Update: Androcade 2.0

[Chris] has been going about his business, letting his interest guide him as it will. But always in the back of his mind is his Androcade project, and he’s spent the last year making improvements. It’s an arcade controller for playing games on an Android tablet. It connects to the device via Bluetooth, and includes a built-in stand.

His original version was featured here last year. It was made from wood (with a nice Android green finish) and included three buttons and a joystick. This time around he moved to some black laser-cut acrylic for the case, and has doubled up on the buttons. It also now enumerates as an HID Bluetooth device, whereas before it was pushing serial data over the BT connection.

He’s had enough interest from his friends to also create an iPad version all in white. It connects and works just the same as the Android flavor. Check out a bit of Donkey Kong gameplay after the break.

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CRT vector graphics arcade game built from an FPGA board

[Sprite_TM] wanted to challenge his VHDL skills, and there’s no more satisfying way of doing this than making something that will be playable when you’re done. He decided to try his hand at creating a vector-based CRT arcade. The distinction here is that vector-based games take control of the magnetic ring that guides the electron path toward the screen. This technique allows point-to-point graphic generation rather than the pixel-based scanning that CRT televisions use.

He had a small color CRT on hand and decided to grab a VHDL version of asteroids from the Internet to see if he could get it to work. But upon further inspection of the source he found that it had a chunk of code which rasterized the vectors for use with a scanning monitor. After removing that chunk, and giving it a spin he had enough confidence that he knew what he was doing to start implementing his own game. The choice of what title really came down to the hardware the original arcade cabinets used. He was not interested in implementing a soft-process for the math chips used in games like Star Wars and Tempest. In the end he got a version of Black Widow up and running, and even built a miniature cabinet for the thing. Check out some of the gameplay in the clip after the break.

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Auto power circuit for an arcade machine

Some of the pinball machines which [Jeri Ellsworth] has restored have ended up in the break room at her work. We’re sure her coworkers are thankful for this, but sometimes they forget to turn off the power to the machines, and letting them run constantly means more frequent servicing will be necessary. She set out to fix the situation by building a circuit that will automatically power the machines.

We think the solution adds some much needed functionality. Instead of hunting for the power switch, you can now power the machine up by hitting the left flipper, and it will automatically shut off after about five minutes of not having that flipper button pressed. For this she grabbed a 555 timer chip and built a circuit to control the relay switching the mains power.

She added a magnet and reed switch to the left flipper switch assembly to control her add-on circuit. It connects to the base of a PNP transistor which controls a resistor network and capacitor. This part of the circuit (seen to the left of the 555 in the schematic) allows the timer to be re-triggered. That is, every time you press the flipper the 555 will reset the timer. Don’t miss the demo she filmed after the break.

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Whac-A-Banker to relieve your frustration

[Tim Hunkin], builder extraordinaire and host of The Secret Life of Machines is a bit frustrated with the current economic climate and decided to take out his frustrations with a game of Whac-A-Banker.

[Tim]‘s version of the classic Whac-A-Mole game uses tiny air cylinders to actuate five banker figurines up and down. The figures were cast with polyurethane and are reportedly holding up well. The cabinet is really interesting. When the game isn’t being played, a really boring front panel is displayed. After inserting a few coins, the panel drops into the machine to show the fun and exciting scoreboard.

If you’re ever around Suffolk, England, you can check out the Whac-A-Banker and a lot of other [Tim Hunkin] creations at the Southwold Pier. Thanks [John] for sending this one in. Yes, we did get The Secret Life of Machines in the states on the Discovery Channel, but it has been replaced with shows about trucking. Here’s an archive of the entire series for your viewing pleasure. Kiss your evening goodbye.

Using 555 timers to add “free play” functionality to classic arcade machines


[John Zitterkopf] is in the middle of restoring a vintage Sega Star Trek Captain’s Chair arcade game for the upcoming 2012 Texas Pinball festival, though one prerequisite for the show is that the game supports some sort of free play mode. At this point he doesn’t have the option of tracking down a freeplay ROM for the device, so he had to come up with a solution of his own.

He did not want to alter the machine’s operation in any significant manner, and this meant preserving the functionality of the coin chutes. To do this, he put together a small circuit that uses a pair of cascaded 555 timers to provide the machine with the proper signaling to simulate coin insertion, while still accepting coins. You might initially think that this could be easily accomplished by shorting a pair of contacts in the coin chutes, but as [John] explains, the process is a tad more complex than that.

If you have some old arcade games kicking around and are looking for a non-invasive way to make them free to play, be sure to check out his site for schematics and a complete BoM.

Arcade controller will give you button envy

[Aaron's] arcade controller really makes us want to put in a button order. There aren’t any secrets hidden in his design or fabrication, but he did a remarkably clean job of putting it together.

The housing is a writing box he bought at the hardware store (but he also shows off an emtpy Xbox 360 case hosting the same control layout). It has a hinged cover which is perfect for getting at the components inside, and is also at a nice angle for your wrists during long gaming session.

An Xbox 360 controller provides the connectivity for the device. Obviously it will work with the Microsoft hardware, but all modern operating systems have methods available for interfacing with these controllers as well. In the video after the break you can see [Aaron] gut the controller, soldering wires to all of the button pads and connecting those to some terminal strips. This makes the wire organization inside quite clean. He uses crimp connectors to jumper the buttons and joy stick to the other side of the terminals. Add  a nice paint job and you’ve got a controller that will look right at home in your living room.

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Arcade cabinet that doesn’t monopolize your space

We’re guessing that if you ever though of buying an arcade cabinet it was only briefly, and you decided against based on the difficulties of moving and finding a place for such a large and heavy item. You could go the opposite way and build a controller for a  MAME box, but for some, there’s no replacement for the real hardware. This Christmas gift is the best of both worlds, a JAMMA box which uses traditional hardware in a more compact cabinet.

[Majtolycus'] boy friend is a sucker for a game of Battle Balls. She looked around for an original logic board and after several weeks of searching had to settle for the Japanese version of the game called Senkyu. To patch into the board she also picked up a JAMMA harness, power supply, RGB to VGA video converter, speaker, and some Happ arcade controls. The whole thing goes into a wood box which connects to a VGA monitor (or the VGA port on your HDTV).

The system is easier to store than a full-sized cabinet, and if a deal comes along, you can buy additional JAMMA logic boards to play.

[Thanks Adam]