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  Arcade@Home Cabinet Q&A

    Q: What hardware are you using?
      • AMD K6-2 300MHZ (100Mhz bus speed) w/3D-Now!
      • 64MB RAM (PC100)
      • FIC VA-503+ main board
      • AGP Diamond Viper V330 (NVidia Riva 128)
      • Western Digital 4.3GB hard drive
      • Creative AWE64 sound card
      • Interact 3D Program Pad (SV-235) (for the joystick/buttons)
      • Hacked keyboard (for non-player buttons)
      • Interex PC-200 (hacked PC trackball)

    Q: How long did it take you to build it?
      2 weeks and about 40-60 hours of labor.

    Q: Did you consider mounting the monitor vertically?
      Yes, but Windows and other non-MAME games would not have the correct orientation. Also, mounting the monitor on it's side would have been more difficult. Once you remove the monitor stand, most monitors are flat on the bottom. Their sides, however, are usually are quite odd shaped and don't offer any good place to position mounting bolts.

    Q: What about adding a steering wheel or flight yoke?
      I plan on getting a steering wheel, Star Wars yoke, and a spinner in the future. I've purposely not used the joystick port on my present configuration so this could be done without conflict.

    Q: Why not a slide-out keyboard under the control panel?
      When I was thinking of building a cabinet, a slideout keyboard was in the plan. I didn't do it on my machine because I didn't want to take away the arcade machine look. Also, the keyboard does just slide out the coin door. If I ever decide to reconfigure everything, I'll probably go with a cordless keyboard and install a small window for the keyboard sensor.

    Q: Why no control panel graphics?
      I currently have the control panel covered with a tough black arcade quality control panel overlay. To replace it, I'd need something as tough as what I've got, and 18" wide. So far, I haven't been able to find anything that would work (I don't really like the look of plexiglas.

    Q: What trackball did you use?
      I used an Interex PC-200 that I purchased from Egghead (it was $14.91). Any trackball that has a ball of around 2" to 2-1/4" should work. Don't buy a $100 trackball though. For that kind of money you should purchase a real arcade trackball from Happ Controls.

    Q: How did you mount the trackball?
      I took the case off the trackball to find that there was just a simple PCB inside. I mounted the PCB to a piece of square plastic used for electrical boxes (about $1.00). I drilled a 2-1/2" hole into my 3/4" particle board control panel. I then took another plastic electrical box cover, this time round (about $1.00), and cut a 1-3/4" hole in it. I had to use a small drum sander to make the hole a little bit bigger, and tapered. I centered the round cover plate on top of the hole in the control panel and marked the position of the pre drilled holes in the top plate. I drilled holes through the control panel and through the plastic that the PCB is mounted to (all centered). I used two 3" carriage bolts, lots of nuts and washers and a few split washers to keep everything in place. You need to do a lot of adjusting of the nuts so that the ball rests against the top plate just the correct amount. Too tight and the ball won't spin. Too loose and the ball will "chatter" when spun. The split washers have kept everything in place since this initial adjustment. You can see the way it's mounted in this picture: Underside of Control Panel

    Q: How does the trackball interface with the PC?
      The trackball uses just a standard serial port and works like a standard mouse. I wired two black arcade buttons to be used for the left and right mouse buttons. Since the computer thinks it's a standard mouse, I can use the trackball to select games or use in MAME for games like Centipede and Missile Command.

    Q: Where did you get the buttons and the Joystick?
      The buttons are of the micro switch variety and are from Happ Controls ($1.35). The joystick has leaf switches and was purchased from Wico (800)FOR-WICO ($9.95). I'd recommend using micro switch buttons and leaf switch joysticks. Happ doesn't sell leaf switch joysticks and the micro switch models make too much noise.

    Q: How did you wire the buttons/joystick?
      I used two different methods. For the front of the control panel I wired directly from buttons on my keyboard. I used a 25 wire serial cable and lopped the ends off. There are a total of 6 buttons and 2 LEDs that are wired up (which means that I used 16 wires out of 25). For each button I just soldered to the back of the keyboard where the button was. I drilled a hole in the top of the keyboard for the cable to come out and screwed the keyboard back together. My keyboard now has two cables coming out if it. One goes to the computer and the other goes to the front of the control panel.

      For the top of the control panel I used an Interact 3D Program Pad model number SV-235 (~$30). It's available at Best Buy and many other stores. I just soldered wires from the joystick to the control panel (buttons and joystick). I used (2) 10 wire cables to make it as clean as possible. I did NOT wire to the direction pad on the joystick. I wired to the 10 OTHER programmable buttons. This was done because, for some reason, the control was VERY erratic when it was wired to the direction pad. Because this joystick allows you to program it to use any keyboard key(s) through software or directly makes it nice to use other programs that may not allow you to configure the buttons. Also, I use ONLY the keyboard port so the joystick port is still free for my Star Wars arcade control yoke project I plan to take on. One other thing, there is a program button on this joystick that I wired to a small button on the inside of the cabinet. You must press this button to program the buttons.

