Cocktail Table Project

Quick Click to Latest Entry 6-25-99


More pictures of the Cabinet

Measurements and Diagram

I'm a relative newcomer to the world of emulation, having just found out about M.A.M.E. in February of 1999. Since then, I've become intrigued with the idea of running the old arcade games as well as the older console games from Genesis and Nintendo.

I have been disappointed playing my old favorites on the computer's hardware, however. A keyboard, mouse and Sidewinder joystick don't substitute well for the Genesis's or SNES's own gamepad. And playing the old arcade favorites with these controls REALLY wasn't the right experience.

So I decided to do what others have done before and convert an old arcade cabinet into a playable M.A.M.E. machine, with the Super Nintendo and Genesis thrown in for good measure.

As of this writing, March 26, 1999, I've been working on it for about two weeks. This page will be a diary as well as progress report for this project.

While knowing that things would be a lot easier for me if I used a standard upright cabinet (considering the greater interior space), I thought it would easier to convince my wife to let me finish this project if I used the more home-furnishing friendly cocktail table style cabinet. (But honey, we can just throw a tablecloth over it when we're not using it?).

This made things harder for me in more ways than one.

First, more people (it seems) make M.A.M.E. machines out of standard upright cabinets, so there's a lot more helpful information available to people starting out on that platform. Second, it's harder to get your hands on a cocktail table cabinet in decent shape, and I definitely didn't want to try to build one, but after a little searching, found a one in good physical shape with a blown monitor and a fried board for $75. It was a little more than I wanted to pay, but measured against what it would cost me to build from Home Depot; it was a bargain.

This is how it looked when I got it home.

Since I was planing to replace my home computer system anyway, I relegated the old parts to "The Project". This parts used are:

I'm bouncing around a lot with the construction of this so don't be surprised if your reading about one phase and I suddenly am talking about another.

The first thing that had to be done was to remove all the left over parts from the cabinet's previous life, giving us a completely bare interior to work with. This included the old power supply and coin mechanic and coin box (which had a wood housing that was a pain to remove). The only parts of the coin system I kept were the coin-return buttons and return-cups. The insert-coin slots I back-filled with some putty epoxy (don't want any quarters bouncing off any exposed electronics, do we?) Next to each insert-coin slot is space for a coin amount sticker. I removed one of them and will put a button there for the coin-drop key (3) for M.A.M.E. games. I removed the glass top and rotated the cabinet's bezel/shroud from portrait to landscape orientation so that the whole monitor screen will be seen when it's in place.

Moving to the keyboard, which will provide most of the controls I need, I opened one of several spares I have until I found one that had microswitches instead of those little bubble contacts like most keyboard have. Each key has a switch soldered onto the PCB of the keyboard with two contacts each to solder a lead wire to. The keyboard should still work as well, so I won't have to switch keyboards when doing "system maintenance". I'm hoping this design will prevent "ghosting", as I'd rather not pay $80 for the Hangstrom setup. I'll post further when I know.

I tried to alter a trackball for use in the system, but I'm very limited in the space I have in the control panel. The one I bought was too long below the ball to fit in the space I had, so I tried to move the parts around onto a new board that could be placed under the panel with out trouble. Unfortunately, it didn't work out too well. While connecting the leads from the new board to the old one, I pulled out some of the printed circuit and wrecked it. I've found a trackball that will fit (a Microsoft BallPoint Trackball, made for older notebooks in the Windows 3.0 days), but I've started thinking that maybe a touchpad will work better. Considering that the BallPoint's ball is only about 1/2-3/4" in diameter, it's really unsuitable for playing trackball games like Centipede and Missile Command, and I'll mostly just need it as a mouse, the touchpad may be the way to go.

There appear to be only two ways to place the monitor; either on a mini-platform, or suspended from straps. I think I'll need the space (about 3-4") under the monitor for keeping the keyboard, so I decided to try suspending it. I opened the monitor case (Monitors have capacitor inside that can store electricity. BE CAREFUL! I waited 5 days with the monitor unplugged and still didn't want to touch anything inside), and drilled two holes at the top and bottom corners of the case. I placed a 5mmX20mm bolt (with washer) through each hole. What I plan to do is buy some aluminum or steel strapping from Home Depot, attach the straps to the bolts and then screw the other ends to the cabinet while holding the monitor propped up in the correct position.

Got my 14" Packard Bell monitor installed in the cabinet. First I masked off the screen and spray painted the monitor case black to hide it's normal beige color. As noted above, I need the 2-3 inches under the monitor to store the keyboard, so I hung the monitor by the four bolts I placed in the monitor case with some pipe-hanging strapping I got from Home Depot (6' for about $2.50) The strapping is a copper-colored flexible metal strip about 3/4" in width with holes drilled along it's length. Each strip ended up being only a few inches long. I attached them to the cabinet with the monitor held up by blocks to the correct (or what I thought was correct) height.

When I was satisfied that the monitor wasn't going to drop, I tried to close the glass "hood" of the cabinet and found I had mounted the monitor a little too high. The screen bezel under the glass top was hitting the monitor and lifting on the glass. I had to remove the glass, lift out the tinted plastic sheet and screen bezel and carefully grind down the bezel until it fit snugly on top of the monitor with the glass on top. This was pretty tedious, as I was going back and forth to the grinder, but better that than take too much off...

I found that the monitor swung around a little from it's short hangers, and since I want to be able to move the cabinet around (to friend's houses, etc.), I wanted to stop that. I put some 1/2" pipe insulation ($0.79 at Home Depot) under and over the straps between the monitor and the cabinet, now it's nice and steady, even if you tilt the cabinet.

Having the monitor in place really shows me how little space I have to deal with in this type of cabinet. It's going to be an adventure in sculpture getting a computer inside here as well...

