Saturday, 20 February 2021

Vec-Cab continues

 After a long hiatus away from the Vec-Cab project I return!

So first step, continue with mounting the Vectrex securely into the cabinet. Early readers will remember I had made a tray for holding the Vectrex and  that pivots open to  a horizontal position for easy (operator) access or closed in an angled position so the Vectrex sits flush with the external glass.

There's been a change since I considered this all those years ago. That is Laurnence Bennion's Ultraviolet overlays. These overlays and UV light bezel by James Watt combo give the effect of a holographic dimension where depending on the UV light intensity the Vector graphics appear to float either behind or on top of the overlay. I definitely wanted this built into my cabinet.

Therefore to incorporate the UV light bezel, I had to take into account the extra total thickness when the tray holding the Vectrex is closed. The trick was getting the Vectrex and tray to sit completely horizontal when the tray was closed. This took several iterations and new holes to support the tray.

Anyhow, I eventually sorted it out. To finish the tray off I gave the tray a lick of varnish:

The last step was to put in cloth tape into the tray  hole that the Vectrex will sit in, just to show the Vectrex an extra bit of love! Hopefully, this should ensure that I don't scratch any Vectrex consoles placed in the tray hole.

The final result with the tray secured in the cabinet and a Vectrex in place:

It's starting to come together...

Monday, 16 April 2018

More inspiration!

Wow, hot on the heals of the Vect-Rex Vectrex arcade cabinet by "Guys, Games and beers", Jason Kopp has also  built a Vectrex based  full arcade upright and this one uses a colour vector monitor!

Of course Vectrex games were never designed from the beginning to have colour  other than through pseudo colour using coloured overlays. However, Jason as built some electronics that generates different colours on a colour Vector monitor  according to Vectrex brightness. As a result some of the standard Vectrex  games already look pretty good as a result of the colour mod and with no change to the program code. New home brews should be able to take advantage of the relatively simple programming (through change in Vector brightness) required to generate colour to make even more impressive colour displays.

For those lucky ones who attended the Midwest Gaming Classic trade show, Milwaukee, USA,  this weekend gone, they got to see and play  both this and the Vect-Rex.

The bar has been set!

Sunday, 1 April 2018

I’ve just seen it was February 2014 that I made my last blog entry!  The Vec-Cab reached 65% completion and then other projects became more interesting.

But it’s amazing how priorities can change because of a chance encounter, and as such I now officially re-open this blog to continue documenting my endeavours for creating an upright Vectrex cabinet J

The chance encounter was seeing the video from the collective known as "Guys, Games and Beer". They have developed a full size Vectrex upright cabinet with a 19 inch monitor and it looks beautiful. 

“Guys, Games and Beer” informed  that they were inspired by the work of Jason Kopp aka Arcade Jason.
In the last quarter of last year Jason posted a couple of  YouTube videos where he had taken a 19 and 23 inch vector arcade monitors and converted them for use with the Vectrex. At the time I  was also captivated by the thought of a 19 inch monitor for displaying Vectrex games and purchased a spare monitor Jason had found end of last year. This monitor would be too big (wide) to fit in my Vec-Cab, but already in my mind were thoughts about a bigger sister cabinet to house this monitor.

Unfortunately, the courier(s) had been rather unkind to the package USA to UK travels and I received a half open box from the post office and a letter saying the delivery had been damaged. Early attempts at getting a  correct picture were not successful. 

The vector beam was shown at full brightness and I could not turn it down – this meant that all the vector drawing was visible.  This project is on hold until I have more dialogue with Jason - but as and when there is a postive update I will report here.

Anyway, back to the “Guys, Games and Beer” system which they call Vect-Rex. They took an old cabinet and mounted in it a 19 inch monitor in vertical orientation linked to a Vectrex with multi-cart. Vect-Rex is a standard size cabinet so they could fit a two player control panel.

The most ingenious thing about the Vect-Rex cabinet is how the overlays are changed according to the game being played. This is achieved by a scrolling overlay. Basically, a number of enlarged overlays have been printed on a roll of transparent sheet. Through markings on the sheet and use of a light sensing sensor, the roll is advanced in the upward or downward direction on motorised rollers. A button corresponding to up or down needs to be pressed to advance the roll one overlay at a time. 

Thanks "Guys, Games and Beer", you’ve given me a push to continue with my VecCab developments.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The control panel (part 7) - attaching the control panel to the cabinet

So in the Janaury blog I mentioned the control panel was nearing completion but that I had to figure out how to secure the panel to the actual cabinet.

The cabinet did already  provide provision for securing the control panel in the form of two angle brackets each with a hole for threading through a securing bolt. The original control panel had two bolts (with the head embedded in the panel) at either side. The control panel then fits into place with the bolts passing through the holes. Wing nuts are then screwed in place so everything is a tight fit.

I like this approach because  the embedded bolts are not visible from the top of the panel, and using wing nuts mean that should it be necessary to remove the panel it can be simply done when opening the coin mechanism door.

So I used this approach for the VecCab control panel. It did require complete dissassembly of the VecCab control panel so I could add the embedded bolts. The image below shows the top side of the control panel. You can make out the two bolts at either side of the panel. The bolt heads are in countersunk holes and do not stand proud of the wooden panl surface. I added a bit of glue to the bolt heads to ensure the bolts do not move. All of this will be hidden when the final Perspex panel is on top.

