The Pijamma project

CabinetSome 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.

board

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:

Stay tuned.

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