The MAME cockpit

Part One

And so it begins… I’ve wanted to build an arcade machine with a PC in it for sometime now. I think the first time I saw one was on the Arcade@Home website. Anyway the first thing I did was create a joystick for playing games on my PC. (see The Joystick Project for details) My second attempt was to purchase a Williams StarGate that had been converted to a Leland Attaxx from Game Masters. The cabinet had been painted black and a Jamma wiring harness had been installed. I stripped it out and installed a Pentium 166 PC. The monitor in it was a Wells-Gardner K7000 series 19′ horizontal monitor. I also purchased and installed a composite video adapter from Happ Controls. Although it looked ok with a VCR attached, the picture from the TV out of my PC was very poor. After looking at the specs for the monitor I realized that it would never work due to the resolution of the monitor being 600×200. I never even bothered to complete the control panel after I found that out. Also after sitting in my Omega-Race cockpit for a while it was clear that sitting was the only way to go. So begins Phase 3.

The first step was to find the right cabinet. I almost converted my Omega-Race, but decided that I really want to play it one day when I find a working main board. After looking at lots of driving cabinets I almost decided to build one. Then about 2 or 3 months ago I found what will be a truly InterStellar game machine. Pictures of it at Game Masters are here:

Back of cockpit Side of cockpit

I found a Cobra Command cabinet that turned out to be a converted InterStellar by Funai. Before anyone asks the InterStellar main board and laserdisc were gone before I found it. However I do have the main board for Cobra Command! In fact as soon as I get an eprom reader built I’m going to copy them in hopes that some day the MAME team will add them to their emulator. Currently MAME has Cobra Command, but the game has Japanese text on some of the screens. Hopefully my ROMS will be all English. Also the current ROMS are copyrighted 1988 where as mine are 1984.

Anyway the cabinet came home 2/4/1999. I’m now in the process of stripping it out so that the PC can be installed. So far almost all of the electronics have been removed. I’ve left the monitor and speakers for now.

Since the monitor has a composite input for the laserdisc, I’m going to hope that the resolution is at least 600×400. I’ll be hooking it up to my PC’s TV out real soon. If the picture still isn’t great I’m going to get a Wells-Gardner U3100 series 19″ monitor. It’ll bolt in with no mods and give me a resolution of 1024×768 interlaced! I plan on upgrading the 4 speaker sound to be all Pioneer. Plus a Pioneer 12″ sub-woofer to replace the 8″ sub-woofer that is in the cabinet now.

Picture of old subwoofer

Other planned mods will include a new black cloth auto seat, and the control panel will sport a 4 1/2″ translucent blue trackball that will be lighted from the bottom, a Tempest spinner control with an Omega-Race knob, (yes I’ve figured out how to interface it, details soon) a pair of Joysticks for Robotron, and 6 fire buttons on each side for the newest games. Also for my Microsoft Pinball Arcade, flipper buttons on both sides of the control panel. And if I can locate one, I’ll use an Area 51 Site 4 control panel overlay with those purple flames!

Part Two

Well since part one not a lot has happened. However I have managed to play a few games on it. I did get the Wells-Gardner U3100 monitor for my birthday. (Thanks Michelle!) A picture of the new monitor is below left. Also everything has been ripped out and the PC is in. See below right. The PC is screwed to a sliding platform and slides out enough to get to the back for mounting drives, etc. Also on the back of the slanted board above the PC is a florescent lamp. This makes working on the unit much easier.

I am currently working on getting the power hooked up. Picture below. The power strip on the top-right is for AC 120v. The power strip on the lower-left is for DC +5v and +12v. Note that the negative of my power supply is grounded. The AC power block will have a power cord that plugs into my surge protector. So far two AC fans and the monitor are all that are hooked up. However soon a power supply to feed the DC power block will be connected. The DC power block will feed a number of lights in the control panel as well as the trackball/mouse interface.

I’m doing a lot of recycling on this project. Almost all of the wiring has been removed from old arcade machine that I’ve managed to drag home. The trick is to remove everything and put it in Zip-Lock bags that are labeled. For instance all of the screws that hold the power strips and amplifier in came from an old Stargate. (My first cabinet project) The speakers that are being put in the overhead rear location, came out of my old 93 Isuzu SpaceCab Pickup. They are Pioneer 200 watt 6″x9″ 4 way. The original speaker panel was missing when I got the unit. However I don’t think I’ll have any trouble building a new one.

The gray floor mat has been ripped out and black auto carpet will be installed soon. The Cobra Command decals were removed from the back window and left side.

Side with no decals Back with no decals

The control panel is being designed right now. Ideas include a removable center section so that the two joysticks can be replaced with a blank panel for mounting my ThrustMaster steering wheel. Gotta play Carmageddon and the Splat Pack! I expect to have the control panel finished around the first of the month. I’ve had all of the parts for quite a while now. I just have to build it. Also the broken monitor Plexiglas was replaced. I painted the border around it black instead of trying to paint the colored design back on it. I didn’t cut out the coin door area but I did mask it off before painting it. This left a small window on the right side of the monitor. Later I will tint it with window tinting film and put a piece of black aluminum with LEDs mounted in it behind it. This way it’ll be invisible until the LEDs light up. Planned are PC power and hard drive LEDs plus others. I am also about half way through building an automatic keyboard switch so that I can keep a keyboard connected while the keyboard interfaced joystick is connected. Plans for the automatic keyboard switch as well as an automatic joystick switch and an automatic serial mouse switch are here. I should have a RadioShack parts list online for the keyboard switch soon.

I’ve also been asked when I’ll be finished with the project. Well….. I really don’t think I ever will be. There’ll always be something new to do. Better audio, upgrade the PC, etc. However I expect to finish all that I have planned by the end of the year, if I manage to find a job soon. If not, It’ll just take longer. I’m running out of things to do that don’t require spending money. 😉

Part Three

Well since part two a lot has happened.

The speakers in the rear have been installed. A panel was made out of 3/8″ plywood and then black automotive carpet was applied. The speakers are Pioneer 200 watt 6″x9″ 4 way.

The factory 8″ sub-woofer has been ripped out and a 12″ 500 watt dual-voice coil Pioneer sub has been added.

The entire ceiling was done with the black carpet. Makes it easy to match colors and textures. I’ve also purchased and installed a Pioneer 15 band equalizer with a DSP time delay between the front and rear speakers. It also has a sub-woofer crossover. The EQ is mounted overhead in a Metra under dash DIN box.

The control panel has been designed, laid out, and is half built. Features include:

  • An Atari style trackball on the right that’ll act as a three button mouse.
  • A genuine Atari Tempest spinner on the left that’ll be the horizontal function of the mouse.
  • Two joysticks for games like Crazy Climber and Robotron.
  • Fire buttons on both sides for Left or Right handed play.
  • A large open area for the ThrustMaster Steering Wheel.
  • Lot’s of extra buttons for other features and games.

I’m now looking for a car seat from a junkyard. Hopefully a late model Camaro or Firebird with black leather! If not, I’ve found a black cloth bucket seat for $300 new.

Part Four

For more pictures visit the Cockpit Gallery.

For the final pictures visit the Cockpit Final Pictures Gallery.

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