Audio done. Computer fired up on arcade monitor. Control panel mocked up in cardboard
April 2003

Things have progressed a lot since the last post. Friday the 4th of April saw me test the audio system and it works a treat. A bit of resonance off the cabinet distorts at high volume but all in all it sounds fine, especially considering how bad the audio conditions are. The top of an arcade cabinet (at least a design like this one) is not exactly a great speaker enclosure.
On the left here you can see the speakers in the top and the fluoro lighting stuff that is screwed in above them. I haven't put the bulb itself in yet as I've put some silicon on the capacitors on the tweeters to make sure they don't bounce about. There's some wood clamping them down while it dries which you can see in the middle at the top. The bulb would just get in the way while I'm working.
The monitor is back in place, which means there's less junk in the living room, if nothing else! I've built the video cables and run all the power and what-have-you to get it all going. You can see all the computer parts are in, including the suspended keyboard. I ended up buying some hooks and eyelets and after drilling a couple of tiny holes in the keyboard case I screwed the hooks in and squirted some glue on the threads to make sure they didn't move around. Looks and works a treat.
At the moment there are a few parts lying loose on the floor of the cabinet but I'll eventually fix them in place (i.e. the fuse and monitor power switch.) I've postponed powering up the monitor until I come back from catching a movie - if it blows up I don't want to have it ruin the film. :)
Okay, as you can see the power-up went fine. Here is the computer BIOS screen being displayed on the arcade monitor. There is a little colour distortion in the top right and bottom left but it isn't too bad. I'll see how it affects MAME games once I get it going.
The computer power supply passes power through to the step-down transformer that gives the monitor the 110V that it needs so everything fires up with the touch of a button. At present I've plugged in a reset switch to act as a power switch but I've altered the BIOS to allow the keyboard to power up the computer. This means I only have to hit a control panel button and the whole system fires up. I'll probably change this to a particular keypress otherwise the cat will most likely turn it on all the time :) But for testing purposes it works a treat.
Right now I'm transferring the MAME ROMs via the network. This is agonising as my long UTP cable is only rated for 10Mbits and it's taking all night. Still, at least it's working.
Windows seems to run okay in 640x480 interlaced. Some of the fonts are a little indistinct but it's certainly quite usable. There is some nasty colour bleeding here and there but a change of Windows colours might remove that, or even a check that the video cables aren't getting interference from somewhere. I had to plug a mouse in to install some software but once the control panel is built I will be able to use the trackballs instead.
So, now I need to get into serious design mode and get the control panel built. I've done some more work and decreased the width to something a bit more manageable but it'll still be a little while before I'm happy with it.
Here you can see I've mounted my control panel parts onto a cardboard mock-up. The top is 1075mm by 400mm (43" by 16") which makes it 20% wider and 30% deeper than the original control panel. That sounds way bigger but you are getting an arse-load more controls on there. A test run of the trackballs proves that they feel fine to use in their current location. I was a little concerned that the joysticks might get in the way of effective "trackballing", but this isn't the case. I didn't bother installing my spinner as the install is a pain and the knob is only very small anyway (where have I heard that before?) Pretending to use it seems to feel fine. You can see where 2 of them will be installed between the 2 trackballs.
Looking at the original panel I've noticed that there is a slight angle on the upper surface. That is, it leans towards the player by about 6 degrees or so. This will make the woodworking a little trickier but no difference to the steel upper surface. I figure it's worth reproducing, as a totally flat surface would be uncomfortable.
All I need now is my housemate to come back so he can help me get a feel for the controls. That is, the spacing between them when more than 1 person is standing in front of it. The initial design turned out to be a little cramped between the 2 central players so I moved them apart a little and they feel much better now. If this turns out to be fine then I'm very close to final fabrication. My only concern now is how the steel fixes to the wooden box to make the entire control panel. Everything is obvious except for the angled front which will take some engineering to get to mate up neatly with the timber. If the front lip of the panel were vertical then it would be simple but I'm trying to use a 120 degree inward angle. This makes for a very complex corner piece that I worked out in a 3D rendering program and a lot of Boolean subtractions. If it ends up looking like crap I can always mount a piece of something over the entire front and hide it.

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.