height for a backlit marquee at the top (unlike the iCade). However, looking back at my cardboard model, and especially with my netbook being a few inches taller than an iPad, it really did way too tall so I’ve decided to scrap that idea and exclude the marquee/lower the overall height.

I have a sneaky suspicion that this won’t be the last mini cabinet I build so maybe I’ll incorporate this idea into another cab (am already thinking of doing another for horizontal games).

So, with a new set of plans, headed off to the hardware store for materials.

I’ve decided to make my cabinet out of thin MDF as it’s easy to work with and provides a nice smooth finish. I did think about using rigid foam board and plastic at one point but went down the route I’d find the easiest. Likewise, I was going to use 9mm board but after looking at the slightly thicker 12mm board I decided to use that instead. It’s still very light but doesn’t seem to wobble like the 9mm board.

A good size 1m x 1.5m piece of MDF sheet (the smallest they had) cost me £6.99. More than enough for this cabinet with plenty of off cuts for the next build.

I also brought PVA wood glue, suitable wood screws, panel pins, two small inline brass hinges (for the top lid) and a pack of magnetic door fasteners (huh!)

Back home and outside in glorious summer sunshine despite it being mid autumn I transposed my measurements to the board and drew out the layout of all the panel pieces Here’s one of the side panels.

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Cutting wood with an electric jigsaw makes the job very quick and easy. However, one can often go slightly wobbly when you’re trying to cut two pieces to match (excuses excuses!)

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No matter, my Dremel and sandpaper attachment to the rescue!

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All the parts cut and awaiting sanding. I’ve cut the side panels, back panel, front panel, top lid and control panel. My original plan included a bottom panel, but a test fit shows the whole cabinet to be quite sturdy and as there wouldn’t be any inner workings fixed to the base, I decided to exclude it in the end and reduce the overall weight.

You may notice in the picture below that some of the parts aren’t cut perfectly. Again wobbly jigsaw but half an hour with the Dremel and all are looked good. I’ve also sanded some of the corners on the side panels and on the Control Panel corners and front.

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Using the 28mm drill bit I brought at the beginning of the year for my full scale MAME arcade cabinet, I’ve cut the holes for the joystick and buttons on the Control Panel and two holes in the front panel. The Control Panel will hold three fire buttons, which will be more than enough to play some of the classic vertical games, and the front panel will include the 1-up button and ‘coin’ button.

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I’ve attached wooden fixing batons to the back and front panels with PVA glue and have set them aside to set overnight. Next time i’ll start putting all of the pieces together including the Netbook mount and Control Panel wiring.

At this stage I still don’t have any definite ideas for paint colour and decals….any suggestions!