Computer Space Replica Is Up And Running

You never forget your first time — watching someone pour several quid’s worth of 10p pieces into a Space Invader machine in 1978, upsetting for a youngster who wanted to have a turn. We’re still waiting, but [Alston] has found an interesting way to get around those arcade video game hoggers by building a replica of Computer Space, the first commercial arcade video game.

Released in 1971, the groundbreaking game was designed by gaming legends [Nolan Bushnell] and [Ted Dabney], and came in a striking curvy fiberglass case that was molded by a manufacturer of swimming pools. [Alston] hasn’t built the case yet, but he does have the electronics up and running.

The electronics of Computer Space are interesting, because there is no microprocessor in there. Instead, it is built from discrete components. [Nolan] had originally planned to use a mini computer called the Data General Nova 800. However, he realized that he could make it cheaper by building it out of discrete components. As [Nolan] described it in an oral history at the Smithsonian [PDF link], the idea came to him after a post-Thanksgiving dinner nap:

“Screw the minicomputer. Get rid of it. Do it all in hardware. Make the game out of this collection, just make it a simple state machine. And the minute that happened, it was like knife through butter. Not only did I get the cost down, but what was budgeted for $1,500 worth of minicomputer, the whole damn computer cost me less than $300 in glue parts. So, I knew that I had something.”

That decision makes it an interesting project to build a replica. Although you can emulate it on a modern computer easily (there is even a version that runs in CSS in the browser). [Alston] is going the hard route, building replica PCBs and using the same components where possible, helped by people who have documented it. So far, the boards are and running and displaying a grainy, pixelated image on a portable TV.

The next step is to take the replica electronics box he has built and make a cabinet to put it into. That’s a big project, and [Alston] is looking for someone with an original cabinet that he can examine and document.

Showing the end result - a Defender machine copy in all its glory, with a colourful front panel with joysticks.

Defender Arcade Rebuilt To Settle A Childhood Memory

[Jason Winfield] had a nemesis: the Defender arcade machine. Having put quite a number of coins into one during his childhood, he’s since found himself as a seasoned maker, and decided to hold a rematch on his own terms. For this, he’s recreated the machine from scratch, building it around the guts of a Dell laptop, and he tells us the story what it took to build a new Defender in this day and age.

Defender was a peculiar machine — it was in cocktail table format, unlike many other arcade machines of that period. From pictures, he’s redesigned the whole thing in Fusion 360, in a way more desk-friendly format, but just as fancy looking as before.

As for the laptop, gutting it for its mainboard, screen, and speakers was a surprisingly painless procedure — everything booted up first try. A few board-fitted brackets and a swap from a HDD to a USB flashdrive for the OS later, the electronics were ready. As he was redesigning the entire arcade machine anyway, the new design control panel was also trimmed down for ease of use, while preserving the original colorful look.

All in all, an impressive build from [Jason]. After all was set and done, we don’t doubt that he went on to, let’s say, settle some old scores. It’s not the first time we see a desktop-sized arcade cabinet, and you gotta admire the skills making such a machine smaller while sticking to the old-timey aesthetic! Or, perhaps, would you like a cabinet that’s more subtle?

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TVout Library Brings Cardboard Arcade To Life

Recycling old CRTs is a true Hackaday tradition, and [Rob’s] mini arcade is sure to grab your attention.

First of all, you’ll probably appreciate [Rob] circumventing the supply shortage by getting all his components from recycled material. That’s probably the only way to get anything these days. He salvaged a small CRT from an old-school video intercom system and snagged the buttons, speakers, and switches from other unused devices laying around. Not all is lost, however, as [Rob] was able to purchase an Arduino Nano and a few resistors online. So maybe things are turning around in that category, who knows?

You’ll probably also appreciate how remarkably simple this hack is. No need for a Raspberry Pi as your standard 8-bit microcontroller will do the trick. And, fortunately, [Rob] found a nice library to help him generate the composite video signal, doing most of the work for him. All that was left to do was to build the arcade cabinet. Recreating the classic design was a pretty easy step, but you might opt for something a little nicer than cardboard though. But, hey, if it does the trick, then why not?

Cool project, [Rob]! We’re definitely happy to add this project to our retro collection here at Hackaday.

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Tiny Arcade Uses Tiny CRT

Restoring vintage electronics is a difficult hobby to tackle. Even the most practical builds often have to use some form of modern technology to work properly, or many different versions of the machine need to be disassembled to get a single working version. Either way, in the end someone will be deeply hurt by the destruction of anything antique, except perhaps with [Marco]’s recent tiny arcade with a unique CRT display.

