Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Stage 12: Deus Ex Machina

After much contemplation, many cheeseburgers and successive visits from Chuck Tetreault and Ben Harnish to distract me from my MAME tasks, I finally dove back into this project in earnest about a week ago.

Having finally received the ArcadeVGA graphics card from Jolly Ol' England, I set about finding a way to splice in the VGA cord into the Tetris cabinet, if only to see how easy a process hooking my MAME PC up to an arcade monitor could be.

The Upside: The pre-hacked and labelled cord was totally worth the extra $7.00 I paid for it, as splicing the connectors to their RGB/HS/VS counterparts was pretty darned easy (and it finally justified my purchase of electrical tape made two months previous).

The Downside: Getting the PC to actually run at a resolution that was viewable in any sense of the word was a totally different story. I'll spare you the volumes of Internet geekery I subjected myself to while trying to demystify how screen resolution, horizontal and vertical refresh rates and Interlacing vs. Composite Sync display options complicate what I presumed was to be a rather easy process, but suffice to say it was nothing of the sort.

There was a breakthrough after I installed PowerStrip, a common graphics tool used my MAME afficianados for just such instances, as I finally managed to actually get to my Windows XP desktop after about 45 consectutive trips into the Task Manager to close any number of unresponsive or conflicting programs.

But the breakthrough was short-lived, as after a gruelling 4 hour session spent twiddling with knobs on the back of this ancient (and apparently no longer in production) RCA 82-26WNA monitor, it was clear that there were serious interference issues, most likely due to a poorly soldered diode or perhaps even within the tube cap itself.

So it came down to this: I *could* press forward and hope to figure out this resolution nightmare at some other point, or I could once again lay out some cash and get a television to replace this arcade monitor altogether. While not as cool as a real arcade visual experience, I knew for a fact it would be a hell of a lot easier to hook up while greatly reducing my recurring fear that these dusty and tempermental monitors would erupt into flame if left on too long.

After more deliberation, I came to a decision: despite the cost and labour involved in carting these damned monitors into Allan Street, my lack of electrical expertise and the dubious working order of the units was simply no longer to my advantage. As such, I am planning stripping the monitor out of the Tetris cab and replacing it with an old fashioned CRT television with S-Video input.

What This Means For The Project: Once that monitor is out of the cabinet, it's going to join the entirety of the massive Wrestlefest cabinet pieces and that huge Wells-Gardner monitor that may or may not work at the curb outside my house. So if you hear a news story headline along the lines of "Homeless Junk Collector Perishes In Tragic Arcade Fire", know that it is legally not my fault.

Also, this means my tenure with the ArcadeVGA card will indeed be a short one, as I plan to sell this thing on eBay to help defray the cost of a new TV, leaving me back with my out TV-Out video card. Good times.

And so we are now completely caught up and in the present tense in this project. Hopefully I am nearing the homestretch with this damned thing and I can have people over to play the finished product before there's snow on the ground.

I promise more reports (and more pictures of the actual work once my camera is fixed) in the near future.