Maker and arcade gaming enthusiast Marco Guidolin has designed an adapter which helps to connect arcade cabinets to PCs for emulation — but without having to harm the original wiring on non-JAMMA-standard cabinets, unlike traditional approaches to the problem.
“Unfortunately, biggest arcade cabinet manufacturers like SEGA, Nintendo, Atari and others did not adopt JAMMA and the fate of such non-JAMMA cabinets is often a ‘brutal’ reconversion: emptied and rewired from scratch. Definitely a [despicable], not respectful practice, if you ask me,” Guidolin writes by way of background to the project.
“I am firmly convinced that we, tinkerers with a soft spot for the arcade world and free from business constrains should worry about remedying this situation. This is my small contribution to the challenge: an interface with the aim of simplifying the conversion of dedicated, non-JAMMA cabinets, maintaining the original wiring.”
This two-part adapter aims to save classic arcade cabinets from destructive conversion to multi-game PC-connected machines. (📷: Marco Guidolin)
Named for the Japan Amusement Machine and Marketing Association, the JAMMA standard was introduced in 1985 to make it easier for arcade operators to keep customers interest by swapping out game boards in bulky arcade cabinets without having to replace the whole unit — and to make it easier for manufacturers to quickly switch to producing cabinets for the next hot game without having to retool completely. Any JAMMA cabinet can, in theory, accept any JAMMA-compatible motherboard — but if your cabinet isn’t JAMMA standard, your options are more limited.
Guidolin’s CoinOp Connect is designed to address the problem without damaging classic arcade cabs. The adapter, powered by an Arduino Micro and an Arduino Nano R3 working side-by-side, accepts a series of “fingerboards” which adapt its wiring for a range of non-JAMMA cabinets — including the SEGA X-Board, Super Hang-On, and Outrun cabinets, the Atari System 2 and Pole Position cabinets, and the NAMCO Pole Position cabinet.
When installed in place of the original game board, the CoinOp Connect allows the cabinet to be connected to a PC to play emulated versions of the original game — either while the original board is being sent off for repair or, in the event that it’s irreparable, as an outright replacement for the original game board. “I am not suggesting you to replace your cab original game with a PC to run an indefinite number of games. Don’t get me wrong,” Guidolin notes. “Original hardware [has] to be preserved, and you can bet there’s nothing more genuine than genuine hardware.”
The board can be customized for different arcade cabinets using “fingerboards,” like this for the Atari Pole Position cabinet. (📷: Marco Guidolin)
The project is an off-shoot of Guidolin’s earlier Raspberry Pi Pico-powered Whirlwind board, which was designed to connect a JAMMA-standard cabinet to a PC — which in turn was a successor to Monsterbash, itself a successor to Earthshaker, which in turn was based on Guidolin’s Jammarduino proof-of-concept adapter design. For JAMMA-standard cabinets, Whirlwind is effectively plug-and-play — but for non-JAMMA cabinets, there’s the CoinOp Connect.
Full instructions on building and using the CoinOp Connect are available in Guidolin’s Instructables write-up, while firmware source code and Gerber files for the main board and its fingerboard add-ons are published to GitHub under an unspecified open source license.