First off, can I just take a minute to admire the insane amount of work that was put into this original cabinet? After I got the cabinet inside and to a place where I could begin work on it, it was time to take the back off and take a look inside. The sheer amount of (heavy) electronics, circuit boards, and components required to make this (now rudimentary, then cutting edge) game work is amazing.

To back up for just a second, unfortunately there was no key included to unlock the back of the cabinet. The rear door had a simple tumbler lock on it. After a bit of jiggling with a lock pick, it wasn’t opening up. That might have had something to do with the fact the the rear panel was also secured with some wood screws. A quick trip to the toolbox and I was in.

Who knew it took two motherboards stacked on top of each other to power a single game?

Once I was inside, I was able to loosen the four bolts that fixed the main tube monitor to the rail system on the sides of the cabinet walls. Once those bolts were off, the monitor just slid right out the back.

Once of the great things about this build is that we’re not having to rely on any of the original parts for this build. The plan is to ultimately bypass most of the original components and just build our own system inside. It should be a lot lighter by the time we’re done! Once the monitor came out, it was time to pull off the banner across the top of the game. The plastic was pretty easy to slide out of the bottom edge of the slits.

Once the banner was out, it was time to pull the control deck. Lucky enough (or maybe by design) the entire control deck was simply latched down from the inside. Once you pull the latches and detach the wires, the control deck just comes right off.

Once the control deck was removed, it was time to replace the components. Unfortunately, the way Galaga was designed, the joystick was only built to operate on the X-axis. In other words, it can only move left or right. There was no up, down, or diagonal movement allowed. There were only two sensors on the joystick box. One sent a signal for left, the other sent a signal fro right. The “one player” and “two players” buttons look to be completely original, hence their super sturdy steel construction. Looks like the “fire” button had been replaced, since it looks almost identical to the button’s we’ll be using for this build. Regardless, all the components on this control panel need to be removed in favor of controls that are USB compatable. Time to unsolder everything!

Now that the cabinet is almost completely gutted, it was time to draw out a rough wiring diagram for the new build. It’s a pretty simple setup. Power out of the wall through a power switch. That switch powers a power strip that powers dimable lights that will go on top, behind the banner. It also powers the new flatscreen monitor that will be mounted on the modified rail system. It will also power a Raspberry Pi as well as a small amp that will be used to translate audio from a 3.5mm headphone jack to speaker wire. I think we’re going to end up keeping the original speaker that’s mounted at the top. During the initial boot up, the speaker seemed to be the only thing still working.

Testing the new controls

Before we get too far into this, I wanted to make sure that the controls that were purchased for this build are actually working. So to do a quick test, I went ahead and build out a simple joystick and button, ran them through a little microcontroller that essentially made my inputs readable via USB, and tested it with everyone’s favorite Bible based video game, Jonah and the Whale. Once I remaped the controls to accept joystick input, it worked!

That’s all I have for this update! Stick around and find out what happens next. Once the cabinet is built, then the real work (programming) begins!