Heath's Multicade!

To know me is to know that I LOVE videogames
of all sorts. I've played 'em all. Everything from the original Space Wars and Space Invaders up to the most modern Arcade games. I've also own an incredibly large collection of home video game systems from an Atari 7800 all the way up to a Sega Dreamcast. Of course, my lifelong dream has always been to own my own stand up arcade machine at home. I remember as a kid, one of my friends had a stand-up Gauntlet machine, and I thought it was the coolest damn thing EVER. So image my utter delight when I discovered that there was an auction of old video games and gaming devices in the Dallas area. Most of it was stuff from arcades that went out of business or just stuff owners wanted to get rid of. It was pure heaven! They had 1,200 machines for sale, and I got to spend an entire Saturday hanging around and playing with them. They had EVERYTHING, sit-down cocktail video tables, just about every classic machine ever made including Pac-Man, Frogger, Donkey Kong, all kinds of pinballs from old 70's machines to the very latest machines, even a couple of Addams Family (the best pinball *ever*), a bunch of full-sized attraction machines including jet-ski game, a bunch of sit-down driving games, dancing games, and a huge selection of newer stand-up arcade games. It was incredible. The best part were the prices. The most expensive= were the newer pinballs and the big attraction machines, which went for several thousand each, but the other machines typically went for under a thousand, some for just a couple of hundred. It was also the first auction I've ever attended, and I had to do my best to restrain myself. After it was all said and done, I ended up with a Neo-Geo Multi-system for just $200. The kicker was that this cabinet had been converted from an old Nintendo PlaceChoice-10 system, which is basically a two monitor system that would drive a old Nintendo Home System in the arcades. What does that all mean? Well, for $200 I got a full sized arcade game with a working game system that is cartridge driven and therefore incredibly easy to change the game on, with room for a SECOND monitor in the cabinet.

So, I had my arcade game, but what I REALLY wanted was to be able to play all my favorite arcade games in the fashion they were meant, in a stand-up arcade machine with real arcade buttons and joysticks. There are a couple of options here. I could buy lot's of arcade PCB's (circuit boards) at $25 and up for each game I wanted and just switch out the circuit boards, but this is a major pain in the ass. I could use a PC with an arcade emulator called MAME. A lot of people have done this, but there are several downsides to this. First, putting together a dedicated PC system will cost at least $500 and is a huge hassle. Second, I'd either have to get a new monitor instead of being able to use the existing monitor in the cabinet. The third option was to hook up a playstation and use the large number of "Retro" Discs full of old arcade games. This is exactly what I did.

At just $100 for the Playstation and around $20 for each disc with around 6 games on it, it was a steal and relatively hassle free to set up. The other upside is that I legal copies of the games, as opposed to MAME emulators which typically use bootleg game files.

The first step after getting this beauty home was to clean it up. Relatively routine maintenance which was time consuming. I dismantled the control panel and 20 year old cleaned spilled Coke from all the controls and the panel. I recut and replaced the plexiglass covering the panel. I replaced the flourescent light in the marquee. I also pretty much rewired the control panel. The idiot before me had soldered everything in place, instead of using solderless connection tabs. I also did some spot painting on some scratches.

Well, the game that it came with was working wonderfully on the bottom now, and stage two was to get the Playstation working on the top monitor. Upon closer inspection though, I noticed that the top monitor was gutted and non-functional. Bummer. I did some web research, and found a new monitor would run at least $300 and parts to fix the old monitor would be at least $200. Double Bummer.

So I did so more reaserch and found out that old Commodore Computer monitor were actually arcade compatible, so I went a-shopping on Ebay. A couple of clicks and about $40 later I was the proud owner of a Commodore 1084S monitor, and let me tell you, this little gem is a beaut. I ripped out the old top monitor and shelf mounted the Commodore monitor.

Next step, hook up the Playstation video so it will work on a standard JAMMA (Japanese Arcade Machine Manufacturers Association) harness, ie it would work on my arcade monitor.

Warning Geek Mode On
Internally all Monitors deal with graphics as individual dots (pixels) defined by it's RED, GREEN and BLUE components when generating picture. So your TV has three 'light guns' (Red Green Blue) inside generating the picture you see. Arcade monitors use 4 seperate signals to generate a picture, one signal to each light gun a timing signal to sychronize the 3 guns together. TV's on the other hand typically combine all 4 signals onto one single video wire, typically your "VIDEO IN" port on the TV. This also causes loss in picture quality. So I couldn't use the standard playstation cable (1 signal) on my arcade monitor (4 signal RGBSync),so I had to purchase a Playstation SCART/RGB cable from Buy.Com. I hacked this cable apart to fit into a standard JAMMA (RGBSync) connector. The Red, Green and Blue signals were a piece of cake, but the Sync signal was kind of messy, so I had to build a circuit to clean it out using a National Semiconductor LM1881 Integrated Circuit. The IC and circuit plans are available at the National Semiconductor Website. I also got lot's of technical info including what Playstation Connector pins do what from GameSX.
Geek Mode Off

Last bit, connect the playstation controls to the arcade control panel. This was more tedious than anything else. I got a couple of cheap used Playstation controls and then crack 'em out and threw everything away except the circuit boards and cord. Then it was simply a matter of busting out the soldering iron and connecting up the button and joysticks in the control panel to the contact on the Playstation pad.

Once that was done, I powered it up and started playing away!

Here it is. If you look closely you'll see I've got the top monitor on it's side so I can play Pac-Man correctly. Pac-Man and a host of other classic arcade games used Vertically mounted monitors. This is one up to using a monitor that's shelf mounted and not bolted into the cabinet.

Neo Geo Game Metal Slug on the bottom, Playstation run the Namco Arcade Classics Disc 1 on the top. This is the selection screen, and this particular disc has: Pac-Man, Pole Position, Rally-X, Galga, New Rally-X, and Toy-Pop. These programs actually emulate the original arcade code.

Pac-Man in all his yellow glory!