Gear up for Buildfest V has begun! No date has
been scheduled yet, but we have a plan for what we're going to build:
An arcade cabinet! Some of our team has some doubts about whether
a cabinet made of K'nex is going to be able to withstand the punishment
of insane game playing action, but I think if people control themselves
it'll work great!
It's been a while since we've done anything and
Charles is still hanging on my wall. I'm not exactly looking forward
to taking it down, partly because the space will look empty, but
mainly because my fingers are soft again and it's going to hurt.
Not to mention it's going to involve a lot of disassembly and sorting.
I actually got the idea for this around May of
2003, after considering building a MAME cabinet (or two) for the
lobby at Full System, Inc. At that time I had only downloaded and
played on my computer for a bit, and had *no* arcade parts at all.
I was thinking of possible doing a keyboard hack and not sure what
I would use for joysticks and buttons.
A lot has changed since then. I've built 3 MAME
cabinets myself, and assisted on a 4th. "Green leader"
Dave and his wife Stacey have also recently moved and they now have
a game room. Since they don't have an arcade cabinet yet, what better
way to christen the new house than with a Buildfest?
The arcade parts from this are mostly freebies
and recycled. The joysticks and buttons I plan to use came from
a heavily water damaged cabinet. I scavenged everything I could.
I spent a lot of time desoldering the wires off the switches so
I can use quick disconnects, cleaning and rebuilding parts, and
testing the leftovers to make sure they still work. The buttons
were all disassembled and the plastic parts run through the dishwasher.
The joysticks were taken apart and cleaned, the shafts were painted
silver to cover up all the rust, and reassembled with new screws.
The plywood the parts are mounted to was the prototype
I used on my own cabinet. No sense throwing out a perfectly good
board! The contact paper even comes from scraps I saved when I lined
all my cupboards when I moved into my house. The trackball plate
is being borrowed, and the trackball itself was another freebie
I got from a fellow arcade collector (Thanks Patrick Mettes!). I
hooked up the trackball with a mouse hack which works great. I stuck
on a molex connector so the trackball itself is stock.
black rings on the joysticks to hide the holes they poke through
were made from DVD cases generously provided by AOL. I cut the rings
out on my Insane Circle Cutting Jig. (KIDS DON'T TRY THIS AT
The keyboard was a freebie PS/2 Compaq Multimedia/Internet
keyboard that was "donated" to Full System. It was once
a white keyboard, but it was black from all the dirt on it. The
mylar matrix was also burned inside and of no use. I took out the
cable and the PCB, and tossed the rest of the keyboard. I know,
I know, every site says not to use a keyboard hack and to buy one
of the keyboard encoders. But what can I say, at the moment I'm
dirt poor and every penny counts for paying bills (only working
half-time) and have more time than money. Plus I used I-PACs on
the first 4 cabinets, time to try something different!
I spent about an hour last night hacking up a program
that would actually record each key in a matrix on screen as I shorted
each row and column together one at a time. As I would "push"
a key, it would record it and move to the next row automatically.
If I accidentally shorted an already tried key together the program
would detect this and not add it as a newly recorded key. I can
also click with the mouse to tell it where to start recording from
in case I need to skip cells or go back and reenter a key. Worked
great! I looked and looked and couldn't find anything like this
for Windoze, but being an OpenStep/MacOS X programmer I ended up
writing this for OpenStep since it runs on PC hardware. I'll probably
make the source code available at some point. (If I haven't yet
and you want it, just email me.)
Now that I've generated a matrix, I still don't
know how many keys I can push at once on the keyboard. I decided
that desoldering the connectors on the board was too much work since
I'm still not sure I can use this keyboard. Instead I'm hacking
up a "fingerboard" out of aluminum foil, cardboard, and
an old floppy cable. Yes that may sound crazy, but to me it seems
easier than desoldering!