Computer parts acquired. Some assembly completed. Control panel design starts
March 2003

Okay, not much has been happening lately. I'm still waiting on the gear from the States, which I was hoping to get a couple of days ago. Ah well, hopefully I'll see it Monday or Tuesday next week. The last day or two (but mostly today) was spent investigating the sound system a bit more and cleaning up some of the crud on the cabinet. It's amazing how much dust is attracted to the inside of an arcade machine, except of course for all those magnetic fields sucking it up! :)
On the left you can see a picture of the inside of the old control panel. It featured 4 rectangular buttons big enough for bulbs inside (the inset picture is a close-up of the one on the right.) I plan to use these as credit buttons (or something - I dunno) so tried taking them off the old panel. They wouldn't budge. I could loosen off the nut but it wouldn't fit over the switch holder to remove it. After asking around I managed to remount the microswitch and use pliers to pull it out of the outer casing. I was worried I'd break it but it came out cleanly enough.
And what do you know - only one of the buttons actually contained a bulb! I'll probably install LEDs instead of the bulbs as they last longer and use less power. And they are easier to find to actually buy.
So, I vacuumed all the dust and cobwebs out of the cabinet and now when I work on it I don't come away with funky black crud all over me. I also sat down and unwired all the buttons and joysticks from the panel whilst watching the movie Goldmember (again).
I spent a few minutes the day after desoldering some wires off about a dozen microswitches. I guess some tech in the past was too lazy to fit crimps when they did some work on it.
Hooray! I received my trackballs and buttons from the US today, along with some weird brownie-style cookies that taste alright. They are creme-filled and have "Mardi Gras" emblazoned on them - I'm sure this means something different to here in Australia where the Mardi Gras is a gay parade. The trackballs are 3-inch units, one red and one blue. This was done to match the traditional Marble Madness arcade machine colours. They look and feel great.
So, I went out and bought the speakers, amplifier and DC power supply and then returned them a day later. I wasn't happy with how the size of everything was turning out so I've decided AGAINST running a car amplifier and will either use a home amplifier that is low profile or build my own out of JAYCAR parts. I can build an amp that puts out 175W RMS into a 4-ohm load (115 into 8) for about $400 (plus crossovers.) This is, however, only 2 channels and I'll be feeding the sub via an inline subwoofer crossover-thingy for 50 dollars more. So, pre-built and hard-to-find or build it myself? How much talent do I think I have?
I spent tonight (now March 6th) looking at the big white steel housing that holds all the JAMMA gear and power supply stuff. After tracing the power lines and wondering what I'm going to do with it all I've decided I can probably mount the 240V-110V step-down transformer up inside the cabinet nearer the monitor. It only supplies power to the monitor so it needn't be too accessible and I doubt it will interfere with the tube at all (I can always put some metal around it for shielding I guess.) My only real concern is heat, so I might mount it on a metal plate to help dissipate some it. Anyway, this frees up a lot of space in the cabinet for computer parts.
I've also ordered all the computer gear tonight so I should get all that in the next couple of days. If only I could work out what I'm doing with the audio I could start cutting out speaker holes and mount stuff back in the cabinet.
As you can see, I picked up more PC stuff today. My PS/2 extension cable and Justcooler power supply arrived from EVERYTHINGLINUX and I grabbed the motherboard, 60GB hard drive, DVD drive, 256MB PC2700 RAM and CPU from THE LOCAL COMPUTER SHOP. The CPU shown here is an XP 2200+ but I'll be swapping that for the 1900+ in my normal PC. I figured if I was going to be buying at least a 1700+ for the MAME machine, why not spend a few more dollars and upgrade my home system?
The power supply is rated for 400W and is cool and quiet as well. There are 4 power plugs on the back that come on when the PC fires up so I'll have those supplying the rest of the cabinet. This way I only have to turn on the PC and the whole shebang comes alive. Also, the motherboard supports keyboard power on so it should work out that I can press one button on the control panel and it all fires up. No need to wire in a power switch.
Still not sure about the control panel. I've mocked up the design but I'm still undecided on what to make it out of. The old one was steel which made for a light and thin mounting surface, but it is hard to work with. Perhaps I can find someone to do all the cutting and drilling for me. Then slap a laminate over the top and I'm done. Maybe.
I've decided to use my old Yamaha receiver for audio. It just about fits in nicely and since the tuner circuit went belly up I've been thinking of buying a new one anyway. That will give me about 50W RMS to play with, which will be ample. I can also buy some shielded speakers from Jaycar to put in the top, behind the marquee. Unfortunately I can't find a shielded 10" woofer, they seem to top out at 6.5 inches. Maybe I can put in 2 of these instead? Decisions, decisions.