The CRT is a now-obsolete technology, but Arcade and MAME purists often seek them out because of the rounded screen and vintage feel these devices have when compared to modern LCD or LED displays. For a build this small, though, [Marco] couldn’t just use parts from an old TV set as there wouldn’t be clearance in the back of the cabinet. An outdated video conferencing system turned out to have just the part he needed, though. It has a CRT mounted perpendicularly to a curved screen in order to reduce the depth needed dramatically.

The final build uses a tiny Namco system meant to plug into the RCA jack on a standard TV, but put in a custom case that makes it look like an antique video game cabinet. It’s an interesting build that doesn’t destroy any valuable antique electronics, while still maintaining a classic arcade feel. If you’re building a larger arcade cabinet which will still satisfy the purists out there, make sure you’re using a CRT with the right kind of control system.

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Pacman and Ghost custom-LED dispay

Temperature-Sensitive Pac-Man/Ghost LED Matrix

If you’re like us, you never get tired of retro game-inspired projects, and the dynamic duo, [monsely], seem to love them too. Their Temperature-Sensitive Pac-Man/Ghost LED Matrix would make a great desktop display for any gaming enthusiast.

First, they did a bit of sketching on good ol’ paper and pencil to organize all the LEDs they would need and work out the connections. With this many LEDs, coordination is pretty critical or you’ll quickly end up with a big mess on your hands. Luckily, WS2812/Neopixel-style LED strips minimize most of the necessary connections, so that was a relief. These LED strips only need a single GPIO for control, making it easy to get this project going with a pretty basic microcontroller.

Just displaying an animated graphic was a bit too simple for [monsely]. They decided to make the Ghost temperature-sensitive, changing to blue if it’s cold outside and red if it’s warm. Of course, you’ll probably want to tweak the thresholds based on where you live or how your HVAC system is doing. Pac-Man stays the classic yellow, which we would expect.

Of course, no good desktop display would be complete without a proper enclosure. [monsely] opted for a cardboard box, but we’re sure you could laser cut or print something a bit sturdier and a bit more aesthetically pleasing. But, hey, whatever works, right?

Reverse-Engineering Forgotten Konami Arcade Hardware

When fully-3D video games started arriving in the early 90s, some companies were more prepared for the change than others. Indeed, it would take nearly a decade of experimentation before 3D virtual spaces felt natural. Even then, Konami seems to have shot themselves in the foot at the beginning of this era with their first foray into 3D arcade games. [Mog] shows us the ins-and-outs of these platforms while trying to bring them back to life via MAME.

These arcade machines were among the first available with fully-3D environments, but compared to offerings from other companies are curiously underpowered, even for the time. They include only a single digital signal processor which is tasked with calculating all of the scene geometry while competing machines would use multiple DSP chips to do the same job. As a result the resolution and frame rate are very low. Nonetheless, [Mog] set out to get it working in MAME.

To accomplish this task, [Mog] turned to a set of development tools provided to developers for Konami in the early 90s which would emulate the system on the PCs of the time. It surprisingly still worked on Windows 10 with minor tweaking, and with some other tools provided over the decades of others working on MAME these old Konami machines have some new life with this emulator support.

Not everything works perfectly, but [Mog] reports that most of the bugs and other issues were recently worked out or are being actively worked on by other experts in the field. If you remember these games from the arcade era of the 80s and early 90s, it might be time to grab an old CRT and fire this one up again.

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DOOM Ported To Sega Naomi Arcade Hardware

Porting DOOM to new hardware and software platforms is a fun pastime for many in the hacker scene. [DragonMinded] noticed that nobody had ported the game to the Sega Naomi arcade hardware, and set about doing so herself.

The port builds on work by [Kristoffer Andersen] who built a framebuffer port of DOOM previously. It’s available pre-compiled, complete with the shareware WAD for those eager to load it up on their own Naomi arcade cabinets.

Unlike some limited ports that only give the appearance of a functional version of DOOM, this port is remarkably complete. Loading, saving, and options menus are all present and accounted for, as well as directional sound and even WAD auto-discovery. With that said, there’s only 32 KB of space for save games on the Naomi hardware, so keep that in mind if you find yourself playing regularly.

We love a good DOOM port, whether it’s on an arcade machine, an old forgotten Apple OS, or even a UFI module.

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