Observercade, Portable MAME System Of The Future.

[GarageMonkeySan] wrote in to tell us about his latest project. It’s a MAME arcade emulator, but not just any MAME arcade emulator, it is housed in a briefcase. And if that was not interesting enough, it was built in the style of the TV Show “Fringe”, specifically like the Observer briefcases. He calls it the Observercade.

The hard-shelled Samsonite briefcase was taken apart to assess the best way to move forward. A Sintra frame was added to the top half of the briefcase and would hold a scavenged laptop LCD screen. A monitor faceplate was then made from 1/16″ polystyrene sheet to fill the gap around the screen.

The bottom half of the case holds the remaining electronics, which consists of a Raspberry Pi Model B (running RetroPie), power supply, speakers and LCD driver board. They are all mounted to the bottom of the control surface which also supports the controller joystick and buttons. Notice that the buttons are labeled in Observer symbols. These symbols are as accurate as possible roughly translating to ‘credit’, ‘player’… etc. This is a wonderfully done project that shows [GarageMonkeySan] pays extreme attention to detail.

If the Observercade rings a bell, you may be remembering the project that gave [GarageMonkeySan] his inspirations: the Briefcade.

Continue reading “Observercade, Portable MAME System Of The Future.”

TubeNetRadio Project Modernizes 1959 Tube Radio

Years ago, [Luk] came across an old tube radio. He’s since wanted to convert it to an internet radio but never really got around to it. Now that we are living in the age when a micro computer can be had for a mere $35, [Luk] decided it was time to finish his long lost project.

He chose a Raspberry Pi for the brains of his project because it is an inexpensive and well documented product perfect for what he wanted to do. [Luk] had a goal, to modify the radio as little as possible in order to get it to play both internet radio and locally stored MP3s. The radio from 1959 is certainly old, but it had a feature you may not expect. It had an AUX input with a separate volume knob out front. As is the radio itself, the input was mono. To connect the Raspberry Pi to the radio, [Luk] had to make an 1/8th inch stereo to banana plug adapter, a great solution that did not require any modification to the original radio.

WiFi is accessed though an off-the-shelf USB wireless module. After evaluating tapping into a 5vdc source somewhere in the radio, it was decided to use a wall wart to power the Raspberry Pi. A plug for the wall wart was spliced in after the radio’s main on/off switch. That way the radio and Raspberry Pi both turn on and off together. There is plenty of room for all of these added components inside the radio’s case.

The RaspPi can be fully controlled over the WiFi network but has a couple buttons wired up to the GPIO pins for limited manual control. The buttons for these controls fit perfectly in the round vent holes in the back panel of the radio’s case. Although the buttons are visible, no permanent modifications had to be made! [Luk] reports that everything works great, as do the original functions of the radio.

RetroPie Meets Game Gear, Again

If you’re a fan of video game systems of yesteryear then you are probably familiar with RetroPie. For those who aren’t, RetorPie is a collection of software and video game emulators that can run on a Raspberry Pi. The package makes it easy to get your fix of old games without having to own a bunch of consoles or loose your breath blowing on cartridges.

[brooksyx] already had a broken Game Gear, Raspberry Pi and a 4.3 inch LCD screen kicking around so he thought it would be a good idea to put them together into a handheld RetroPie. Clearly, the new screen was not going to fit in the old screen’s place. The Game Gear’s case was cut and the bezel from the new LCD screen was epoxied in place, gaps filled and finally sanded.

RetroPie Game Gear


The screen is not the only modifications done to the case. Down on the bottom right of the case front [brooksyx] added 4 buttons for the N64 C-buttons. Out back the battery compartments and cartridge slot were filled in.

This project isn’t done yet and we are excited to see how it comes out. If you’re digging this RetroPie portable, you may like this Game Gear with an unmodified case or this large-screened Game Boy.

Scratch-Built Bar Top MAME Cabinet

Video game enthusiast [Mike] is all about the journey and not necessarily the destination. That is why he likes working on projects and documenting their progress with great detail. His bar top MAME machine is certainly no exception.

One of [Mike’s] goals was to see if he could keep the look and feel of a large arcade cabinet but scale it down so that it was portable. He started with drawing up a model in Sketchup. Once satisfied with the layout and making sure everything would fit, the side panels were cut out of pine boards and will only be clear-coated. The remaining panels are cut from MDF as they will be covered in a matching decorative vinyl wrap.

The control panel may look simple but a lot of thought went into it. Of course, there is a joystick but [Mike] chose to only use 4 game-play buttons. He did this to save space and estimates he’ll still be able to play 90% of the available MAME games. Those 4 buttons are illuminated and the MAME front end, Mala, was configured to light up only the functional buttons for the particular game being played. Front and center on the control board is a rotary encoder for playing games like Arkanoid or games requiring a steering wheel.

In the end this build came out pretty nice looking. His build log is a great reference to hit before starting your next arcade cabinet project.

Although [Mike] calls his MAME cabinet ‘mini’, it’s not the most mini we’ve seen here on Hackaday.

