Trashed Vector Game Console Revived With Vintage IBM Monitor

We’ve all had the heartbreak of ordering something online, only to have it arrive in less than mint condition. Such are the risks of plying the global marketplace, only more so for used gear, which seems to be a special target for the wrath of sadistic custom agents and package handlers all along the supply chain.

This cruel fate befell a vintage Vectrex game console ordered by [Senile Data Systems]; the case was cracked and the CRT was an imploded mass of shards. Disappointing, to say the least, but not fatal, as he was able to make a working console from the remains of the Vectrex and an old IBM monitor. The Google translation is a little rough, but from what we can gather, the Vectrex, a vector-graphics console from the early 80s with such hits as MineStorm, Star Castle, and Clean Sweep, was in decent shape apart from the CRT. So with an old IBM 5151 green phosphor monitor, complete with a burned-in menu bar, was recruited to stand in for the damaged components. The Vectrex guts, including the long-gone CRT’s deflection yoke assembly, were transplanted to the new case. A little room was made for the original game cartridges, a new controller was fashioned from a Nintendo candy tin, and pretty soon those classic games were streaking and smearing across the long-persistence phosphors. We have to admit the video below looks pretty trippy.

If arcade restorations are your thing, display replacements like this are probably part of the fun. Here’s a post about replacing an arcade display with a trash bin CRT TV, an important skill to have is this business.

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Convert A Kerbside CRT TV Into An Arcade Monitor

While an old CRT TV may work well enough on a MAME cabinet project, the real arcade purists are quick to point out that a proper arcade monitor and a TV aren’t the same thing. A real arcade board uses RGB to connect to the monitor, that is, direct control over the red, green, and blue signals. Conversely video over coax or composite, what most people associate with old CRT TVs, combine all the video information down into an analog signal. Put simply, RGB allows for a much cleaner image than composite.

Many in the arcade restoration scene say that trying to convert a bog standard CRT TV into a RGB monitor isn’t possible, but [Arcade Jason] had his doubts. Over on his YouTube channel, he’s recently posted a tutorial on how to go from a trashed CRT TV to a monitor worthy of proper arcade gaming with relatively little work. As real arcade monitors are becoming increasingly rare, these kind of modifications are likely to get more common as coin-op gamers look to keep the old ways alive.

Now obviously every TV is going to do be different inside. All CRT TVs contain high voltages, and on some the circuit boards aren’t even mains-isolated, so take care if you try this. [Jason] certainly doesn’t claim that the method he demonstrates will work on whatever old TV you happen to have kicking around. But the general idea and some of the techniques he shows off are applicable to most modern TVs, and can help you tailor the method to your particular piece of gear. It all starts with a wet finger. Seriously.

[Jason] demonstrates a rather unique way of determining which pins on the TV’s control chip are responsible for the individual color signals by wetting his finger and sliding it over the pins. When a change in color is seen on the displayed image, you know you’re getting close. We can’t say it’s the most scientific or even the safest method, but it worked for him.

He then follows up with a jumper wire and resistor to find the precise pins which are responsible for each color, and solders up his actual RGB connection for the arcade board. In addition to the three color wires, a sync signal is also needed. This is the same sync signal used in composite video, so all that’s needed is to solder to the pad for the original composite video jack. Add a ground signal, and you’ve got yourself a proper RGB monitor.

Interestingly, this one has come full circle, as [Jason] says his attempt was inspired by an old post on Hackaday. It’s the Circle of Hacker Life.

[Thanks to Seebach for the tip]

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Playing Pong With Micro:bits!

Where would the world be today without Pong, perhaps a lot less fun? For people like [Linker3000] the game is an inspiration toward teaching the next generation of hackers to build and play their own version using Micro:bits as controllers!

Aiming for doing all manner of diligence, [Linker3000] says the code can simply be uploaded to an Arduino — foregoing throwing together a circuit of your own — if you want to jump right into things. For the workshop environment, this setup uses composite video outputs — but this shouldn’t be an issue as most TVs still retain these inputs.

Once built — or sketch uploaded — the Micro:bit paddles can be connected to the ATmega328p and played like an old-school controller, but [Linker3000] has enabled Bluetooth control of the paddles’ A and B buttons via the Bitty app. Additionally — if wires really aren’t your thing and Bluetooth is too new-school for such an old game — a second Micro:bit can control the wired paddle using their built-in radio, provided they’re configured accordingly.