The computer started going in the box. Due to the cramped space inside, an entire computer case would never fit, so I took an old one and cut as much metal as I could off of it. The power supply was separated from the case and secured to the bottom of the cabinet with strapping and a bracket holding the hard drive was screwed to the floor next to the power supply. I couldn't secure the computer in the case since the power supply cables to the motherboard were a little short after being shuffled around. I'll have to graft some longer wires in the middle of the present ones. I was able to get the system started enough to discover that my hacked keyboard apparently doesn't work. I have dig out a spare keyboard to test that it's that and not something that I damaged it the process of placing the motherboard.

I have the system installed and secured to the cabinet; Windows 95 OSR2 was installed after putting on a spare keyboard, but for some unknown reason, Windows failed to recognize the PCI sound card. Sigh. The BIOS screen shows it, but the OS fails to find it. It must be me, couldn't be Microsoft... It also failed to detect an old MediaVision ProAudio Spectrum 16 sound card I had laying around. I'm probably just going to pick up a 16-bit Creative Sound Blaster (see below) and give that a go. But, other than that, the system works.

My package of controls arrived from Happ, with only three blue buttons back ordered. Hopefully, they'll arrive this week.

May 1, 1999

It's been a while since the last update to this page, most due to some problem with Fortune City. For an unknown reason (at least, unknown to me), Fortune City removed this page for a while. In the meantime, I tried putting this page up on space that a friend of mine had, but that was a pain in the rear, as I had to put my html file on a floppy, bring it down to his place, and let him upload it, so now that Fortune City has appeared to gotten it's act together, I'm back to being here.

In the meantime, I've gotten a lot done with the project, and for all intents and purposes, it's done. Of course, I've found that to be a relative term. I should say it's done for now.

Happ finally did get my last three buttons to me, so now I have all I need to complete the job with at least one spare button of each color used.

Having killed two trackballs attempting to put one on the player 1 side, I decided to go with a touchpad mouse that was flat enough to attach to the panel with some good double-sided tape. It works as far as I need it to, but it's a little too sensitive with it's ability to register taps on the pad as mouse clicks. I recently found yet another trackball (a old Memorex, with a 2" ball and three buttons off to the right side, so after I take a little break to chill out on this a little, I'll re-create the player one side and try to make this trackball work in the panel. But that's for later.

The panel space I have is pretty small (3 1/2" by 14 1/2") as I didn't want to rebuild the entire thing to get more. I wanted to keep the cabinet more original than that. I've laid out the panel as follows (pictures to come soon):

The Player Two side is laid out similarly, only with no mouse, and only four buttons.

Both panels were made out of a piece of brushed aluminium that I cut out of a door "kick panel" bought at Home Depot. Under each piece of aluminium is a duplicate sheet cut out of 22 gauge sheet metal for added strength.

Above the Player One panel, but below the glass there is a vertical area that I have placed buttons to control (from left to right) the TAB, TILDE, ESC, ENTER, and P (to pause MAME games) keys.

Player 1 Panel dropped down, showing drill holes for control buttons

Below the Player One panel, in what used to be the coin-box door, I've placed six buttons in two rows to control the F3 through F7 and the F12 keys.

On the bottom of the cabinet there is a ventilator grid that is somewhat recessed, I put the original rocker switch for the computer on the Player Two side near where the power cable comes out of the cabinet, and a button wired into the DELETE key on the Player One side. Neither button is near each other, so the delete key won't accidentally be pressed by feeling around for the ON/OFF switch, and due to the recessed grid, it would be very hard to hit them accidentally

Wiring the buttons to the keyboard

After the problems noted above with two sound cards tried in the system, I decided not to mess about and bought a 16-bit Creative Sound Blaster for $20 at a computer show to insure all-round compatibility. It works flawlessly in Windows95, M.A.M.E. and ZSNES (the Super Nintendo emulator), but for some reason, plays only very quietly in KGen (the Sega Genesis emulator). But after the problems with the other two, I'm not complaining. I wired the original cabinet speakers to a chopped up headphone jack. Their not exactly high fidelity, but easier than trying to mount a pair of stereo speakers in the case. At the suggestion of a friend, I may look out for an old car stereo amplifier (10 amps or so, don't want to blow out those old speakers...) and try to put that in to boost things up a bit. I don't know if it will work, but if I can find one for $5 at a yard sale, it's worth a try.

June 25, 1999

Just for fun, I took a bunch of the screen shots of the game contained in the cabinet and printed them out, in color on some glossy paper. I removed on of the original Donkey Kong Jr. signs that the cabinet had when I bought it and placed the screen shots under the glass in kind of a montage. I think it looks pretty good, and it gives a quick look at some of the games available on the cabinet.

Click the picture for a larger view

I'm using a program called Keyboard Express to assign shortcuts to the buttons to do various things. For example, pushing the lower blue button and the Player Two button (ALT+2), runs a macro which exits Windows95.

I played around a little working on various things to hide the Windows 95 interface from the user when I get this project done. Made a new Start-up Logo, Shutting Down Logo, and Safe Logo, as well as changing the cursor to a joystick and the substituting the hourglass animated icon with a chomping Pacman!

New Pointer - "Hotspot" is the tip of the joystick.
New "Working" Icon - Pacman chomps while your machine is busy.
Download Alternate Icons.

New Boot and Shut-Down Screens
I used ZD's LogoManager to change these screens. Download it HERE
Start-up Logo Shutting Down Logo Safe to Shut Off Logo

New Wallpaper
Windows Wallpaper

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Created March 26, 1999
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Other machines that were "inspired" by my M.A.M.E Project:
The Cocktail Lounge
Peter's MAME Cabinet