8.09.2009

Ms. Mac Man (Our New MAME Cabinet)

(Note: If you find texty explainy stuff boring, feel free to skip this and go right to the Ms. Mac Man picture gallery.)

Back in 2000, I got my wife Andrea an original Ms. Pac Man arcade machine. She's a Ms. Pac Man fanatic. She can play for hours and hours. I believe she has seen the level 143 blackscreen bug in person at least 200 times. She's insane about Ms. Pac Man.

That is, until it was on the receiving end of an ungrounded lightning strike. The logic board is fried. It's dead. Gone. Pining for the fjords. Etcetera. It's been sitting in our storage room for 3 years, unplayed and unloved.

So, this weekend, I thought I'd bring it back to life for her.

So, the first thing's first - I had to get a setup. Now, keeping versatility and potentially pun-worthy names for our cabinet in mind, I chose a Mac Mini Core 2 Duo for the "brain" of the beast. I did this mostly because I knew the Mini would fit in the little bucket in the coin drawer and could handle MAME and other emulators, but also because every other machine in the house is a mac and there's no sense in breaking the trend. The monitor bay is a 4:3 ratio screen, so I chose a highly-rated ViewSonic VA926 19-inch LCD Monitor as the display device. I wanted the mouse and keyboard to be cord-free, so I went with the Apple bluetooth keyboard and Mighty Mouse. For the arcade stick, I bought an X-Arcade Dual, And for speakers, I chose these cheapo-yet-decent Logitech S120 speakers.

Here's the rig pre-install, as I copy over nearly 18gb of MAME roms to it:





And here it is with its future home, our vintage 1981 Ms. Pac Man cabinet:





Now, from all the testing I could possibly do, I found that everything in the Ms. Pac is dead. Logic board, power supply, even the marquee light. It needs to be completely gutted and reoutfitted. And to get started in style, I chose to work on the one part of the machine that delivers the biggest return on investment - the marquee light.

First, I had to remove the topper housing:





Here's the marquee with the housing removed, but the topper still in place:





And now, sans-marquee:





Now, I need to hang a completely new lighting assembly in the unit, but I figured, why waste this nice little chunk of formed housing?




Stripping the old lighting units:





For the new marquee light, I wanted to "go green" or whatever, because this thing's going to be on all the time (actually, I just don't feel like changing the bulb on the topper EVER), so I went with an LED lighting assembly:




The light assembly has those little hole-posts in the back where you can hang it on almost-screwed-in screws, which is what the two bright silver things below are:




And now, a freshly-hung light:





Plugged in:




And when we add the marquee, a truly "AHHHHH!" moment:





And so now, to get into the guts of this thing. Below is the power controller:




And here's the harness for the old CRT monitor:




For those that have never seen one before, here's the inside of an '81 arcade cabinet:







Pulling the old boards and wiring wasn't too hard - a few screws, and it was all out. The big job was getting the CRT and its harness out of there. First, the screen overlay had to come out, so I had to unfasten the housing:



And then the screen overlay slides out (look at that screen burn!!!):




the CRT was mounted via 4 lag bolts.




Once the CRT and assembly were removed, I needed a place to rest the new LCD monitor. So I had to build a custom "Shelf" for it - but the stupid thing has a rounded back which is smooth on all ends, except the "bottom" (which will be the right side in this cabinet). So the positioning was a little strange:




We left the 4 metal braces which formed the major mount points for the old CRT, and laid the new shelf assembly (made from leftover maple from the Tetris Shelf project I'll be posting next week). Note the two elevation risers - cut to fit so that the LCD will rest on them at the perfect height for the screen cutaway:




To get the screen in, I had to remove the pedestal mount point (note that STUPID rounded edge of the monitor on the left):




So now we place it:



Slide in the screen topper, and voila:




Now, the joystick assembly: We took the X-Arcade Dual and mounted an exact-fit 3/4" piece of maple ply to the bottom. Why did we do this? Because, the screws for the mounting brackets needed wood to go into, and I didn't trust the masonite casing of the joystick housing to hold with #8 wood screws:






And here, I "mount" the speakers (they face toward the front of the cabinet after install, I just wanted to show the fronts here):




And now, to install the brain, the Mac Mini:




Here it rests comfortably in its new home, the coin bucket from the cabinet behind the coin door:




And now we boot - I have to say, this was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen, ever - an Apple boot screen in a Ms. Pac Man cabinet. This is why it's called Ms. Mac Man :)




A nice perspective shot:




Of course, to get it to display properly, we had to orient the monitor correctly:




IT LIVES:





And now, the whole reason it was borne into existence - the first game played on the new cabinet had to be Ms. Pac Man:




Another nice perspective shot:




When it's not emulating all-time great games, it doubles nicely as a nice little kiosk computer for visiting guests:




Now, just for your reference, I did buy a controller overlay from MameMarquees.com to apply to the X-arcade stick and maple joiner board, and I will also be spray-painting the steel mounting brackets Pac-Man Yellow to make them match the overall style of the cabinet. But it's late and I'm tired, so here's a pic of the vinyl overlay. I'll update another day when this is cut and placed:




Here's Mike playing one of the stupidest games ever made in the history of ever, Moonwalker:




And one last touch:




And there you have it. Mrs. Mac Man, in all her glory. Whatcha think?