      See the layout and how it's programmed: Control Panel Layout

    Q: What do you use the 2 LEDs for?
      On many games in MAME, the Num Lock and Caps Lock LEDs flash for one or two player games depending on how many virtual quarters you insert. I snipped the LEDs on the keyboard and wired it up. I purchased a pack of (3) LEDs from Radio Shack (~$2) that was designed to be popped into a hole. This was needed because the control panel is so thick. This little touch really adds a lot to the realism of the machine. I just wish that all MAME games would support it!

    Q: Why didn't you use the coin mechanics?
      There were several reasons I wired in the green virtual coin button instead of using the coin mechanics. First, there was no room for the coin box (the PC sits where it once was). Secondly, it's kind of a pain to keep inserting coins, opening the coin drawer, "fishing" coins out, inserting, etc... Most people that have original arcade video games just leave the coin door open and hit the switch for credit instead of dealing with the quarters. Thirdly, certain games require you to wait a while after boot-up before it will accept quarters (Centipede). Because of these reasons, it seemed like the only clean way to go.

    Q: How did you mount the monitor?
      Very carefully. The monitor is mounted at a 45% angle and didn't have any type of mounting holes on the bottom. I first had to find (4) places on the monitor where I could mount bolts. There are now (2) 2" bolts in the front and (2) in the back. There was already a board in the cabinet right next to the display glass that I drilled holes parallel to the glass. I then took a board that was as wide as the cabinet, about 4" deep, and 3/4" thick. I drilled (2) holes for the back two bolts then slid the front bolts into their holes. I held the monitor at the correct angle (parallel with the display glass), and marked the position of the back board. Using (2) shelf braces I secured the back board in the marked position. I put everything back together and secured the bolts with washers, split washers and nuts. I thought I was golden until I turned on the monitor. I realized that the colors were WAY off! It would appear that the monitor is more prone to magnetic fields when it is tilted. Luckily, turning the cabinet 90% removed all magnetic distortions (the machine is in my basement and right next to my hot water heater, furnace, etc).

    Q: Do you run MAME from within Windows?
      Yes. I use my own Arcade@Home front-end which includes images of each game. Arcade@Home runs the DOS version of MAME (which I find much faster than the Windows DirectX version).

    Q: How are you running Dragon's Lair?
    Q: Why didn't you use two joysticks?
      My original plan was to have two joysticks and one or two more buttons. However, once I did a mockup, I realized that the control panel would have to be too large for a mini cabinet. If you have a full-size cabinet, then you should have about 5 more inches which may give you enough to add a second joystick, but maybe not enough for a joystick and 6 more buttons. You should also consider how all of these buttons will be wired to the PC. I use both a keyboard and a programmable keyboard (joy pad) hardwired to the control panel. Depending on what type of interface you use you could have a problem with the number of simultaneous buttons being pressed. In other words, creating a real mockup is REALLY important in testing everything out. I used a piece of scrap particle board to position everything. The first one was way off. The second one was a lot closer. Then I just traced the holes into the real control panel. To do all of this, you need to have the trackball, buttons, and joysticks first because you need to consider the mounting and wiring into the equation.

    Q: How did you decide on the button/joystick layout?
      The layout of the control panel was something that I drew up many times and even made a couple mockups to see how everything fit together. I can give you a few suggestions about designing a control panel. First off, make sure you have enough room to the sides of your joystick so that your hand doesn't hit the side of the console (if your console has sides that stick up like mine). Also, place the buttons as close to the joystick as possible. This makes games like Stargate possible because there needs to be a button RIGHT next to the joystick to switch directions. Positioning the buttons in straight rows seems to make the most sense until you try using them. Most arcade machines positioned the buttons so they would fit your middle finger, index finger, and thumb on your right hand. Look at an Asteroids, Stargate, and Xevious control panel, the buttons are at diagonals. If you look at the images of my control panel, the white buttons line up exactly where these three fingers would rest. Positioning the buttons at an angle also allows you to pack the buttons a little closer together. Also, make sure you have enough room to each side of your trackball or your hand will hit buttons when you are moving around. Finally, as for controlling MAME, I use three buttons "hidden" at the top/left of the front of the control panel. They are recessed and have a stiff spring so I don't accidentally bump into them. The three buttons are Escape, Reset, and Pause.

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