Making Asteroids Miniature


Mini arcade cabinet builds are fairly common, but we’ve never seen anything like [Jurgen]’s mini vector Asteroids cabinet that takes an original Asteroids circuit board and a true vector monitor and shrinks it down to table top size.

Unlike the raster monitors of a later generation’s arcade games, the original Asteroids cabinet used a vector monitor just like one would find in an oscilloscope. [Jurgen] found the perfect CRT in, of all places, a broken Vectrex console. The video circuitry in the Vectrex was rather primitive and the beam deflection was far too slow for the video signals generated by the Asteroids PCB. To get around this, [Jurgen] added a custom XY driver board. While the Asteroids game – and other vector Atari games – were designed for a screen with 1 MHz of bandwidth, [Jurgen] found that 300 kHz was ‘good enough’ to display proper Asteroids graphics.

While the cabinet isn’t a miniaturized version of any proper cabinet, [Jurgen] did manage to build a rather nice looking case for his luggable version of Asteroids. The exposed PCB on the back is a great touch, and an awesome project for any ancient video game aficionado.

20 thoughts on “Making Asteroids Miniature

    1. FWIW Vectrex was a hack job in the end. Originally it was meant to have 5″ CRT but Milton Bradley wanted bigger so the dev shoehorned a 9″ CRT in without doing much change in the supporting hardware. As a result, the dual op amp that controls the deflection yoke is prone to burning out and there’s no suitable replacement today for that dual op amp chip.

      Neat mini arcade work, especially with original mainboard. I have an iCade that I got for only $15 new (blowout sale from Khol’s, 90% off regular price, they are long gone so don’t ask me to get some) that I might convert to something like this. I loved Tempest but it’d be tricky to get a proper color CRT for that. Maybe I’d try for original Star Wars arcade game in monochrome?

      1. That chip *can* burn out, but I wouldn’t say it’s “prone” to doing so; the usual fault is failing caps (the hardware *is* 30 years old after all.) And Milton Bradley acquired GCE after the Vectrex had already been released, they were not involved in it’s design.

    2. I wouldn’t say that the Vectrex monitor is not a “real” vector monitor. All vector arcade machines used regular CRTs with magnetic deflection, just like the Vectrex. The Vectrex has a regular video CRT, but with custom deflection coils to enable the same slew rate for X and Y, just like the big arcade machines. It just skimps on the deflection driver (amplifier), which is essentially a stereo audio amp with much lower speed.

      Glad you folks like my Asteroids mini build!

    1. [Jurgen] noted some minor wobble in his build, so probably not. He speculated it was caused by the difference between the 50hz powerline and 60hz refresh rate. I’d first see if it’s a magnetic field being thrown by the Vectrex transformer he reused, and picked up by the monitor – which I’d assume would be worse in a complete Vectrex due to closer proximity, at refresh rates other than powerline frequency.

    1. Nothing was destroyed. Bare arcade PCBs are *far* more easily available than complete arcade cabinets — they are easier to store, you know? And the Vectrex used here had a broken game (microprocessor) board which was beyond repair, and was missing the controller.

    1. Way to go! Congratulations on completing this monitor conversion, with very nice results indeed. And a very nice series of videos documenting your project, too! Glad to see that my deflection driver worked for you.

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