Here you can see that I've finally got around to mounting some of the computer hardware. The motherboard is the only thing that is installed but I've placed the other bits in various positions to get some idea of where it will all fit. The keyboard will probably hang off some hooks at the back.
At this point I'm glad I decided to not bother with a sub-woofer as I'm quickly losing space. Instead I've got 2 shielded 6.5 inch mid/woofers and 2 tweeters mounted in the top. Hopefully these will be punchy enough. I managed to butcher out some holes for the speakers and thankfully my handiwork will be hidden by the speaker drivers themselves. It's pretty hard to cut a decent circle when all you have is a drill, jigsaw, and Dremel. Especially when you can't get the jigsaw in because of the side panels. I destroyed a blade for the jigsaw during the process (unforced error due to inexperience. Sorry Damien, but I bought some replacement blades to make up for it. Hopefully this won't stop you from lending it to me again if I need it.)
I also fitted the network panel on the back, and the hole for that was truly a butchering! It would have to be one of the worst cutting jobs I've ever managed. Still, the cover plate hides all that so who really cares? The plate is mounted high in the back between the two recesses that you use to drag the cabinet around. I mounted it to one side so that I can mount another plate with external speaker outputs next to it. Not sure if I'll ever get around to this but it's nice to have the option.
I'm tempted to just cable-tie the power supply in place by drilling some holes beside it and running them under the false floor. This beats either drilling mount holes into the power supply (warranty voided) or building a plate that it can screw into without blocking the power points. With a couple of cable-ties and perhaps a few screws put in beside the supply it should stay where it is.
Only stumbling block right now is a mount for the DVD-ROM drive. Hopefully I can scrounge up some old PC case bits and make something suitable.
In case you're interested: cost so far is about $2600. Expenses to come are just for screws and the like, except for the materials to fabricate the control panel. I'm tempted to try and make the top surface out of sheet steel.
Finally got around to designing the control panel. Here you can see a 3D model of the first iteration. That is, I plan on changing the stuff quite a bit before the final build takes place. At present it is about 1260mm wide, which makes it just a fraction shorter than our ironing board. Hopefully I'll be able to squeeze some of the parts together and make it slightly smaller without cramping it too much. With 4 people standing around it you need room, but I also don't want it to look like a surfboard :)
I've chosen 2 trackballs and 1 spinner here, but people have commented (and quite rightly) that there are far more games using more than 1 spinner than there are using more than one trackball. I REALLY want to play 2-player Marble Madness, but 2-player driving games using the spinners would be cool, too. I've already bought 2 trackballs and 1 spinner, but that doesn't mean I can't buy another spinner for two of each. Arrrrgh - I wish I'd thought about this before I ordered stuff from the US!
The image is rendered in 3D Studio Max and all the arcade controls are to scale and measured in millimetres. To be honest they aren't too detailed but are excellent for quickly slotting in to see how it all fits together. I've got better things to do than try and get screw threads on all the buttons.
Day off work today. I felt like it, and I also received my last speaker driver that was on back-order a day or two ago so wanted to install them all. You can see the results of my labours to the left there. The mounting isn't terribly sound from an acoustic point of view (I'm sure it will lose quite a bit of clarity) but I'm willing to put up with it - depending on how it sounds of course! There's a capacitor inline with the tweeters and the woofers will be using mechanical roll-off. Hopefully nothing will explode or make too much unwanted noise.
I also spent today working on the power system. What you see here is a lead I made that goes from the PC power supply (240V passthrough) to a standard household plug. This will supply power in turn to the 240V - 110V transformer that supplies power to the monitor. The white box is a part of the fluoro tube power system and just takes a quick bite of the 240V as it passes. I actually have 2 supplies of 110V here so if I ever get some other piece of equipment from the US I can plug it straight in. There is also a fuse and a power switch that I've left inline as it came out of the original arcade machine. Can't hurt to have this stuff still in place.
So I should be able to have everything come on when the PC turns on, which will be nice. Lots of people on the Internet have been discussing the best way of providing a "one button" solution for MAME cabinets, mostly involving relays to switch mains power when the PC comes up. This power supply is a god-send, as the 240V pass-through is only live when the computer is on. Lots of PC power supplies have a plug on the back to provide mains power but it often stays on all the time.
Not sure quite what I'm going to do with the fuseholder and power switch. Should really mount them onto a bracket of some sort but I'm not that motivated. I don't plan on using them that much so I could just cable-tie or silicon them down. Dunno. In the end I'll probably succumb to my dignity and make some sort of effort to make it look decent.

NOTE: I am NOT an electrician. Don't think that I know what I'm talking about when it comes to electricity. I like to think I know what I'm doing but I'm NOT qualified in any way. Reproduce my work AT YOUR OWN RISK.