Emulation.


During my final year of Uni' a friend set up MAME on a PC in the computing lab, it turned that machine into a virtual arcade. This opened up a world of gaming for me. When I started work with LPP I got a workhorse PC, within a week it had several emulators installed and I was working on a better control scheme than the lousy default keyboard input.

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Arcade-a-Tron Mk1

Some time later, the guts of this PC made it's way into a home-made arcade cabinet. I might've used my Magic Sword cabinet but because it took up so much space in my tiny room, it was relegated to a corner of my workshop. After years of winter damp and summer heat, it eventually fell apart. In the end the chipboard side panels looked like weetbix.

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Arcade-a-Tron.

diy icon How to build an arcade machine (rough guide).

Arcade-a-Tron2 Cube

After a while, the sheer bulk (600mm cube) and heft (30+kg) of the Arcade-a-tron became a real pain and I yearned for a more compact console-like emulation box. At this point, I could've bought a HTPC or similar but where's the fun in that?

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Arcade-a-Tron MK2.

The Arcade-a-Tron MK2 is a simple black cube with a 1Ghz Duron based PC. Plenty of oomph for most 8-32 bit emulation. Hooked up to a TV it does a pretty good job of pretending to be a (boxy) retro gaming console. Now, if I could only take the TV out of the equation...

I had a couple of PSone 5" LCDs sitting around which I'd bought on impulse from the discount bin at ToysRus. After doing some research, I found it was possible to get 15hz RGB out of a PC video card using TV-Tool (which is now abandonware). So began a quest to create a joypad/LCD combo' unit for pseudo-handheld emulation-gaming fun.

Gameboy... Retreat!

Thus, the "Gameboy Retreat" was born; "Gameboy" for it's similarity of form to the GBAsp, "Retreat" because unlike its "advanced" namesake it's bigger, bulkier and tethered to the Arcade-a-Tron Mk2 by a fat cable, making a non-hand-held, sort of handheld.

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Gameboy Retreat.

Don't laugh! Yes it's a bit naff, but it was a lot of fun building and using that thing, (for a while). Now, if I could only take the PC and the fat cable out of the equation..?

Openhandhelds

About a year and a half later, I bought a GP2X, hoping that it would be the doorway to handheld gaming nirvana. It really is a very good machine that would be hard to replicate with off-the-shelf parts; I was considering a mini/nano-itx motherboard with a small touchscreen at one point but the GP2X is smaller, cheaper and more interesting. The GP2X also blends my interest in retro gaming with handheld consoles. I bought an Atari Lynx back in the 80s and have been hooked on handhelds since. (see: Handhelds) The GP2X does a pretty good job of emulating a Lynx too, so the circle is complete.

The GP2X was later complimented by the Caanoo (which doesn't currently have a Lynx emulator) another member of the rapidly growing openhandheld family.

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The GP2X-f100 Mk2 and Caanoo.

Arcade-a-Tron Mk3

I've built another arcade cocktail cabinet, the "Arcade-a-Tron MK3" see the build guide for more detail. The GP2X and Caanoo are great but I missed the authenticity of a real arcade machine. It's nice to have something you can be a bit rough with and play a game of "dubbs" with a friend. And it was fun to build.

diy icon DIY Arcade Machine (MK3 - 2011 guide with some plans).

Don't want to DIY? Try the feedback page to request-a-build.

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Arcade-a-Tron MK3. Click to enlarge.

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