On top of Pong, there are also squash and soccer game modes! Check out the demo after the break.

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Dumping Arcade ROMs the Hard Way

Nostalgia is a funny thing. That desire we all get to relive past memories can make you do things that in any other scenario would be out of the question. The effect seems even stronger when it comes to old video games. How else can you explain buying the same games over and over every time they get “remastered” for the next generation of consoles? But what if those remasters aren’t good enough?

If you have a burning desire to play a 100% accurate version of certain old arcade games, you might have your work cut out for you. Getting precise ROMs from some of these machines is exceptionally difficult, and as explained on the [CAPS0ff] blog, sometimes requires nearly superhuman feats of engineering.

As explained in the blog post, less invasive methods of getting inside the Taito C-Chip had already been examined and come up lacking. Despite best efforts, sending the unlock command to the chip didn’t yield the desired effect. If you can’t read the ROM the usual way, you need to get a little creative.

The process starts by milling down the case of the chip until the integrated circuit is just starting to become visible. Then acid is used to fully expose the traces. The traces are then tinned, and some very fine soldering is done to get the chip wired up to the reader. All told it takes about three hours from start to finish to pull a ROM using this method. But it’s all worth it in the end when you can play that 100% accurate version of Rainbow Islands. Or so we’ve been told.

If you couldn’t tell, this isn’t the first time a chip has been flayed open like this on the [CAPS0ff] blog.

DRM Workarounds Save Arcade Cabinet

DRM has become a four-letter word of late, with even media companies themselves abandoning the practice because of how ineffective it was. DRM wasn’t invented in the early 2000s for music, though. It’s been a practice on virtually everything where software is involved, including arcade cabinets. This is a problem for people who restore arcade machines, and [mon] has taken a swing at unraveling the DRM for a specific type of Konami cabinet.

The game in question, Reflec Beat, is a rhythm-based game released in 2010, and the security is pretty modern. Since the game comes with a HDD, a replacement drive can be ordered with a security dongle which acts to decrypt some of the contents on the HDD, including the game file and some other information. It’s not over yet, though. [mon] still needs to fuss with Windows DLL files and a few levels of decryption and filename obfuscation before getting the cabinet functional again.

The writeup on this cabinet is very detailed, and if you’re used to restoring older games, it’s a bit of a different animal to deal with than the embedded hardware security that older cabinets typically have. If you’ve ever wanted to own one of these more modern games, or you’re interested in security, be sure to check out the documentation on the project page. If your tastes are more Capcom and less Konami, check out an article on their security system in general, or in de-suiciding boards with failing backup batteries.

Push Buttons, Create Music With A MIDI Fighter

Musicians have an array of electronic tools at their disposal to help make music these days. Some of these are instruments in and of themselves, and [Wai Lun] — inspired by the likes of Choke and Shawn Wasabi — built himself a midi fighter

Midi fighters are programmable instruments where each button can be either a note, sound byte, effect, or anything else which can be triggered by a button. [Lun]’s is controlled by an ATmega32u4 running Arduino libraries — flashed to be recognized as a Leonardo — and is compatible with a number of music production programs. He opted for anodized aluminum PCBs to eliminate flex when plugging away and give the device a more refined look. Check it out in action after the break!

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DIY Diner Booth with Cocktail Table Arcade

[Glennzo] has a house with some odd interior design choices. The most glaring one is a living room/den complete with a green Jacuzzi hot tub straight out of the 1980s. The tub really didn’t fit with [Glennzo’s] plan to use the space as a bar and game room, so out came the Sawzall and demo hammer. The tub was in its own little alcove, possibly a converted closet. [Glennzo’s] turned the space into a restaurant style booth complete with a cocktail arcade table.

The fiberglass tub was relatively easy to cut up and remove. This left the wood framed tile tub surround. The surround was extended to become a booth seat. A bit of creative woodworking, some vinyl cushions, and the booth itself was ready. But what good is a booth without a table?

The cocktail table arcade machine is powered by a mini-tower running MAME. The monitor is an old 21″ LCD. The frame of the table is plywood and pine lumber, finished with stain and polyurethane. The illuminated buttons and interface came from an arcade control kit, which made wiring a snap. The table is topped off with a custom 3/8″ thick piece of glass.

The final product looks great and fits the room perfectly. Now [Glennzo] just needs a BarBot to finish off the perfect hacker and gamer paradise!