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Starting a modular MAME cabinet build

mame cabinet

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#1 playermissile OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Sep 5, 2014 3:28 PM

I've wanted to build a MAME cabinet for a long time and finally got started. I intend it to run mostly MAME, atari800, and stella. It'll be powered by a Raspberry Pi and use a 19" 1280x1024 LCD monitor. It's going to have a modular panel, like the one Rick Reynolds (here on AtariAge) built, and another one with smaller component panels.

 

It's going to be styled like a Tempest cab; I have a sketchup based on the original dimensions, but modified a bit to make it a bit easier to cut out and build. The control panel is going to be 24" wide, and will have a bunch of smaller panels that can be swapped in and out.

 

There are panels with 4", 5" and 7" widths, and this is a mockup of the control panel section because I wanted to experiment since I'm still not quite sure what the best way to lock the panels down securely will be:

 

cp_mockup1.jpg

 

Each of the little panels has a quarter inch plywood tongue on the bottom that locks into a groove on the front of the cabinet, and another tongue at the back that I think I'll try to lock down with a hinged board that will lock into place, holding the top of the panels. Here's a view with one of the panels removed:

 

cp_mockup_panel_out.jpg

 

and a closeup of the two panels I've built so far:

 

cp_panels1.jpg

 

So, I'm sure this build will take a while, but maybe by posting my progress it will help keep me motivated.



#2 ledzep OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Sep 8, 2014 4:09 AM

Looks cool!  I hope you'll show in detail how the controls were wired up.  I mean physically to what I assume with be i-PACs and Opti-PACs along with however it will be connected to your computer running MAME.  I want to make one someday.



#3 playermissile OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Sep 8, 2014 3:52 PM

Will do. I have an I-PAC for the keyboard encoder and will probably get the trackball and spinner from Groovy Game Gear and use their Opti-Wiz encoder.

 

I'm going to use cat 5 cable and RJ45 plugs for the modular connections from the control panel sections to a little patch panel, and then the back side of the patch panel will be wired up to the I-PAC/Opti-Wiz. I'm using the wiring section of the beersmith.com cabinet build as a guide, although instead of direct USB connections for the trackball/spinners, I'm going to run the analog controls through the patch panel, too.



#4 telengard OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Sep 8, 2014 3:58 PM

Very cool, I have a modular setup too.  I wish my woodworking skills were 1/2 as good as yours.  Dealing with metal is a pain.



#5 Cynicaster OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Sep 9, 2014 10:44 AM

Looks like it has the potential to be pretty awesome, but I think that every ounce of flexibility you bring in by means of the swappable panels, the Raspberry Pi takes it right back out, due to it being so underpowered.

Sure, you can use the Pi, but you’ll be limiting yourself to a long-outdated MAME build (which means less accurate emulation), and the system will choke on most games from the late 80s onward.

I’m not sure if you’re a member over at BYOAC, but there’s a thread going on over there right now, talking about using the Raspberry Pi for MAME builds: http://forum.arcadec...c,141185.0.html

#6 playermissile OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Sep 9, 2014 10:37 PM

Very cool, I have a modular setup too.  I wish my woodworking skills were 1/2 as good as yours.  Dealing with metal is a pain.

 

Wow, very nice cab with the ability to get virtually identical layouts to the arcade games. Tremendous flexibility! But yeah, I don't envy you all the metal work. I got a cheapo table saw and that made a huge difference in my woodworking. Anything metal still scares me off.



#7 playermissile OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Sep 9, 2014 10:48 PM

Looks like it has the potential to be pretty awesome, but I think that every ounce of flexibility you bring in by means of the swappable panels, the Raspberry Pi takes it right back out, due to it being so underpowered.

Sure, you can use the Pi, but you’ll be limiting yourself to a long-outdated MAME build (which means less accurate emulation), and the system will choke on most games from the late 80s onward.

I’m not sure if you’re a member over at BYOAC, but there’s a thread going on over there right now, talking about using the Raspberry Pi for MAME builds: http://forum.arcadec...c,141185.0.html

 

Thanks for the pointer to the post; I hadn't seen that.

 

As for the RPi, I guess I didn't really state my MAME intentions clearly, but I'm not targeting anything after the mid 80s really, so it's got plenty of power for that. Everything I've tried that I want to emulate works fine. There's a build called MAME4ALL that uses 037b5 or so but with a bunch of fixes and specifically targets the RPi.

 

We'll see as I get further along, and if I need to I can always swap it out for an old Athlon machine or something. I'm also a linux dude, so I'm familiar with that part, too. And I don't really care about front ends, either, because my plan is to leave a game up for a month or so and then have a family competition for high score, then switch games for the next month.

 

So at this point I'm still set on using the RPi. I'll post about any issues I run across.



#8 playermissile OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Nov 21, 2014 5:29 PM

Haven't had a whole lot of time to work, but did manage to get a controller wired up and MAME running on the Raspberry Pi using the RetroPie distribution.

 

cp_rpi_mspacman.jpg

 

I wired up a 4 way joystick, cutting a Cat 5e ethernet cable in half and crimping them to the .187 connectors to fit on the microswitches. The 28 gauge wire is not designed for those crimps, so it's not a great connection, but seems to hold.

 

cp_stick_wiring.jpg

 

I used a 12 port patch panel for the other end, wiring it to the I-PAC, and it all seems to work. 

