My Mame Machine
(How to build a custom arcade machine in 70 complicated steps)
I’ve been collecting arcade machines since 1994. The first three machines I purchased were, Robotron, Gyruss, and Zaxxon. I bought them from a local operator and had them delivered to my house. Nothing more fun than spending an hour or so with friends playing games in the comfort of your own home. After that I picked up the odd game here and there. Then I stumbled upon a new arcade emulator, Mame. I downloaded it and enjoyed playing the games I couldn’t find in local arcades.

Fast forward to 2004, I owned 7 arcade games and a couple of pinball machines. A friend of mine, Brad, would stay at my house on weekends while he worked on his rental homes. One Friday night after I kicked his ass at a game of Twilight Zone pinball, he said that he wanted to get a game for himself. I mentioned the latest development for home arcades, the Mame machines on Ebay. We brought up Ebay on my Toshiba laptop and did a search for Mame machines. The results returned a number of cabinets by a few different companies and all were in the $5,000 price range. Brad asked what type of hardware was required. I told him a computer, a few joysticks, buttons, and a monitor (this is the beginning of the end.) Brad looks at the cabinet and says, “Hell, I can make a cabinet like that for 500 bucks.” I did some quick math and said, “I can build computers and assemble all of the hardware for ~1,500. We both decided we could build a couple of machines for roughly $2,000 each and either have really cool game machines or something we could make a few bucks on if we decided to sell. I was ready to go.

I started by building a computer specifically for the cabinet. The main purpose of the computer would be to run Mame but I also wanted to use the system to run a few other applications. I used an AMD Athlon 2800+ with 1GB of memory and a pretty good graphics card. The total price was around $1000. I downloaded the latest version of Mame and tested it on the computer. The first thing I noticed was Mame had a notification screen that could not be bypassed by tweaking the configuration settings. The wonderful thing about Mame is that it’s all open source. This means the source code is available if you want to make modifications, which I did. I downloaded the GCC compiler and all the support files and managed to take out the intro screen and do a few other tricks while I was at it. Now I had a custom version of Mame ready for the cabinet.


The Finished Machine