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Direct Link To This Post Topic: FAQ - Buying an arcade machine
    Posted: 21 Jul 2010 at 3:36pm
This is incomplete.   I'd like the more senior members help in completing this please!   Additions by PM.
Buying An Arcade Machine

So you’ve finally decided to bite the bullet and buy an arcade machine – congratulations you’re not going to regret it!   Below are some snippets of information that we hope will help you in your quest.

- Compatibility

Arcade machines during the late 70’s and early 80’s did not unfortunately adhere to a standard.   Consequently each manufacturer developed their own standard that was completely incompatible with each other and even with their own games (Atari were particularly bad at this).    It is often possible to make a game PCB compatible with another cabinet through the use of an adapter wiring harness.    This maps one games wiring to a different PCB’s wiring requirements (for power, monitor signals, sounds outputs, and control inputs).    For example it’s possible to adapt a Crystal Castles PCB to play in a Missile Command cabinet with a wiring harness. 

To overcome this issue in 1985 the Japanese Arcade Machine Manufacturers Association came up with a new connection standard supporting two 8 way joysticks with 3 buttons for each player, intended for use throughout the coin-op industry to allow for quick interchange of PCB’s in the various companies cabinets.    This standard (JAMMA) was widely adopted and remains in use to this day.    If you have a Jamma compatible cabinet or Supergun it is possible to run a wide variety of arcade game PCB’s without any changes, truly plug ‘n play.   It is also possible to make a wiring adapter harness to allow you to play non Jamma PCB’s in your Jamma cabinet.   

For newer games requiring more than 3 buttons per player (for example Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter), the Jamma standard is still used to provide the majority of connections but an additional “kick harness” is needed to supplement the standard for the additional buttons.

- Size

Arcade machines come in a variety of different shapes and sizes.    The standard arcade machine is known as an Upright (UR).   This is what you would have seen in the majority of arcades during the 80’s and 90’s.   They generally feature a 19” monitor and have approximate dimensions of 6’ in height, 25” wide, and 30” deep.     The second most popular arcade machine (in the UK) was the Cocktail (CT) or “Tabletop” machine.   The most famous Cocktail machine was Space Invaders by Taito which was for a time ubiquitous throughout the pubs in the UK, they usually have a smaller 13/14” monitor and are played sitting down on a small bar stool.    The third type of machine is the Cabaret or Mini machine.   These were upright machines that were generally a good deal smaller than a full UR, they were designed to be more discreet than a full upright machine.   Approximate dimensions being 5” in height, 20” wide, and 25” deep.    The fourth type of machine is the Cockpit (CP).    These are still fashionable to this day for driving games and are more immersive, the object being to make the game feel like a simulator.   Popular classic cockpits include the famous Star Wars vector cab, and the extremely rare Environmental Discs of Tron (EDOT).

- Original/Pirate/bootleg/NOS/Repro

These are terms you will often see bandied around in arcade discussions.   Something is described as “original” if it’s in a pure un tampered with form, all the parts are as they were made by the original manufacturer.    This can refer to full cabinets or parts and is particularly used when describing PCB’s  

Pirate or more commonly Bootleg refers to parts (generally PCB’s) which were made illegally by a 3rd party.   This occurred whenever a game was particularly successful.    Sometimes the original manufacturer either couldn’t supply enough product or unscrupulous people just saw an opportunity to make money.   Either way these Pirates would rip off the original design and game code and produce a copy of the game, usually for a much cheaper price.     Generally bootleg boards are of inferior quality to original boards and the games are often slightly different.   This is not always the case however.

NOS refers to something that is New Old Stock.   This means something that was made by the original manufacturer but never used.   It should be in “as new” condition.

Repro is a term used to describe reproduction items produced for arcade games.    These are generally pieces that can wear out on arcade games like controllers or more commonly artwork.

- Where To Buy/Sell

The single best place to buy arcade games has for some time been the Coin Op section of Ebay (including the US and other sites outside the UK).    Other sources for arcade games and parts include;

This forum

The Jamma+ forum



(need more info here)

- Condition

Condition is generally a very subjective topic.   One person’s “mint” will be another persons “C”.    Generally “mint” refers to a machine that has no external damage, is fully working, and requires no restoration.

(More info needed here)


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