 

cp_ipac-wiring.jpg

 

I'm following a convention that I made up. For all panels, green (conductor #6 on the ethernet cable) will be ground and 8 will be reserved for power across all modular panels, even those that don't need power. Don't want to swap panels, plug something in wrong and put power through something that won't handle it well.

 

For joystick panels, 1-4 are the directions, 5 and 7 will be buttons 1 and 2. For button panels, 5 and 7 will be buttons 1 and 2, and then I'll probably go back to 1-4 for buttons 3 through 6.

 

I don't know how trackball and spinner panels will work out yet, but I figure they'll need at least the power so that's why I'm reserving pin 8 for that.

 



#9 playermissile OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 2, 2015 4:16 PM

Awesome: Raspberry Pi 2 just announced and available with a quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 & 1GB RAM! Maybe it can run AdvanceMAME with a recent rom set instead of MAME4ALL which is running older 0.37 ROMs



#10 playermissile OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 19, 2015 4:02 PM

Finally started to build. Here's the design I'm using

 

sketchup.png

 

and here's a bit of the progress.

 

cab_coin-door-cutout.jpg



#11 Arbee OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 6, 2015 10:48 AM

Awesome: Raspberry Pi 2 just announced and available with a quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 & 1GB RAM! Maybe it can run AdvanceMAME with a recent rom set instead of MAME4ALL which is running older 0.37 ROMs

 

It's about half the speed where MAMEdev would feel comfortable touting it for accurate emulation and recent ROMs (if you stick only to Golden Age games you might do OK, but 16-bit stuff is probably right out).  The next MAME release will compile and run out of the box on any ARM-based system running Linux if people don't believe them though ;-)


Edited by Arbee, Fri Mar 6, 2015 10:49 AM.


#12 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 6, 2015 7:37 PM

I'm wondering how many of you use mini-ITX format? It would seem you get 100x more power in a space 3x bigger. You've got headroom for all the current and future emulators with such a setup. Sure, it might cost you 200-300, but then so will Pi when you get it all outfitted.



#13 playermissile OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 9, 2015 3:10 PM

I'm wondering how many of you use mini-ITX format? It would seem you get 100x more power in a space 3x bigger. You've got headroom for all the current and future emulators with such a setup. Sure, it might cost you 200-300, but then so will Pi when you get it all outfitted.

 

I don't think there's much in price beyond the cost of the RPi that wouldn't also be needed with an x86 ITX board, so I do think it is comparing $35 to the $200+ the x86 board costs. I'm using an I-Pac for the keyboard encoding anyway, so if I did feel like there wasn't enough CPU I could just swap it out.

 

But it's not really about price. I have some old Athlons and whatever laying around that I could use; my goal using the ARM board is because I want to see how far it will go. Since I'm mostly interested in 1980s games, it should be more than powerful enough.



#14 playermissile OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Sep 7, 2015 10:21 PM

Just over a year after starting this thread:

 

firstcabpic.jpg

 

More details to follow...


Edited by playermissile, Mon Sep 7, 2015 10:23 PM.


#15 Justin Payne OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Oct 21, 2015 9:03 PM

Hey Rob,

 

So, your cabinet looks great! I listed to you talk more about it on this month's podcast and I thought of a couple things.

 

Did you think about putting a LED sign where the marquee is? Depending on the game you play, the name could be outputted to it via mame. 

 

Did you say you were putting in interchangeable controllers depending on the game? If so, I was thinking the same thing. I was thinking plug & play by making them USB. Of course, I wouldn't use a usb plug. You'd want something like a cartridge for each device and then they'd just pop in. That might be a bit difficult with the RPi but PC's don't have to be that powerful to run mame games.



#16 playermissile OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Oct 22, 2015 3:31 PM

Hey Rob,

 

So, your cabinet looks great! I listed to you talk more about it on this month's podcast and I thought of a couple things.

 

Did you think about putting a LED sign where the marquee is? Depending on the game you play, the name could be outputted to it via mame. 

 

Thanks! I didn't think about an LED marquee or some programmable way to change the marquee. Sounds cool, though. Let me take a few more pics of the controller setup and I'll post them, showing more of what I did.



#17 playermissile OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Oct 22, 2015 4:54 PM

Did you say you were putting in interchangeable controllers depending on the game? If so, I was thinking the same thing. I was thinking plug & play by making them USB. Of course, I wouldn't use a usb plug. You'd want something like a cartridge for each device and then they'd just pop in. That might be a bit difficult with the RPi but PC's don't have to be that powerful to run mame games.

 

I updated the web page to show more about the modular panels: http://playermissile...me/upright.html

 

Here's the panel set up for Pac-Man:

 

upright-panel.jpg

 

and here's some of the spacer sub-panels removed and the 4-way joystick pried off of the bar magnet showing how I wired the buttons to an ethernet cable. The patch panel jacks are wired to various terminals on the I-PAC so I can mix and match controllers & buttons depending on the game, and eventually trak-balls and spinners.

 

upright-panel-wired.jpg



#18 Justin Payne OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 23, 2015 10:27 PM

That's a great idea! So simple. I would have never thought about using a network cable.I can definitely see your engineering background at work. That thing looks great!
 

So, when you're finished, you gotta do a post mortem just to make sure the rest of us know some of the pitfalls before we take on a project like this.







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