Some 15 years ago, the retro arcade craze was starting to gain serious traction, and pictures of modified arcade cabinets running MAME started to appear. Eager to do something similar, I managed to get my hands on a relatively cheap Neo-Geo cabinet and modified it to run MAME as well as a bunch of home consoles. The controls were all genuine Happ controls running off stripped Sidewinder controllers, and the monitor was an actual arcade monitor, running off a video card that was capable of outputting signal at 15kHz. Time passed, things got boring, and I ended up selling the cabinet – with a subsequent case of seller’s remorse.
15 years later, shortly after I ported FinalBurn Alpha to the Raspberry Pi, I started to consider building another cabinet. The same power that was then in a Pentium III now fits nicely in a Raspberry Pi, and the hobbyist electronics market is now in a state that hasn’t been seen since the 1980’s.
Of course, the decreasing use of CRT’s and years of people cannibalizing arcade cabinets has taken its toll – whereas earlier I was able to get a pretty decent cabinet for a relatively low price, cabinets now are almost twice as expensive – and twice as hard to come by. My initial attempts to find one were depressing – either the cabinets themselves were badly damaged, or their components were. I did luck out eventually – got a really nice one from eBay and started working on a new arcade machine.
When I got my first arcade cabinet, I left little of the original unit inside – it was essentially a cabinet with a computer inside. I had ripped out most of the original wiring and the JAMMA connector. The monitor and the computer used separate power supplies and needed to be powered on separately.
While I initially planned to do something similar with the second cabinet, shortly after I started work, I realized that things could be done much more cleanly – without ruining the cabinet. In fact, I decided that instead of modifying the cabinet, I would build an “arcade PCB” that could be swapped into any JAMMA-compatible cabinet. This is how the Pijamma project began.
I started the original work around June 1 – more than a month later, I’m very close to completing the project. The board connects to the cabinet via the JAMMA connector, and provides video, audio, input – provided by a Raspberry Pi and powered by the cabinet. And the best part is that it doesn’t ruin anything – you can easily swap in another arcade game, if you so wish.
The work on Pijamma is nearing completion. I’ve completed most of the work – the remainder mostly involves fine-tuning. I’ve documented most of my work here (I will eventually post everything), and made all the software components available via GitHub. Finally, here’s a brief video showing the current progress: