Alex and Adam’s Retro Arcade cabinet:
Made using computer parts, wooden panels and an office chest of drawers!
Alex gives us the rundown:
So, it’s an idea that me and Adam have had for the past 3 years, to build a mid-sized, modular arcade cabinet. We wanted it so that each piece of the arcade machine can be swapped out or the whole thing can be swapped out, collapsed, or used differently. So if you wanted to use it on top of a table or on a different stand, for example, the top part can be detached.
This stemmed from the idea that arcade cabinets take a lot of space and aren’t easy to move around. In the ever-changing hackspace environment this idea works perfectly.
I drafted up the initial designs for the arcade controller and computer part in a 3D CAD package called ‘Autodesk Fusion 360’. The controller has the computer built inside it, so if you didn’t want to put it in the full-sized cabinet, you can actually just take the controller and use it separately – it’s the heart of the arcade machine.
I purchased the joysticks and buttons from Ebay, and the computer parts from Scan. Total cost for it all was around £350. I could’ve made it cheaper but I had some objectives – small, low power, high performance, quiet, and cool-running. It also needed to be long-lasting and high quality.
Once the draft for the controller was finished, I printed out the DWGs with all the measurements and dimensions on them, and used these to build the final product. Adam did all the work with the powertools – he’s got a real knack for doing that, whilst I concentrated on providing the structural parts, i.e. the inner frame, the computer parts, and the rest of the installation.
(Just here I want to give a big shout out to Alan for all his helpful input into this project. Me and Adam have never really done any woodwork or construction so it was good to get some feedback as we were going on with it!)
The controller is made out of lightweight materials, but now that it’s set up, I’d like to do the controller part again with thicker stuff, the heat dissipation wasn’t as much as I thought it’d be!
Once we had the hardware sorted out, I took some time to figure out the software and how it would all work.
I installed a Linux distribution called Fedora. I use this at work and I’m most familiar with it. I stripped it down and took out all the software I didn’t need, and installed something called Attract-Mode. This software is what lets players pick what game they want to play and manages all the categorization and fancy graphics.
Now that the stand-alone system was complete, we needed to build a cabinet that would contain this and provide a screen, power, and sound, as well as a stable base to play on, at a height where most people, kids and adults alike, will be able to use it.
Again, I drafted up the design for this, ensuring that there was enough width and depth for the controller to sit into place, as well as the 27" display I had going spare that I have been planning to use in this arcade setup for quite a long time now.
This design was quite simple. 4 pieces of wood – a display panel, two side panels, and a base to hold it all together.
We needed a solid base, and we were planning on using the legs that came from an old table (which was the same one that provided us with the wood for the actual cabinet itself – the whole thing could’ve been a re-purposed table!). But ultimately we landed upon a happy accident…
…A set of drawers. The exact same dimensions as the base of our cabinet!
We landed upon this gem when we were after a stable, small, transportable worktop to build the rest of the cabinet upon. I was rotating the cabinet so Adam could make some changes to the backboard when all of a sudden I just went “wait a minute…. I think we’ve found the perfect base”. So we fixed it down with some removable hinges ( so it can do the aforementioned table-top layout), and the idea stuck!
Me and Adam plugged it all in, did some final tweaks, and settled down to play some nice shoot ’em ups! 🙂