The Glass Menagerie

Posted in History on November 8th, 2012 by t3

Like the Tennessee Williams play, this is a story of hope and implied promise broken like a little glass unicorn (or in this case a really big piece of tempered glass which is not actually “broken” but might as well be)

We ordered the glass to go in front of the monitor. Beautiful smoked 1/4″ thick tempered glass goodness. It took a few days for it to be ready as they have to special order tempered smoked glass.

We waited in anticipation.

We got the call that it had arrived.

Went and picked it up and brought it home. Giddy with the heady intoxication of the coming satisfaction of seeing our beloved games enhanced by the pixelated light shining through the smoky glass. We sarted to fit it into place and were surprised to find that it would not fit.

You may recall that the inside width of the cabinet is 27.000″ ± 0.001. The monitor frame is aluminum angle welded into a frame and then milled on a CNC vertical mill to EXACTLY 27″.

So….when we went to order the glass we were very clear about the fact that the glass HAD to be LESS than 27″. We explained the fact that the space was EXACTLY 27″ and if the glass was even a thousandth over it wouldn’t fit. They said “no problem”, and told us to order 26 15/16″ because the tolerance was ± 1/16″ but was usually dead on. We believed. We trusted. We did what they said to do.

Turns out the glass is very close to 27″ (not very close to 26 15/16) but it has to be slightly over 27 or it would fit. So back to the glass place we go. “It’s too big” we say. They measure it with an old tape measure. “It’s 27” they say. “Well, it has to be a few thousands over or it would fit” we say. “We don’t deal with thousandths” they say. “It was supposed to be under 27” we say. “Well, the allowance is 1/16 and it isn’t more than a 1/16 over” they say. “It actually IS more than a 1/16 over 26 15/16 or it would fit” we say. “Well, it measures 27” they say. “It measures ABOUT 27 on your TAPE MEASURE, but it has to be over 27 by a few thousandths or it would fit” we say (a little louder). “We don’t deal with thousandths” they say (again). “It was supposed to be under 27” we say. “Well, the allowance is 1/16 and it isn’t more than a 1/16 over” they say. “if it were a 1/16″ over 27 we could replace it for you.” they say.

No joy. Apparently the “tolerance” is more like 1/8″. So we will have to get another piece of glass. We won’t be getting it from that glass place.


The Case of the DeCase

Posted in History on October 22nd, 2012 by t3

Finally finished the computer decasing and modding project. Just to remind everyone…

decided to decase the computer and mount on an open plane case. Then decided that the power supply and ODD needed to be orange and the fans needed to light up. Then decided that the wires all needed to be sleeved in orange…

Here is the sleeving job about midway:

This was straight forward but far from easy. Getting each molex pin of of it’s connector was a bugger. Even with the right tool it was still very touchy and required just the right angle and pressure. One of the wires came out of it’s pin during this process and it was very hard getting the pin out without a wire attached and putting everything back together.

We fabricated the 5-pin power cables for the drives as the new mounts have them too far away for the original cables to reach. The 4-pin and 24-pin power cables were dismantled and the reassembled using black plugs and applying the sleeving material.

Finally, everything was crammed back into the PSU and plugged in. There was a moment waiting for the power up that seemed like an eternity, but then it sprang to life and all was well:

We were very concerned that we could have mucked something up during the modding. So many wires removed and replaced and so much stuff moved around. It wouldn’t have taken much to make a mistake.

We had made a template for the mounting holes:

so after carefully selecting the location we drilled pilot holes into the cab sides being careful not to go to deep, then the hole size needed for the threaded inserts, then a slightly larger size for just a bit to help get the threads started. Then the case panel just drops into place:

By some stroke of karma the updated LED Wiz/GP’s came back in the mail today, so we can re-hook the controls and be back playing. Tomorrow we go get glass.


