The 3D Printed Computer Space Takes Shape

A few weeks ago we brought you news of a project to recreate the flowing lines of the first computerised arcade game, Computer Space, as a full-size 3D printed replica. We left the project with all the parts put together to make a complete but unfinished shell that was very recognizable as a Computer Space cabinet but had neither finishing nor internals. Now we’re very pleased to bring you the conclusion of the project, as it moves from unfinished 3D print to playable cabinet.

The video below the break is a journey of print finishing to a very high standard with that lustrous blue glitter resin, but oddly it’s most interesting to find out about the manufacturing quirks of the original. How the rear door was imprecisely cut from plywood and fixed on with gate hinges, how the ventilation holes differ from cabinet to cabinet, and how the collection vessel for those quarters was an old tin. The monitor is a newer broadcast CRT in this version and the electronics are naturally  modern, but if you didn’t know, you’d be hard pressed to spot that you weren’t playing the real thing.

Finally we see the gameplay which is admittedly frustrating, and a little bit of punditry as to why this wasn’t the commercial success of the following Pong. It’s a fascinating look at the early computer game industry.

Have a look at our coverage of the first episode of this project.

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Rare Arcade Game Teardown And Mods

[Video Game Esoterica] loves a 1990s video game called Operation Tiger. Apparently, there are only a few of these known to exist in 2023, and he managed to find one of them. Well, it is really just a module so he has to figure out how to give it enough input and output to be actually playable. You can see several videos of his work with the Taito game below.

The board has a lot of ICs and a Power PC to handle the 3D graphics. The graphics seem clunky today, but they were impressive for the time. According to the video, the CPU board was only used for this game. The ROM that holds the software is separate with a mix of mask-programmed memory and EPROMs.

The machine is meant to live in an arcade box. So wiring things like coin selectors, video, speakers, and controllers is a non-trivial exercise. The wiring paid off, though, as the board started up but with no buttons, it wasn’t able to start in the first video. The controls go through a 60-pin connector and he tackles that project in part two.

The next step is to actually update the game software, which is hard but possible. Of course, you can run many of these old games with MAME or, if you prefer, use it to score that primo engineering workstation you used to covet.

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A Breath Of Fresh Air For Some Arcade Classics

It’s said that good things come in small packages, which is hard to deny when we look at all the nifty projects out there that were built into an Altoids tin. Now, if that’s already true for the regular sized box, we can be doubly excited for anything crammed into their Smalls variety ones, which is what [Kayden Kehe] decided to use as housing for his mintyPico, a tiny gaming console running homebrew versions of Snake, Breakout, Pong, and a few more.

As the “Pico” might have already given away, the project is built around a Raspberry Pi Pico board, and being intended as portable device, [Kayden] went with a version that also houses LiPo battery charging circuitry. A set of 3d-printed parts pack the board along with a matching battery and a button panel neatly into the tin itself, while a size-appropriate SSH1106 OLED goes into the lid. All design files along with the MicroPython code of the games can be found on the project’s GitHub page.

You may have felt this strange sense of familiarity when you read the project’s name, and indeed, the mintyPi gaming console was a major inspiration for [Kayden] here, as was the Pico Snake project. Considering this was his junior year high school project, this is certainly an impressive and nice mash-up of those two projects.

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Skee-Ball Scoring With Coin Slot Switches

Bowling is great and all, but the unpredictability of that little ball jump in Skee-Ball is so much more exciting. You can play it straight, or spend a bunch of time perfecting the 100-point shot. And unlike bowling, there’s nothing to reset, because gravity gives you the balls back.

In one of [gcall1979]’s earlier Skee-Ball machines, gravity assisted the scoring mechanism, too: each ball rolls back to the player and lands in a lane labeled with the corresponding score, which is an interesting engineering challenge in its own right. He decided to build automatic scoring into his newest Skee-Ball machine.

At the bottom of each cylinder is an arcade machine coin door switch with a long wire actuator. These had to be mounted so they’re close enough to the hole, but out of the way of the balls.

Each switch is wired up to an Arduino Mega along with four large 7-segments for the score, and a giant 7-segment to show the number of balls played. Whenever the game is reset, a servo drops a door to release the balls, just like a commercial machine.

The arcade switches work pretty well, especially once he bent the wire into hook shape to cover more area. But they do fail once in a while, maybe because the targets are full-size, but the balls are half regulation size. For the next one, [gcall1979] is planning to use IR break-beam targets which ought to work with any size ball. If you prefer bowling, you won’t strike out with break-beam targets there, either.

TwoBitCircus: The Business Of Building Interactive Entertainment

The Hackaday 10th anniversary was an awful lot of fun, and part of what made it awesome was all the cool things that the community brought to the event. We hadn’t really had a chance to get down to meet the guys from TwoBitCircus before now but they were more than happy to bring along their excellent Hexacade machine. The 6-player custom built arcade game that was an absolute blast!

After the party TwoBitCircus’ fearless leaders [Brent Bushnell] and [Eric Gradman] invited us over to their space for a quick look at their workshop, and to give us a personal invite to the Hacker Preview day for their upcoming STEAM Carnival. No this isn’t Steam as in Steam-punk, but STEAM as in Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics.

TwoBitCircus Workshop

Their space is really quite amazing, part of The Brewery Art Colony near downton Los Angeles. The building is actually an old steam power plant with incredibly high ceilings. The TwoBitCircus crew is now about 30 people all building interactive games and art pieces for events. They call themselves a digital circus and a lot of their work harkens back to old carnival games of yore with a new digital twist.

[Eric] and [Brent] spared a few minutes to give us a quick run down of what sort of games to expect at the STEAM Carnival. There will be a wide array of entertainment: giant marble runs controlled by see-saws, whack-a-mole/twister mashups on huge glowing button walls, laser based foosball, and the more extreme immolation dunk tank! It will be a most entertaining and educational event. The main public days are on the weekend of 25th – 26th of October, but there is an invite only hacker preview for the local community on Thursday October 23rd which we will be attending. If you’d like to go to the main event, use the code HACKADAY for $5 off the ticket price of $25.

What was most interesting about TwoBitCircus for me as a maker of things was how these guys have turned their hobby into a thriving events business. Brent tells us that they’ve been at this for 8 years now and the company has been around for 3. They’re doing pretty well too, making incredible things for some of the biggest companies around. This really is the best possible job for any inventive hacker sort, building crazy stuff all day for people to play with! I left the place feeling incredibly envious.

Check out the photos below for some impression of the sort of craziness you might see at the carnival!

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