My completed MAME cocktail cabinet, all ready for some serious video violence.
This page is an attempt to document the construction of my own replica arcade video games machine. By using standard PC hardware, MAME, and stuff you can easily buy or scrounge, it's possible to build a fully functional games machine that can play thousands of classic arcade games. Hopefully others may find this page interesting, informative or possibly even inspirational.
MAME is basically an emulator for arcade game hardware that uses original arcade game ROMS. It allows you to play all your favourite arcade games at home on your PC exactly as they appeared on an arcade machine. So what this means is that you load MAME on your machine, add some ROMS (only those obtained legally of course!) and off you go. Neat eh?

It didn't take long after seeing MAME for the first time a few years back (thanks Adrian & John) that vivid memories of the early 1980s came flooding back. Like most kids of the Western world at that time, I was bombarded with confusing images of tacky video clips, nuclear holocaust, and mullet haircuts. No sir, the '80s were not a pretty decade, but for me they had a true savior, VIDEO GAMES! Oh, and firecrackers.

Around 1981-2 numerous afternoons were spent wasting coins at the local squash courts, and I actually got reasonably good at Galaxian. I never managed to approach the mastery of a friend called Murray though, who's score of 4 million on Naughty Boy amazes me to this day. Other favourite games of mine were Qix, Scramble (which I was pretty bad at), Lunar Rescue (you could get a free game by giving it a kick in the coinbox), and my all time favourite, Defender. After moving and going to high school, a local sit-down Asteroids machine became a favourite, and I'm still laughing after seeing someone do this. In about 1987 I would go into the cinemas with friend Wal to see movies and play Double Dragon for hours on end. I think that's the only game I ever managed to finish, ably assisted by Wal of course.

My experiences are by no means unique it seems, but as time moves onward the old games disappear, releagated to junk heaps. A few are fortunately saved by dedicated collectors but for most of us they become only fond memories. But there's more to it than that, these games are a part of late 20th century culture, a part of history. And to allow such pieces of history to be lost forever would be a tragedy. What Nicola Salmoria and the talented group of programmers responsible for MAME have done is to preserve these pieces of history in a manner accessable to everyone. Thus the contributions of the original game creators to the history of software and cultural development can be appreciated now and in the future. We should consider ourselves fortunate that so many far sighted individuals have given their time and energy to make all this possible. Answer: A lot of people care about these old games!

After playing with MAME on a PC, disturbing ideas started to emerge. Why not build a proper arcade machine? The PC experience deprives you of the ability to really hammer buttons, wrench joysticks, and punch things when you narrowly miss out on getting high score. I'd been looking for something to do with a pile of computer parts slowly accumulating in the back room, and to have a real live arcade machine to play all these games on would be seriously cool. It had to be the ultimate fantasy of that 12 year-old kid, who's thankfully still very much in residence around here. A quick search of the net revealed that it was not only possible, but quite a few people had done it, with some very impressive looking projects. It was on.

Anyway, after many months of scheming with co-conspiritors Adrian and Chris, most of the details had been worked out. For me it really had to be a cocktail cabinet style machine that looked reasonably authentic, they were always a favourite and functional too. I considered converting an old cabinet, but actually had my heart set on using POWER TOOLS (insert echo here), so it had to be a custom built one. Armed with some measurements of a real one, a bunch of raw materials and a small pile of outdated computer hardware, construction began in April 2000. What I've done with this page is to try and assist and inspire those who would like to do something similar.

All content and images on this page (except link buttons) are copyright ihs 2000, 2001

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