Turn Your Wireless Keyboard Into A MAME Controller!

For those of you that have a wireless keyboard laying around, you might be tempted to turn it into something else, like a wireless MAME controller. For those not familiar with it, MAME stands for “Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator” and is generally used to run older arcade games on a computer.

Encoders are available for this purpose, however, intending to save some money, and having an unused wireless keyboard, I decided to try to make one myself.  As far as I know there are no wireless encoders available for this purpose, so that was part of the motivation for trying this.

In this post I go over my mechanical design for the cabinet as well as the electrical process of going from keyboard to MAME controller. I did eventually get the thing working, but if more than a couple buttons were pressed simultaneously, some presses were omitted. The conclusion I eventually came to was that it was better to use an encoder to control everything. Not wireless, but much more reliable. If I absolutely needed a wireless controller in the future, I would think modding an actual wireless controller (or two) in a similar manner would have worked better for my purposes.

9 thoughts on “Turn Your Wireless Keyboard Into A MAME Controller!

    1. Sweet, even if it didn’t work out great using a wireless keyboard modded up I can learn from your missteps. I want to build a large 2 player side by side controllers into one box I can set on a table in front of my TV for Street Fighter marathons. I also kind of want to build a track ball setup for Golden Tee for my non gaming friends since that seems to be a game everyone plays… after a few beers.

      I like the idea of using fiberglass… have to look into the process some. I’ve only used fiberglass for wrapping a custom built wood ocean Kayak in high school and haven’t messed with it since.

  1. No so worried about the wireless side of things but finding a better keyboard will probably help with the number of keys you can press at the same time. You should expect at least 3 keys to be able to be pressed at the same time (ctrl+alt+del as a minimum set of 3 keys). My ideazone zboard will do 8 keypresses at a time, so following on from that, using a gamers keyboard rather than a bog standard keyboard is probably going to be the best idea for getting more simultaneous keypresses.

    1. okay long angry rant here, summary:
      USB never worked with enough keys at same time for me.

      ive said this before, and i will say it again:

      people tell me there is a new USB (keyb.) spec if you want to shell out the money, but that kind of thing really does not belong on this site! if u say “dude, just buy it” then


      pps: ive never ever, EVER seen a USB keyboard that can play doom/skulltag with enough keys to do tricks like strafe-jumping while firing AND aiming AND holding shift all at the same time. so thats like 1shift(run) 2ctrl(fire) 3a(jump) 4alt(strafe) and 5)arrowkey(move) or two, so like 5 or 6 keys, so instead of USB i connect my PS2 keyb with PS2 and my game controler (NES) to my PC using a serialport, AVR, and winXP’s built in serial->keyboard emulator/option

      and yes i know nes doesnt even have that many buttons, but i configd my avr to do combo moves like on a console. aka hold jump and reload then arrow and avr sends pgup/pgdn for looking around

      F***MICE FTW!

  2. I was thinking of something like this, but using an original Xbox (not 360) controller. Once you disassemble it, you would have:

    2 – analog x/y pairs (two joysticks)
    14 – digital buttons (the 6 buttons, back, start, the two analog ‘click’ buttons embedded in the joysticks, and four for the D-Pad)
    2 – remaining analog pots (the triggers), which could be repurposed as digital buttons, or use as a volume controls, etc.

    A wireless Xbox controller can be had for $10 or less, or even cheaper if a wired USB connection is ok. Plus the wired version adds a USB hub to your controller (which could be handy).

  3. Why did you cut out large rectangles for the joysticks? You do know they’re meant to be mounted underneath the control panel with only a small hole for the shaft, don’t you? The joystick won’t stick up above the control panel, and it will be stronger too.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.