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On 10/22/2016 08:33 PM, Simon Heath wrote:

So I've figured out how to take the arcade machine apart enough to actually do stuff to it, if we want. Turns out that the computer in it is *really* old, like, Pentium 4 with 512 mb of ram. I'm kind of amazed it still works at all. But I tried at least seeing if I could get Linux or something to boot on it, and it's too old to boot off of a USB drive. And I don't really feel like burning a CD just to see if that thing is salvagable. It's running an old version of software called Maximus Arcade.

There's a pile of custom wiring to get all the inputs and outputs connected to the computer, but it LOOKS like the joysticks end up plugging into a USB input, the monitor is VGA and the sound is just a 3.5 mm jack.

So the question is, what do we want to actually do with it? Our options seem to be:

  • Just update the software to a new version of the same thing
  • Keep the same computer but put Linux on it running MAME or something (maybe
  • Just replace the thing with a RPi

I'll play around with different programs and see if I can find one that works significantly better than what we have.

On the more hardware-y side, I really want to cover the gaping holes next to the coin acceptor with something... maybe plastic with cool laser-cut designs and LED backlighting. The sides of the thing are also just aching for paint and/or decals. Anyone have any good suggestions there?



Years ago, I paid for a lifetime subscription to Hyperspin ( I would be happy to provide that platform if there was interest in using that software. It is pretty damn impressive... Otherwise, there has been much that has advanced with EmulationStation on both the raspberry pi as well as Retrorangepi. The challenge with a pi option will be the wiring harnesses via the GPIO as inputs. I have not seen much outside of support via SNES or Xbox 360 controllers if you do not go the GPIO route for wiring in the controller inputs.


Its Jeremy's, but he moved to Silicon Valley 3 years ago to start a company, and donated a bunch of stuff, including the arcade machine. We can do what we want to it. Jeremy would only encourage it.


From: [1] On Behalf Of Simon Heath
Sent: Sunday, October 23, 2016 5:46 PM
Subject: [hackpgh-discuss] Arcade machine status

Ok, good news and bad news.

Good news: Eris, your Pi works awesome, and the RetroPie software works great. Not perfect, but great.

Bad news, the HDMI to VGA converter I got works perfectly on the Pi station monitor, but doesn't work with the actual arcade monitor. It just shows fuzz and junk, as if the tracking is off on a VCR. I think the vsync rate is off and the Pi's video chip tries to find a rate that works, in vain. There's a control box in the machine that adjusts the vpos and hpos and such, but I've twiddled every knob on it and haven't found anything that even starts to look right.

It's a 24" non-widescreen monitor. Plus the RetroPie emulators for older games appear to have a filter that simulates some of the fuzz in a CRT display anyway. If it was up to me I'd just replace it with an LCD and get rid of the ear-rending whine, but appropriate monitors appear to be $100-200 on eBay and maybe someone who knows more than I can figure out what the problem is and fix it.

Any thoughts?



Try forcing a lower resolution configuration by editing the config.txt file at the root of the SD card for the Pi installation:

Perhaps by defining a lower resolution, you can get into a range that the monitor can handle like (800x600 or so).


There is a setting in raspbian that forces hdmi to work with most monitors I have used. I haven't tried it with CRT yet.

Modify /boot/config.txt make sure these configs are set.


You can’t use a Pi on that…

It is using a modified video card with that computer so that it can use the original arcade monitor. You would need a new monitor. The P4 is enough to handle everything that it plays.

Also, Jeremy asked that we do not modify it. It is on “Permanent Loan”

I would contact him directly.


So! It turns out that arcade machine monitors usually don't use normal VGA signals. Instead, they tend to use a 15 KHz RGB signal, which is less than half the frequency of the 31 KHz VGA signal. Basically, half the scanlines, so half the resolution, but not close enough to half to make conversion trivial. So, as Chad said, the computer in the arcade machine has a non-standard video card. Fortunately the company that makes them is still around and still makes the cards:

And also fortunately, they're huge nerds who have a fairly technical (if somewhat biased) FAQ on arcade monitors:

Unfortunately, the card we have is an AGP card, not PCI or PCIe, and people more or less stopped making computers with AGP slots around... 2006 or so. And we're not going to fit a new graphics card into an RPi more or less no matter what. (The PC in there has a sticker on the bottom labelled 2001; I'm amazed the thing hasn't died already.)

Now, some enterprising hackers HAVE connected a Pi to an arcade monitor, and wrote about it:

Long story short, they used a VGA-to-arcade video converter, much like this one which can be found by searching eBay for "vga to arcade converter": Be careful though, converters from arcade signals to VGA monitors are a lot more common than vice versa.

SO. That's where we sit right now. I will happily try to get in touch with Jeremy and ask if we can replace the CRT, if anyone has his contact info. I kind of want to do that just so we get rid of the ear-rending whine. But apart from that I'm down to messing around with the original PC to see if it can be coaxed into running software that actually works well. If anyone wants to buy a VGA to arcade converter (or build their own!) I'll be glad to put everything together, but I already shelled out $30 for the HDMI-to-VGA converter and this is starting to be less fun.

Also, darn it, I assume the prohibition on modifying the arcade cabinet nixes painting cool stuff on the side, which was going to be my next idea...


Well I've spent two weekends fighting with the old computer, two weekends messing around trying to make the video output work with a RPi, and $60 on video converters, and I'm officially sick of it. I have a converter board that claims to be able to output to the old-ass CRT format the monitor accepts, but its VGA output only outputs, oddly enough, VGA. I thought it would output old-ass-CRT-through-a-VGA-connector, which is what the monitor is hooked up to accept, somehow, through some kind of weird control board screwed into the case in the least accessible location possible. There are pins and wires on the converter board I have that MIGHT output the right signal, but I'm not enough of an electrical engineer to be able to figure out how to wire the damn thing together and I'm not patient enough to try.

So if people want to pass a hat around to spring for a new monitor I'll gladly help put the thing together and make it work, but I don't have the cash to do it myself. If someone else wants to solve the video issue I'll take on the software side of things, but I'm bloody sick of fighting with it. So, that's it.


Status as of Feb 1, 2017

Put back together, still using the old computer and software. The second hard drive in the thing still has Linux installed instead of 40 gigs of Amiga roms.

Status as of April 16, 2019

We got rid of it ages back, thank Eris.