Miniature Arcade Cabinet

Here’s the finished product! Ready to play a game of Centipede!


A while back, I thought about how neat it would be to make miniaturized arcade cabinets for folks who like the nostalgia of the 80s, but don’t want to have a full sized cabinet in their living room.  I started doodling in my spare time, taught myself Google Sketchup, and came up with a number of designs, before settling on this one.  Here’s a shot of the final sketchup design I came up with, after a whole lot of false starts:

I took the design, and transferred the pieces to Adobe Illustrator to create patterns, then starting with a cardboard model, I worked out some of the assembly kinks, and came up with the finalized plans.  Click through for a whole heck of a lot more photos and detail.

The finished cabinet is made out of a combination of 1/4″ and 1/8″ MDF, cut on a bandsaw, and sanded to final dimensions.  The sides were primed and painted gloss black, and the woodgrain surfaces are a self adhesive plastic laminate.  I was going for the “obviously fake” look of woodgrain-printed-plastic from the 70s and 80s.

The design was scaled around the most fixed aspect of the build, the 3.5″ LCD monitor.  Everything was designed to look “in proportion” to that screen size while remaining usable.  The brain is an a hacked up Atari Flashback II, hardwired into the cabinet.  Sound comes from a gutted pair of computer speakers connected up inside, and the whole thing is powered by a 9v wall wart.  As you can see, it stands at a whopping 21cm (about 8.5″) tall, and 11cm (about 4.5″) wide.

The back panel has the two atari controller ports, so paddles or external joysticks can be used.  One of the two ports has a slide switch on top of it to allow switching between internal controls and external joystick, to prevent interference.  Below that are the A/V inputs, for playing sound and video on the monitor and speakers, outputs for connecting to a television, the power button for the Atari (used to reset it to get back to the menu), difficulty switches for each player, the volume control and the sound source switch (switching between A/V in and game sound)

The controls are all home-made.  I figured out the pinouts for the Atari joystick, and wired everything up.  The joystick is kitbashed together from parts of a ballpoint pen, and several microswitches, the fire button is an SPST momentary button I found on ebay, and the select/reset switch is a momentary SPDT toggle switch.  Press right for select, and left for reset.  They’re a little out of scale, but this was necessary to preserve some degree of playability.

Construction and final assembly was a bit hurried, as I was getting it ready in time for a deadline.  I’ve since improved construction methods, and on cabinets I’m building now, the glaring design errors have been corrected.  The inside is a rats nest of wiring, and it as a heck of a job to shoehorn everything in.  It all works though, and that’s the important part.  I’ve debated revisiting the insides and making everything prettier, but really, at this point, I don’t think I’m going to bother.  I’ll keep my mangled wiring and inexpert construction as a reminder of how I started out in building these things.

Below is a gallery of some assorted construction photos, showing off the guts, and how I hooked everything up. I sadly didn’t get any shots of final assembly as I was working on a deadline, and it required both hands, my teeth, and occasionally my forehead to accomplish.

It was certainly a fun project, and I’m looking forward to finishing the next one!

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