Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The cabinet is here!

Finally the cabinet has been delivered and oh boy what a sorry state it is in. Ok maybe I am being too dramatic and the cabinet is not that bad considering the £40 I paid for it.  But as you can see from the photo it’s just the bare bones. There is no marquee, only a piece of black plastic. The sides are scratched and chipped at the edges. The gold t-mold strip on the edges are chipped in several places. One area looks to have even been melted from a cigarette.  The wooden kick box on the base of the cabinet appears to be warped due to water damage and needs to be completely replaced. 

On the plus side, the cabinet did come with a working twin coin insert mechanism, a  twin joystick and button control panel, a JAMMA power supply, an assortment of buttons and joysticks. Also supplied was a wooden panel door for the back and the opening  reveals plenty of space for the monitor and electronics.

Initial thoughts so far, are that there is far too much space in the cabinet and putting a Vectrex in there with its 5” x 8” monitor will look just plain ridiculous. Apart from that I’ve got an underlying cabinet structure that should form the basis of the VecCab.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

In search of and finding a cabinet

So the plan was to purchase an old cabinet from eBay and ideally with a smaller size than those available for purchase as a kit – there are cabinet types called mini arcade – which are narrower and have a smaller foot print then the norm. For around three months I’ve been typing in “arcade cabinet” into the eBay search engine to see what was available. I didn't need a working arcade cabinet and indeed now and then some sorry examples of broken arcade cabinets did appear on the eBay listings with bid prices ranging from £30-£70. However, one thing I didn't take into account was that all the cabinets are large and transportation soon ramps up the cost. All eBay entries for the cabinets demanded collection from the eBay "winner". I bided my time until finally an eBay listing appeared for an arcade cabinet in my locality. It was an old JAMMA cabinet which had seen better days. Some items come with it like a coin mechanism, control panel and power supply but on the whole it is just a carcass - no monitor and no electronics - Ideal for me. I contacted the seller and he told me he had intended it for a MAME conversion but had never got round to it. His wife had been complaining because it was in his living room. I asked him about delivering it and he was happy to bring it round in his car (turns out he only lives 20mins away). I was the only bidder and have won the cabinet at a cost of £40! So now just waiting for confirmation of a mutually agreeable delivery time…

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Cabinet Design

For the finished cabinet I want it to look as professionally made as possible. I know I can think intelligently and design something very well taking into account all sorts of considerations; the problem is when it comes to actually building it. My poor wood working skills are matched by my limited range of tools (maybe that’s the reason ?). I can stick a shelf up but I'm no DIY expert so making a cabinet from scratch is a big "no no" for me. Getting a carpenter to make a cabinet made from my plans would be expensive. There are cabinet kits available but they seem very expensive, full size and would still require modification. An example is the flat pack from Arcade World UK. I liked the idea of flat pack because it would be more manageable for delivery to my house. The dimensions of that cabinet are Height:160cm x Width:58cm x Depth:60cm which I think are pretty near standard. However, the width of that cabinet brings to mind another point I will need to cover in a later blog:- if I were to put a Vectrex in that cabinet it would look really silly because of the Vectrex console's small 9” display and an alternative (bigger) screen would be required. So still searching for a cabinet solution…

Thursday, 7 June 2012


Here's a photo Vectrex fan Rudy sent me a couple years ago showing his  reconstruction of a Mini-Cade which was a Vectrex based bar table top arcade machine which could be seen in some US bars in the 80's. With the Mini-Cade the player had to put money in to get a set amount of time on the Mine Storm game. A red LED flashed when the player was required to add another coin for more game time. When the time runs out the controls are disabled. Interestingly, the Vectrex consoles were used totally unmodified (no software or electronic hardware changes). Even the Vectrex controller is used as is - they just put a metal sheet with cut outs over the top. Four original Mini-Cades are known to still exist.

For me I want to produce a similar looking system but that is full height and when inserting coins you get extra lives rather than time.

Vec-Cab Genesis

The MB/GCE Vectrex is the one and only games console that employs vector scan rather than raster scan technology to generate images. The Vectrex was released to the video game market in 1982. Although more than quarter of a century has passed since its conception, this unique gaming system is still able to "hold its own" in the 21st century! There is an active Vectrex user community and new software and hardware continues to be developed. This blog document's my journey to make a full size upright arcade cabinet based on the Vectrex.

Back in the early 80’s the most exciting arcade machines were vector based. The Vectrex home arcade console at the time being also vector based brought the truest arcade experience into the home.  Indeed, the Vectrex has the honourable claim as being  the first games console to have had a video game - Cosmic Chasm - ported from it to the arcade (normally it's the other way round with popular arcade games being ported to  home computers and games consoles). But what if the Vectrex could be a true arcade machine of the likes seen in the 80's arcades, i.e. a full height upright  arcade cabinet, where extra lives are paid for with coins? For me that would be a really cool idea.
This is the genesis for a project that I am going to call Vec-Cab (short for Vectrex arcade Cabinet) - That is to build a full size arcade cabinet with the Vectrex fully integrated inside. My ultimate aim is if the finished cabinet  were to be placed in an 80's arcade hall it would not look out of place at all. Therefore it must have all things expected of an early arcade machine, e.g. coin operated,  artwork, marquee etc. To achieve this will require not only a custom cabinet but also bespoke electronic hardware and software to complement the current functionality of the Vectrex.
In this blog I will document my activities relating to this project including ideas and progress. Although  I only start to blog now, this project has been in the making for over a year, with some work and purchase of parts already in progress.