Wes & Preeti
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Scott's Unicade


Compiling MAME

So I've been wanting to build a cocktail cabinet ever since I finished my full size cab back in 2000. However, I just don't have the room for it and I can't come up with a design I really like. At last I decided to build a mini cab. At first I wanted to challenge myself to build it as small as possible, but then I figured I'd never use it if it wasn't enjoyable.

I decided to let the control panel drive the width of the cab. I wanted an 8-way joystick, 6 buttons and a trackball which could double as a mouse. I needed about 20 inches to fit that all in without too much crowding. The height was going to be dependent on the space needed for the controls, the monitor and the marquee. I wanted a minimum of 4 inches for joystick/trackball clearance, then about 14 inches for the monitor and then about 4 inches for the marquee.

The whole thing is made out of 5/8 inch MDF. I want this thing to be solid so it doesn't get moved around while playing. I used 2x2 boards for framing the base, then mounted the motherboard from an old Pentium 3 500MHz I had laying around. Next was the power supply and the hard drives. Then I cut out the sides and put in the ledgers made from a 1x2. I cut the rest of the pieces and painted them. Next I drilled out the holes for the control panel and later cut the lexan to match. One word of caution, when drilling through the lexan go really slow or else the bit will catch. I take about 20 seconds per hole. Also, once you have one hole cut, go ahead and mount a button to keep it in place. No matter how good your clamps are this could prevent you from having misalignments.

I wired/mounted all the controls and hinged the panel to the front plate. A piano hinge would have worked best but I couldn't find one small enough for the job. Next I assembled all the pieces and decided to shorten the depth a bit. Since I wanted the trackball to act as a mouse I needed a way to hook that up. Since I wanted to try an IPAC for the encoder I didn't want to buy the Hagstrom encoder I used for the full size. Happ Controls sells a conversion kit that replaces the optic boards and connects to a USB/PS2 connector. I had bought a Golden Tee trackball for the full size so that left me the old trackball for the mini cab. I bought the conversion kit and a mounting plate which worked great.

Next I put the T-molding on. After that I wasted a week messing with the speakers. I originally planned on using un-amplified speakers since I have a pre-amp sound card. Unfortunately I couldn't find any so I used some old amplified ones I had. I tried to power them off the 12v supply from the pc but there was too much noise. Sharing the same ground as the motherboard was a problem. I tried building a ground loop isolator using some electrolytic capacitors I had but nothing worked well. Finally I gave up and figured since I had to power the monitor as well I'd just get a strip and run the pc cord back into the cabinet.

For the marquee I didn't want a flourescent light in this cab, so I got a cold cathode light instead. This saved me from having to find a way to plug in the backlighting. It's not very well lit but I don't really care. I printed out a marquee and cut two 3 inch strips of plexiglass to mount it between. Next I got a 15 inch LCD monitor from a friend, and took it out of the plastic encasing. I bought some slotted angle iron and built a frame around the monitor and mounted it to it. Then I installed the frame in the cabinet. Next I cut the rest of the plexi to go over the monitor. As in my full size cab I used a piece of foam board as a bezel. I cut a piece to hold the plexi and bezel at the bottom and slotted it. After that I was pretty much done.

That is about it. I ought to put some more T-molding on the sides but I don't have a router and don't feel like pulling out the Dremel. All the other routing was done on the table saw. Here is a link to the parts list for the mini cabinet.

UPDATE: I replaced the guts with a Dell Optiplex GX280, a 3GHz machine with 2Gb of RAM I also replaced the 15 inch monitor with a 17 inch screen. Here are some updated pics. As you can see, I also loaded it with a bunch of movies for my son. He just has to move the mouse over the title and click it to play. I'm using VLC player. I am also running SK Jukebox and loaded a lot of children's songs for him.