The Show Can Go On

Posted in History on October 18th, 2012 by t3

Finished and installed the monitor glass mounts today. Once all the mounts were cut and fitted they got a coat of black paint except for the tab that fits in the slot, then they got glued in place:

Lower Left Mount:

Lower Right Mount:

Upper Left Mount (notice that the block allows the glass mount to move up to put the glass in, then slides down to hold):

Upper Right Mount:

With them painted black and fitted very tightly into the grooves they almost disappear in the cabinet:

Tomorrow we will go the City Glass and order the 27″ x 29″ x 1/4″ tinted glass to fit here. We also need appropriate velcro to attach the admin panel and the speaker grill.

Holding up the Show

Posted in History on October 18th, 2012 by t3

We started working on the mounts to hold the monitor glass as well as the admin panel and the speaker grill. There are slots cut into the sides to hold mounting blocks:

The blocks have to fit into the slots, provide a surface for the admin panel (on the bottom) and the speaker grill (on the top) to mount to, and hold the glass. We selected standard mirror holders the hold the glass and come up with a design for the block…

…fitted into the slot in the cabinet side:

We will mount the admin panel with velcro since the only force it will experience is pressure towards the mounting blocks and the mirror mounts will hold the glass.

With the admin panel mounted there is a gap between the panel and the mounting block at the top for the glass to fit into:

Now we have to make similar mounting blocks for the top.

Power to the Players

Posted in History on October 18th, 2012 by t3

Continuing the modding of the Cowboy Arcade computer…

Decided to paint the optical drive orange too:

The new fans came in…

So I got them mounted:

and then plugged things in to see how it would look:

This is what it will look like in the cabinet:

Next is sleeving all the wiring and extending the wires from the PSU to the drives…

Orange Power

Posted in History on October 2nd, 2012 by t3

We decided to decase the MAME computer.

The tower case is bulky and there is not a good way to afix it to the arcade cabinet so that it won’t move or fall over if we move the cabinet. A little www research led us to a bench test computer “case” that is basically a flat panel made of plexiglass with all the necessary mounts for the ATX mother board, power supply and drives.

So, while waiting for parts to show up it occurred to us that with the various components just out in the open, it would behoove us to tidy up the computer a bit. First thing was the industrial grey PSU (that’s computer speak for Power Supply Unit). We decased the PSU and decided to paint it Gloss Orange and Hammered Finish Black.

The bare case, ready to paint:

Painted and in oven to hard set the finish (170° for about 2 hours):

The finished case waiting to be reassembled:

We are also going to replace the fans (PSU, CPU and case) with these:

We have (2) 80mm (PSU and CPU) and (2) 120mm (case and cabinet). These have 4 LEDs in them so the fans glow orange when they are running!

Cowboy Up!

Posted in History on September 26th, 2012 by t3

Side art is such a critical part of the arcade look. Simple or complex, classic or modern, each game’s graphics are a part of the total experience. When we were spending hours (and hours) in arcades in the early eighties we were mesmerized by Tempest. The game itself was (and still is) fantastic. Unlike many games of that time there is a variability to each and every level that keeps the player on alert. The game was also housed in a unique cabinet design and had outstanding graphics.

If you have been following this blog at all, you already know this. Our obsession with Tempest led to this entire project and heavily influenced the design. Tonight the project took a huge step forward (not really that big, but per the previous paragraph an exceedingly important one).

We applied the side art!

It looks even better in person than in the pictures! In the closer shot you can see the flipper and nudge buttons and the installed cup holder.

We are really pleased. Really. Really. Pleased.

Game On Graphics (was MameMarquees when I ordered this) printed the art for us. The file had plenty of extra black around it to overlap the sides. Once the cabinet was layed on its side we measured the actual width and height (as opposed to trusting the drawings) and also measured the distance top to bottom and side to side of the outside of the neon on the graphic. A little math later we knew that the black edge needed to be 15/16″ on the vertical sides and 1 3/16″ on the top and bottom. Then we carefully measured and cut a notch on two places on the back side and one place on the top:

We then aligned those edges with the outside edge of the cabinet to align the graphic and taped them in place:

Once the graphic was positioned and secure we removed the backing along the bottom edge and carefully applied it to the cabinet. (we had wiped everything down with alcohol and a lint free cloth first of course)

It is hard to see in the pic, but the light line slightly up from the bottom is where the backing was removed. Then it was simply a matter of one person holding up the graphic while another removed the backing and a third pressed the vinyl into place. We used lint free cloths to rub the vinyl into place and had very little trouble with bubbles.

