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.
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.
Pencil marked and holes drilled with my Dremel.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.