Idea for multiple Mame Arcade control panels?

I was thinking on the way home this evening about  my MAME arcade build. Specifically I’ve been trying to come up with a solution to enable me to have interchangeable control panels (CPs) without the cost of buying multiple PC interfaces boards (I’m using an Ipac)

I intend to have one CP that contains a central mounted single joystick and buttons (plus maybe a trackball) leaving lots of elbow room. The second would contain two joysticks and buttons for playing with friends – Double Dragon is not nearly as much fun when playing 1-up 🙂

As i mentioned earlier, I’m using an Ipac board to wire the controls to the PC but these are quite expensive and i don’t want to buy one for every CP build.

ipacIpac interface board for connection Arcade joysticks/buttons to a PC via the keyboard port.

So…back to the idea I had on the way home. I’ve been taking some old kit out of server rooms at work which include a couple of faulty network patch panels. If I fitted the patch panel into Mame cab and wired the Ipac to this instead of the CP, I could wire each CP to the patch panel using standard Cat5e network cable.

By doing so, only one Ipac is used and the patch panel could be used to support many CPs. Even better, the network cables will be terminated with standard rj45 plugs so all i have to do swap CPs over is unplug the network cables, swap CP’s and plug it in. Cat5e contains eight wires per cable so i’m only looking at around 3-4 network cables per CP (each button, joystick movement requires one positive connection and one negative connection, although negatives can be daisy chained together as one.

The critical factor is ensuring wiring consistency between  each CP’s, i.e the connection for example on joystick button 1 is constant across all CPs.

I think I’ll draw out a few plans tomorrow lunchtime and see if this idea really would work. I’ll post my sketches tomorrow.

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