MAME now available in the Palms of your hand

Every kid dreams of having an arcade game at their house. When those kids grow up, they have a couple of options for getting that at-home arcade experience. They can either buy a one-game commercial game or build a multi-game MAME cabinet. Both options have the same disadvantage: they take up a bunch of space!

Arcade game-aholic, [lokesen], wanted to scratch his itch but do it with something a little less ‘big’ than a standard arcade cabinet. He came up with the only logical solution; a MAME computer stuffed inside an arcade controller.

A lot of thought went into the controller case, which is made from laser cut acrylic. It had to be large enough to allow a proper arcade-emulating spacing of the joystick and buttons as well as have room for a mini-ATX motherboard and 64gb SSD drive. The case also has provisions for a cooling fan and some exhaust vents. To finish off the case, wood grain veneer was applied to the sides.

[lokesen] chose this motherboard for a reason, it has several options of on-board video output; VGA, DVI and HDMI. Connecting this controller to any TV, monitor, or projector is a piece of cake.

Putting new into the old – a Phonograph upgrade.

[smellsofbikes] recently came into possession of a 1970’s “stereo radio phonograph” cabinet consisting of a vinyl record player, AM and FM radio, and eight track tape player. The radio worked, the turntable didn’t sound too nice, and the tape player didn’t work at all. A new needle fixed the turntable, but the eight-track was in bad shape. So he replaced the tape player with a BeagleBoneBlack which plays streaming internet radio.

Hopefully, this fix is temporary, since he has carefully disconnected the tape player connections in the hope of fixing it soon. The swap out involved a fair bit of engineering, so he’s split his build log into several bite sized chunks. The first step was to set up the BBB, upgrade it and add in all the network and audio related stuff. Audio on the BBB is available only via the HDMI port, but [smellsofbikes] had a USB soundcard handy, so the next step was setting that up. He installed mpg321 – the command line mp3 player and set it up to play music streaming from somafm. Next up was getting some scripts and programs to run automatically during system bootup. The final part of the setup was adding a WiFi router as a repeater connected to the BBB via an ethernet cable. He could have used a tiny WiFi USB dongle, but he already had the router lying around, and he wanted to dedicate USB to audio functions alone, and use the Ethernet port for Internet.

He then worked on identifying the wires that go from the tape player to the amplifier, spliced them, and hooked them up to the audio sound card on the BBB. With this done, the upgrade was more or less complete – the system played streaming music and stations could be switched remotely (via SSH to BBB). [smellsofbikes] reckoned it would be nice to use the existing controls in the phonograph cabinet to control the internet streaming music, instead of controlling it via a remote computer. The cabinet had 4 indicator lamps that indicated which track was being played and a button to switch between tracks. He removed the old indicator panel and put in a fresh PCB, designed in KiCad and cut on his LPKF circuit board plotter. An aluminum knob machined out of hex bar-stock works as the new track change button. At this point, he called it a wrap. The BBB and Asus router go inside the cabinet, and the old (non-functional) tape player is put in place. Quite an interesting build, and we look forward to when he actually gets the tape player working. [Alan Martin], aka “The Most Interesting Engineer In The World” has told him that “it is a moral imperative that you repair the eight-track and get it working”. [Alan] has promised to send [smellsofbikes] a suitcase full of brand new, still in their plastic wrappers, eight-track tapes when he gets it working.

HDMI Splitter is also a Decrypter

It warms our hearts when the community gets together. [esar] needed to get a decrypted HDMI stream for his home theater system. A tip-off in the comments and a ton of good old-fashioned hacking resulted in a HDMI splitter converted into a full-featured HDMI decrypter. Here’s the story.

His amazing custom Ambilight clone got profiled here, and someone asked him in the comments if it worked when High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) is on. [esar] lamented that it didn’t. Hackaday readers to the rescue. [Alan Hightower] and [RoyTheReaper] pointed [esar] to the fact that HDMI splitters need to decrypt and re-encrypt the signal to pass it on, and pointed him to a trick to knock out the on-board microcontroller. [esar] took off from there.

Unfortunately, taking the micro out of the picture messed with a lot of other HDMI functionality. So [esar] started digging in the datasheets for the HDMI splitter chip, looking for registers relevant to the re-encryption. If he could get in between the microcontroller and the splitter chip on the I2C bus and disable the re-encryption, he’d be set.

If you’re at all interested in I2C hacking or abusing HDMI splitters, you need to read his post because he details all of the tribulations and triumphs. He first tries just brute-forcing the I2C by overwriting a 1 bit with a 0. This (correctly) signals the micro that there’s been a conflict on the bus, so it re-sends the command again. Dead end.

He then found another signal that the receiver could use say that it wasn’t decrypting. He tried sending this continuously to the splitter so that it would stop encrypting. That worked, but only for one channel, some of the time. It turns out that his code was taking too long in his bit-banged I2C code. He fixes this up and all is well? Well, 90% of the way there.

To hammer down the last 10% of the functionality, [esar] buys a couple more splitters, experiments around with another splitter chipset that works with 3D, and solders some more wires to enable the Audio Return Channel. And after a ton of well-documented hard work, he wins in the end.