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Project: 'Troy's Arcade' - Scratch Build Mini-ITX MAME

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    Having been practically raised on arcade and console video games I've wanted to build a MAME system for a really long time.  When I was a kid I would collect bottles and cans along the roadside for deposits and then ride my bike ten miles round trip to hit the local video arcade and play the awesome games from the eighties... yep, Galaga.

    I've owned almost every home video game system since the Atari2600 (including Colecovision, TurboGraphix16 and 3DO), the biggest difference between playing on an actual arcade machine versus any home console arcade port is that arcade controls have a tactile feel and response that can't be recreated by any home gaming systems handheld controller.

    I would have preferred building a full sized stand up arcade machine, but I'm severely space limited and there's no room for one in my home.  Small and cheap is so far the loose plan for creating a self contained dedicated MAME system and pinball emulator.  I've ordered all of the necessary computer parts and hardware for the build and I hope to pull the whole thing off for around $500.

    Building a computer that can run MAME is no big deal, the hardware required doesn't need to be high end, the controls however are another story entirely.  I plan to build a small yet authentic feeling arcade emulator PC... that said, I found this deal on two joysticks and a bag of 20 buttons for $42USD shipped, it smelled like a bargain.

    I had researched building my own arcade controls and then debated over just buying a ready made solution instead of hacking my own.  Seeing how much cheaper it is to just do it myself I figured I'd give that a shot first.  I found some really small game pads, ten button w/retractable USB cable, I bought the last two Wal-mart had on clearance for $9.00USD apiece, these things are seriously freakin' tiny.

    This next bit is taken directly from the ebay listing of the mini-ITX HTPC system I bought for $99USD with free shipping...

CPU : Intel Pentium M 1.80-GHz

Memory Total : 1GB PC2100 DDR SDRAM

HD : 2GB CompactFlash Installed. 

Optical Drive : None

Network : Onboard integrated One (1) 10/100/1000Base-T Gigabit Ethernet and One (1) 10/100Base-TX Fast Ethernet NIC

Floppy : None

Power Supply : Included 100V - 240V

Video : Onboard integrated video controller

Ports : Four (4) USB, Four (4) Serial, One (1) PCMCIA and Two (2) PS/2

Form Factor : Mini-ITX

Memory Config. : 1x1GB

Audio : Onboard integrated sound (Line-In and Mic)

Dimensions : 13" x 11" x 3" inches

Model Number : i3368G-LF

Condition : Used, tested, working, and sold with warranty, Power Adapter Included

    I almost considered using it in the project as is, but I'm trying to use the space I'll have wisely, the HTPC case is far bulkier than this project requires.

    Before I could move on I had to be sure the computer works, and it does...

    Everything gets unplugged and the fun part begins, time to dig in and see exactly what my $99 scored.  Clockwise from the top left there is a 2GB 120X compact flash card, 1GB Samsung DDR PC3200 (listed as PC2100), two different PCI riser cards, a PCI PCMCIA adapter card and a mini-ITX motherboard with a P4 1.8GHz processor.  It's actually a pretty nice board with features a modder might find useful... like dual LVDS connectors, that's just crazy.

    But wait, there's more... like a seven foot power cord and power brick, a small 80W power supply and a neat little HTPC case.  I could have ripped out the front mounted CF reader, power button, blue LED's and 60mm fan from the case, but didn't because I'll be using it in a future project.  I checked and the PCI risers alone are worth $20... my conclusion: the PC is a great deal for $99.

    Below is what I plan to use instead of a hard drive, a poor mans SSD.  16GB should be plenty of space for WinXP, pinMAME, MAME32 and a few gigabytes of ROMs.  The adapter was $14 and the CF card was $31, so far the project total is $206... not too bad.

    All of the parts are here, time to do some measuring.  This time I'm going to skip the usual pencil sketches and jump right into Google SketchUp.  Here's a side measurements view...

    A 3/4 side view showing parts placement...

    And here's the back view...

    Below shows the sticks and buttons configuration I plan to use, it's a slightly condensed version of the 'Street Fighter' layout.  The rectangle up top is where I plan to place a Matrix Orbital 2x16 character display... not really for anything useful, more just to look cool.

    Below is the Matrix Orbital display I plan to use, a pair of small speakers, a USB sound port adapter, a serial cable and VGA cable.  Not counting the Matrix Orbital (since I already had it) the total for the below shown parts is $32, and the 2"x2" 3/8" sheet of clear acrylic I ordered was $47 shipped - the project total is now at $285.

    Big thanks to for sponsoring one of their cool BYO Arcade Kits (shown below) for this project.  The nice thing about the BYO Arcade kit is that it only occupies a single USB port and it's geared to control two joystick/button layouts, whereas the game pads net a single layout and require a USB port each.  I still plan on building arcade style controllers out of the two small USB game pads, but they will be built later as an add on to this project to enable four player games.

Project: Troy's Arcade - Page 2

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