I’m not sure which is a more sad indication of advancing age… needing to take naps, or the blithe acceptance of needing to take naps.
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I really need one of these. Forget about all the other toys I have said that about, I’m serious about this one. Really.
Actually, if I can’t have one of those, then their hobbled (it is limited by computer to 10ft max ground clearance) Neuera (pronounced “new-era”) would be fun, but not quite as practical for commuting:
My chosen computer for this project was a Dell Optiplex SX260, model DCT. I chose this because it was one of the surplus computers I had in the garage, and also it’s very tiny, which is helpful for the cramped real estate in the back of this bar top cabinet. It has a clip-on stand, so I drilled 4 holes in the stand and screwed it to the base. I mounted it at a slight angle so that cords have room behind it and if I decide to make a back cover, the cords won’t be in the way. The adapter for the video cable takes up quite a bit of room, so that was the largest connecter I had to allow for. Here is a top view (click to zoom):
I had two power supplies, one for the computer and the other for the monitor. Once again, cable ties are your friend! I used a few of those nifty square plastic cable tie mounts, stuck them in place with their peel-off backing, then drove a 1” drywall screw down through the middle for good measure. Wrapping cable ties through these and around the power supplies (it took 2 together) secured them nicely.
I threaded an extension chord through the old power-switch hole at the bottom right, and cable-tied it down securely. Both power supplies plug into this as you can see above. This gives me a really long power cord for the unit which will be handy as the dry-bar I want to put this on doesn’t have very convenient power outlets.
The last part was the top. It had rusty crews on one half and rusty rivets on the other half. I removed the screws and drilled out the rivets. After a bit of cleaning, I installed all new nuts, bolts, and washers. Now the top has a uniform appearance. The top is held in place by clips underneath; easy to remove for any kind of servicing.
After a bit of testing, I determined that the potentiometer for the volume control has too much resistance. It’s a 25K ohm. I’m thinking that a 10 or 5K would be better. The trouble is, the volume from the speaker is too low to be heard until you get 3/4 of max volume, then it quickly gets louder. So, there isn’t much granularity.
Also, in updating some of the ROM files on the hard disk, I ran out of space. Clearly the 20G hard disk in the box just isn’t big enough for Windows XP, MAME software, Hyperspin software, and lots of ROM files. I wanted to put video previews of the games on there too, and they aren’t small. So, I’ll have to either upgrade the internal disk or add an external USB drive. Since I have room in the back, either one would work, so I suspect cost/availability will be the deciding factor.
I took the lazy susan off the bottom and added some felt-bottom furniture glides instead. Nothing kills a good high-score attempt on Robotron like having the cabinet spin when you are trying to execute a precise maneuver!
Next up: Making it user friendly
Edgar Müeller is one of an elite group of artists who create 3D masterpieces on streets with chalk. These images have to be viewed from a certain angle for the effect to work. Looking at them from a side angle shows a very weird, distorted picture. Since 1998 Edgar Müller has held the title of ‘maestro madonnari’ (master street painter), born by only a few artists worldwide.
Click to zoom in:
I tried to re-use the original mounting bezel but the wood had become wet at some point in this poor beleaguered console’s life, and as it was pressboard, it was fragile, swollen, and crumbly. So, new wood was procured, and with my friend Randy’s help, we crafted a new slide-in mounting panel.
I removed the monitor from it’s yellowing plastic case, and it turns out it was quite easy to mount. A square cut-out was made, large enough for the monitor to slip into. Some mounting pads were needed on the back to make the face of the monitor flush with the face of the new bezel. There is a border around the LCD panel which does not need to be visible (read: would be ugly). So we cut out another piece of plywood with a hole exactly the right size for the visible part of the LCD screen. This is what’s known as a “Jig”. You get extra points for using a jig when doing projects, as every do-it-yourselfer knows. Of course, if you use a Jig to make a Jig, why then you get double-bonus points! In this case though, we just made the one Jig.
Laminate material was clamped to the jig, then with a router and a laminate trimmer bit (really, these are amazing, don’t try to cheese out and use some other kind of router bit), the square was cut nicely with smooth edges and straight lines.
Everything was then disassembled, and we laminated newly-cut material on to the front of our bezel. The laminate lip was covered with felt to cover up any fit imperfections, and help keep dust out. The monitor was then screwed into place, with the ugly bits hidden behind the felt and laminate lip. It worked very nicely.
The original monitor bezel was mounted to the left, and there was a section on the right with a cheap piece of plastic and a button mounted on it. We replaced both of these parts with a single bezel that spans the width of the console, providing a much more uniform look.
It was most convenient to put the 1 and 2 player start buttons on the left because of the monitor controls which are on the right (you can see them as a vertical row of little black buttons below). You may remember that I had these wired for right-hand mounting, of course. More wire hacking ensued. On the right hand side, I mounted a pushbutton toward the top, and a potentiometer toward the bottom (for a volume control). Click on these to zoom:
The pushbutton was originally intended to be a power switch for the monitor. However, I found that the monitor “remembers” it’s last state. If it was on when it lost power, then it will be on when the power is restored. That was very convenient for me as I just had to turn it on with the little pushbuttons (see the back to the left) and leave it on. If the unit gets unplugged, then the monitor will turn itself back on when it is plugged in again, so no external switch is needed.
The computer, though, is another story. I had originally intended to set the BIOS settings so that the computer would turn on whenever power was restored. However, since I had an extra pushbutton, and since it’s generally not recommended to turn a computer off by yanking the power, I decided to use it as a computer power button.
Next up: Final assembly
As I mentioned, the wires on the provided harness are nowhere near long enough to reach the interface board when mounted in any spot other than just behind the keyboard (and that’s where the monitor needs to live). So, I had to extend them. This involved 22 gage wire, shrink-wrap tubing, and 22 gage female spade-lug connectors (red plastic sleeves, blue are 14 gage).
This was very tedious, but worthwhile, as now I can mount the board in a more convenient location. Also, I can now wire up both of the pinball “flipper” buttons which are on the front of the control panel.
I extended the harness by cutting off the molex connectors on the PCB end with small pigtails of wire left on them, then spliced in longer wire. If I could have found a convenient source for those particular molex connectors, it would have been quicker to just make all new harnesses.
To make these splices, strip the wires, and don’t forget to slip a piece of shrink-wrap tubing over the longer wire. Slide this down away from where you are soldering as it’s easy to accidentally heat it and have it shrink where you don’t want it shrunk! Twist the wires together and solder them, then fold the joint flush against the wire. Slide the shrink wrap tube up the wire and over the splice then heat the tube to shrink it:
Here’s a close-up of the panel. You can see in this shot what I was talking about with separating the common wire for a group of switches for ease of routing:
With the panel mounted back in place with a couple of screws to temporarily hold it, I was able to neaten up the cable harness (cable ties are your friend, remember!) To the right you can see the Player 1 / Player 2 start buttons.
When rewiring this whole mess to extend the harness, I decided to put Player 1 on the left and Player 2 on the right, rather than my swapped setup. It really wasn’t much different for single player use, and for games like Robotron, the controls are backwards which is really a mind-trip. So, enough of my cleverness, we’ll go back to a conventional layout.
Here is a close-up of the interface board with the spliced wiring:
I popped the monitor in place to test, and everything worked fine. I did have to take the panel off one more time to tweak one of the micro switches on the left (Player 1) joystick as it would not switch off with the stick centered.
Next up: Mounting the monitor