Building my cocktail MAME arcade cabinet on the cheap! Part 1

By Andrew Davidson
on April 3, 2010

Above is my starting design for my own cocktail MAME arcade cabinet, with a quarter acceptor, 3 player positions with 2 full joystick setups and a single trackball setup for all sorts of arcade fun. It'll have a 20" LCD monitor I have as a display, and using an older (but fast and tiny) ITX motherboard computer running linux of some sort along with a MAME emulator. This way, you can play videogames, or simply hang out and have a few beers. Hence the 'cocktail' arcade cabinet name.

I imagine the three player button areas will tilt out and lock in the upright playing position, and slide down to the hanging unobtrusive position when not being used. Hopefully, those joysticks won't cause to much trouble, as they appear to threaten guests knees. We'll see as we go along.

The odd thing is, I really don't like video games much. I see this project as more of a challenge to build my own vending machine.

Retro Thing has a great article about doing this project on the cheap, and more importantly, some links to some very useful hardware suppliers. Todd Moore over at TM Soft spent a few grand getting his top of the line MAME cabinet running.

Collecting the Parts

Part Supplier Cost
36" Round Glass Table Top Ikea $25 (?)
ITX Computer Unknown $40
20" LCD Display Craigslist $80
Coin Rolldown Quarter Acceptor Happ $32
USB Joystick Adapter Ultimarc $40
2x Joysticks HAPP $20
20x Arcade Buttons HAPP $40
USB Trackball eBay $20
TOTAL $297

OK, I don't actually have any of the arcade parts on hand, they'll all require ordering when I get some mad money to blow. As the economy isn't that great, and I'm on pretty low income these days, this project may languish for a while. We'll see... Check my archives for all the posts on this project.

What I do have, however, is the ITX computer, the 20" LCD Display, the glass table top, and the USB Trackball. That saves me half the startup cost, making this project a go! My first task is to get the computer up and running with a new OS and as many video game ROMS as I can find. I'll also work on fine tuning the design for the cabinet, after reviewing what others have done.

Come back for Part Two...?

In the end, I hope to have an inexpensive, easily reproducible arcade cabinet that could easily be a new source of income for any bar that already has table seating. With nostalgic games of yesteryear, you can expect everyone to find one game they love (Ms. Pac Man, anyone?) and whittle away a few minutes in 8-bit glory. Here is next part of this developing saga.