The following image shows the underside of the control panel. You can see the bolts with the wing nuts. Of course the wing nuts are actually fastened to the bolts after the bolts are threaded through the angle brackets on the cabinet. You can also see  a couple of black boxes I have added on the underside. One box will house the electronics which will be responsible for taking the button  and joystick control signals and feeding them to the Vectrex controller port. The other box will house the electronics for proving power the lights that will be embedded in the buttons. To begin with, I will arrange for the lights to be continuiously on - but later I want to switch on and off the lights when coins have been paid - e.g. flashing buttons to act as an attract mode.
The final image shows the control panel on the VecCab and with the buttons and joystick base added.

Nearly there now, all that remains is to wire up the control panel. I'll blog this as soon as it is ready. Then after that you may not be hearing from me because I'll be playing Vectrex games via the VecCab!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Its alive!

Today I show the mains layout used in the cabinet. In the last blog news I talked about two switches to turn on and off the cabinet. The switch at the rear is a pre-exisiting one, whilst the one at the front is a hidden one only for those in the know! The idea being that the VecCab could be placed in a real amusement arcade and not be at risk from rogue persons who like to switch things off. Of course for the home user, knowing about that secret front switch (and hidden reset button)  is very handy. The following diagram shows the VecCab  mains electricity diagram.

I could have just used a junction box or terminal bock and wired the Vectrex and marquee light directly in. But I think its sacrilege to cut off plugs. Therefore instead I purchased a  four way adaptor from Clas Ohlson and mounted it inside the cabinet. It is easy then to plug in what you want. I did buy a small junction box, but this was used just to connect the other wires together and keep everything tidy.

I took the cord off the four way adaptor, soldered some terminal spades to the wires, added heat shrink and mounted to two of the terminals on the mains switch at the rear. This mains switch is recessed at the back and mounted on a metal plate, so I took care to earth the metal plate. The following image shows the metal plate and mains switch detached from the cabinet:

Next I mounted the main switch and metal plate back in the recessed hole at the base of the rear of the cabinet. I took new wires of the-is rear mains switch into a junction box. The secret front mains switch is wired in series with the live signal and connected to the four way adaptor.

The following iamge shows what can be seen when the rear door of the cabinet is removed:

And an image of the back of the cabinet when the rear door is secured:
You can see that its still got the original stickers on, when the cabinet used to earn its living back in the 80's! The stickers are a bitt tatty but for now I'll leave them on, just to make the cabinet look more real.

Secret on/off switch and reset button

Now that the cabinet is starting to take shape I remembered to add a couple  "nice to have"  features that I wanted to include.
Readers of the earlier entries in this blog will know  that my goal is to make an arcade cabinet that would not look out of place  in an 80's arcade. However, I have to also balance those requirements with making  a machine that can be also  used conveniently in my living room (if my girlfriend permits it!)

For living room playing I would like to provide  a reset button in order to reset any games (also useful for getting to the main menu in multicarts) and an on/off switch. A suitable push to make push button was procured.

From its JAMMA days the cabinet already included an on/off rocker switch at the bottom of its back. This is fine if the VecCab was going to be in a real arcade. However, for playing in the living room its   not at all convenient to have to delve round the back of the cabinet every time I wanted to turn it on/off.

The on/off switch will control the power to the Vectrex, marquee light, and power supply for the audio amplifier and cabinet lights. I wanted to be sure that I used  a switch that was able to carry enough amps. After much investigation I purchased a ON-OFF Mini Rocker Switch of  the type SPST 10A 250V Car Boat Dash Light Power Snap-in #SW42 from Eltop Electronics on ebay. I selected this because of its physical size and the current carrying ability (it needs to safely switch on/off the Vectrex, marquee lamp, power supply for ancilliary electronics etc.)

For convenient access for the player,   an on/off switch and reset button  must be mounted somewhere on the front of the cabinet. The location has to be convenient to the home user but hidden from the eyeline of a naughty person should they be visiting  the VecCab in an amusement arcade.

Where to place them? Aha, I have placed them underneath and in the area behind  the coin door, the secondary mains switch on the left and the reset button on the right. This is about knee level for an average sized person.

I drilled two 16mm diameter holes into the shelf that supports the vertical coin door panel.  The power switch and push button were mounted on small steel panels and the steel panels screwed down so that the mounted switch and push button partly protrude through the recessof holes. In effect they cannot be seen, as the holes are ressessed.

 In hindsight I should have added these "nice to haves" right from the beginning when I had better access to the supporting  shelf. Because of the limited space it was a struggle to make the small holes to accept the screws which secured the steel panels. I couldn't use a drill. Rather I had to alterante between a PCB track cutter and a drill bit, rotating them inbetween my fingers whilst pressing them down in the vertical direction. This and the fact I also had to use a small screwdriver (as a result no torque)  gave me an enormous blister on my finger!

The next two images show the switch and button wired up. For the mains switch plate I made sure it was earthed.The second image clearly shows that the recessed switch and button are not visible.

Now that all remains is for the reset push button to be connected. This means opening up the Vectrex and piggy backing a  couple of wires onto the existing reset button. For the on/off switch this needs to be wired to the power circuitry for the Vectrex, light and other anciliaries.I will cover this in the next blog.

Monday, 27 January 2014

The control panel (part 6)

Control panel progress:

Crikey, putting that joystick into the control panel got me head scratching for a while. Good job I took a photo of the order of joystick parts so I could remember how to re-assemble it again.

 As you can see I went for coloured buttons. They have the option of being back lit too. I must say the Perspex is very shiny and shows up any finger prints too easily. Well, my plan is when it comes to be doing the final touches to the VecCab that I will arrange for a printed Lexan layer sticker to go over the top. The artwork for this layer will probably follow the MB Vectrex controller style.

Side view of the nearly finished VecCab control panel.(The T molding is a good tight fit - no glue required!).

Progress going well, but how to secure the control panel into the VecCab? I think I'm going to have to disassemble again. All will be revealed in the next blog......