My Love Affair With Classic Arcade Games

Okay, for those who know me, you know that I am a total sucker for classic vids.  I LOVE them.  Video games are essentially how I got involved in technology way back when in my formulative years.

So, I collect every compilation out there, but there is always missing.  It's that great feel that you got when you were actually playing a big old machine that ate your quarters.  No free play, man...that stuff cost $.25 a pop!  Not cheap when your allowance was about $5 a week.  So maybe there was a sense of accomplishment when you could ride that quarter for 1/2 hour or so; maybe it was the musty arcades themselves; maybe it was simply having that nuclear-resistant joystick and some buttons that never seemed to break.  It was probably a confluence of all of those things.

IMAGE_020 At any rate, I have been thinking about building my own cocktail cabinet for a long time.  Something cool you could set a beer on and play some classic vids.  Yes, I'm into MAME, but the emulated SW images always seemed a little off.  So, when I found a 60-in-1 board that had some sweet classics at a good price, how could I pass it up?  I decided to take the plunge.

In my spare time (which has been non-existent latest), I like to wood work.  Building furniture, crafts, gifts, whatever, I've done it.  I've been doing it for several years now; I'm not great, but I know how to build a good piece of solid furniture.  So I went to my graph paper and immediately started the task of designing the actual cabinet.

I wanted it to have the same feel and dimensions of one of those old-school cocktails that we used to play on, so it's the pretty standard 28" high, 22" wide, and 19" deep (roughly).  The top is 32" x 22", also standard.  When I build stuff, I tend to over-engineer, so I consciously tried to keep things simple.  The entire thing is made out of 3/4" Birch-finished plywood.

I debated adding a track ball to the control panel, but if I had, it would have lost the look and feel I was going for.  I went for the 8-way joysticks instead of the 4-way; they make things a little hard on some of the games (think Lady Bug which really wants a true 4-way), but work for ALL the games on the PCB (besides, Time Pilot is my fav and it IMAGE_027requires an 8-way...well, that and Dig Dug are my favorites...and Xevious...and Mappy...and...).

I then found a site that has a TON of great arcade machine marques in Adobe Illustrator format...some really cool graphics.  From there, I found all the art I needed.

Of course, I had to have a custom piece of glass made to fit the thing (remember the beer thing above?) and that completes the scene.

I debated whether or not I wanted an actual coin box.  In the spirit of not over-engineering, I decided to rig up a button on the back that would act as the coin drop (besides, I would have had to keep opening the thing up to grab the quarters I had just shoved in there...I never carry change).

IMAGE_024 All of the electronics where pretty easy; I imagine that most of you reading this have built a PC.  If you haven't, it's really not too hard to do, actually...kinda like building something out of expensive Legos that you can fry without the proper grounding.  Anyhow, the electronics of this were not too much harder than building your own PC, except that you might want some skills with soldering and wiring (as you'll need them to build the harnesses for the control panels, etc...although I also found some pre-wired harnesses out there as well).  If you guys are interested, I can post more details on where I got everything and how I actually made this thing.  I should have documented every step of the way, as I will probably end up building a few of these for friends.

But at the end of the day, I am EXTREMELY happy with what I build, and I have a sweet, totally authentic cocktail arcade game in my casa.  I rarely take the time just to do something for myself anymore, and I must admit, it was awesome.  If you haven't taken the time to do something cool for yourself in awhile, you should 🙂

Hope you enjoy!

PS:  The pics were taken with my HTC Touch Diamond...not a bad little camera 🙂

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