Once the entire graphic was adhered and rubbed down the excess needed to be trimmed. We inserted a very sharp blade into the crack between the laminate covered cabinet side and the rubber T-molding and carefully sliced the vinyl all the way around the cabinet side:

This cut the graphic vinyl inside the edge of the rubber T-molding producing a really neat edge. We then cut out the holes for the flipper/nudge buttons and the studs for the cup holders:

We tilted the cabinet back upright and reinstalled the buttons and cup holders.


Button, Button, who has the Button?

Posted in History on September 24th, 2012 by t3

I do. six of them in fact. Got the vinyl icons for the admin buttons from Troy Robinson, and they look fantastic.

When I designed and drilled the admin panel I hadn’t picked out the buttons I was going to use. When I found the orange lit buttons I liked they were not “arcade” buttons:

and needed a different hole size. I already had the 1.125″ holes and needed smaller opening so I made aluminum bushings that had an OD of 1.125″ and an ID that matched the buttons.

Once the vinyl was applied to the colored disc and the button reassembled and mounted in the panel, they look like this:

Some temporary wiring and 12V DC and voila!

I’m lovin’ it.

The Devil is in the Admin Details

Posted in History on September 15th, 2012 by t3

The plan for admin functions and other necessary items has changed several times over the last couple years. However, once the cabinet was cut and assembled it became much harder to make any real changes. The admin panel behind the main CP has three holes on each side (originally all for admin), the front of the CP box has three holes on the left (for sound controls) and one on the right (for pin plunger). There are also 2 button holes on each side of the cabinet for pin flippers and nudge. Between cutting those holes and now we found really cool USB connectors and added those to the “needed extras” list. The “needed” admin button list seems to be an ever changing thing, for now it is: Pause, Escape, Return and Tab. So the two extra holes in the admin panel become the USB ports. The plunger interfered with both the CP buttons and the flipper/nudge buttons so it got moved to a lower postion and the hole filled with a button that does nothing right now….

Another option is to add a hole to the right of the three left hole in the front of the box, shift the sound controls over to the right and put a USB in the farthest left hole and the other usb in the single right hole (old plunger location). This would free up the other two holes on the admin panel for two more admin buttons.

The admin buttons are orange (of course) and will have vinyl cutouts applied for the functions. We are still deciding whether to go positive or negative:

Currently we are planning on wiring the Coin Returns to switches for Player 1 and Player 2 coin buttons. If we move the USB ports down we could use the two extra Admin spaces for those…..decisions, decisions.

If we go with moving the USB ports down the admin panel would look like this:

We would have to drill another hole in the front of the box for the second USB port. The question is whether to put it next to the extra hole (old plunger location) or next to the sound controls. We are leaning toward the old plunger location….

The Sound of….Blasters

Posted in History on September 14th, 2012 by t3

Every great arcade needs a great sound system to really belt out those 80’s sounds. We bought a set of Logitech Z2300 computer speakers for this very thing.

We selected this particular speaker set for a single reason: the controller. The controller is remote from the speakers and has volume control, bass adjust and a headphone jack that turns off the speakers.

If you dismantle this you find a small circuit boards:

The idea was to remove the control pots and the earphone jack from the board and use wire and connectors to remotely locate them in the cab. A guy at work offered to do the mod for me:

It looks a little clunky, which we could live with, if it worked. Unfortunately it doesn’t. Not sure what went wrong, but when we plug it in nothing happens. The other controller works fine (the one we haven’t butchered yet), so we know it isn’t the speakers.

So now what? A little research on the world wide webs found that other people have experienced problems with this controller (without trying to mod it) and came up with a DIY controller. You can order the PCB from BatchPCB and the component list from Mouser Electronics:

So we ordered the components (about $32 including S&H) and we will try to build the new controller using cable to connect the devices to the PCB. This should be fun!