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  mame > the project Monday, June 24, 2024
The MAME Cabinet Project

I originally thought about making a full size arcade game during the winter of 1996. I considered putting a Sega Saturn in an arcade shell, and playing the games as upright. However, after thinking it through (and realizing that most home games are meant to be played for hours and hours, not a few minutes at a time like in an arcade), I decided not to pursue this project

Then, in the fall of 1998, I begin looking at the emulation scene. It wasn't long before I came across Arcade@Home. At that time, only the Arcade@Home and about five or six other cabinets were documented. Nonetheless, having this much documentation inspired me to pursue my own project. Thus, the obsession began.

I pursued two activities in parallel: researching cabinets, and prototyping controls. I discoved that the Philly/NJ area is a pretty good area for this hobby, as there are a lot of auctions. I'd say that there is close to one every six weeks or so. Jeff Kinder's Dragon's Lair Project also had excellent documentation on recent Pensauken Auctions. I was able to estimate how much money it would cost to get a cabinet. That fall, I went to an auction and picked up a Golden Axe (converted) for $55. The ideal purchase is for a cabinet that was gutted. I actually purchased a fully working game. I wish I had taken a picture of it, because it was really a mess. However, it had a lot of good features. Golden Axe is a three player game, so the control panel was nice and large. Also, because I bought a converted game, and one that most collectors would not consider a classic, I didn't feel guilty about converting a game into a MAME cabinet.

Here's where I made my first mistake: I gutted the cabinet and threw everything out. (Being a more knowledgable collector now, I would not throw out anything!) Later I would realize that I could have sold off the parts and easily made back the money on the cabinet. Although I'm not a fan of Golden Axe, there are collectors who would pay for the PCB. That was lesson #1.

After gutting the cabinet (boy, they are a lot lighter without the monitor and power supply!), I removed the T molding and painted it a sky blue. The plan was to make the cabinet into a replica of "The Simpons" arcade game. (I've since changed my mind, but have decided to keep the sky blue paint. Removing the molding and painting it again would take a lot of time and energy.)

What a difference a coat of pain can make! After the paint job, I replaced the T molding. You can get this from either WICO or Happs Controls. When you purchase a game, nine times out of ten they remove the locks on the coin mech. After painting the cabinet, I went to Home Depot and picked up some locks and a light for the marquee. At this time, the cabinet started to look pretty good.

Continue onto The Cabinet

   Comments, questions? Email me at bartender@brightsight.com