Saturday, January 21, 2012

CRT Monitors-- Soon to be collectable?

Photo credit:
It's been a little while since I posted to this blog (OK, maybe more than a little while), but I really need to give my readers an update on the state of CRT monitors.

If you've been around the BYOAC (that's Build Your Own Arcade Controls, for those new to this hobby) scene for a while you know there are not many CRT monitors being produced anymore, even for arcades.

If you are building an arcade with a 19" monitor it's not really an issue. There are still tons of old 19" computer monitors you can pick up for a song (about $20 seems to be the going rate where I live).
If you are using a PC, then these give you almost the exact same picture quality you'd get with a real CRT monitor.

But if you want to go big, say, 29", you are down to two choices:
1. The 27/29" MakVision, which you can (as of this writing) get from either Happ or Betson. Now, I know I bad mouthed Betson in my book, but I have found a new rep. there who's been much more helpful; his name is: Kevin Cardea. Their service still isn't great, but thier prices are usually better than Happ, and if you are on the West Coast, you might save enough $$$'s (with shipping) to make it worthwile to give him a call.
My advice would be to just make sure you ask about warantee and returns before buying (who pays for what).
This is a great monitor, it's what I've always used in my big arcades. However, it's not as good as it once was. The old version supported up to 1024x768 (at 60khz only), which was nice if you wanted to play some high-end PC games.
Now, the tubes are being wound by a chinese manufacture and only support 800x600. In fact, the new manufacture has had so much trouble this monitor may go away soon (let's hope not).
If you've got the budget for it, it really is the best big screen monitor around.

2. Use an old TV. I know this sounds like cr@p, but really it's not a bad option. Specially if you are on a budget (and who isn't). I've seen nice 29" TV's for $50 or less on Craigslist.
There's just one caveat to this: make sure you get one with VGA or S-video in. Now, if you find one with VGA in, consider youself lucky, real lucky--not many have it.
However, if you look around you should be able to find a TV with a S-video connection. S-video looks vastly superior to conposite . Now if you simply can't find a TV with S-video, or are on a really tight budget and have a free one without it, you can get by with composite (sometimes called RCA) inputs. Just know there will be a noticable downgrade in picture quality.

Here's two more things about old TV's to remember. First, make sure you get one that is nice and bright. In fact, check the brightness and contrast settings to make sure the seller hasn't turned them up all the way. If you get a dim tube, it's just a matter of time before it goes out (usually they just get so dim you can't see the picture).
Second, don't buy a TV with an HDMI input. I know your thinking HDMI=high quality, but remember Santa's advice to Will Ferrell: If you see gum on the sidewalk, don't pick it up--it's NOT free candy. Of course, Will can't help himself and eats it anyway.
Don't be that guy. All TV's with HDMI are wide-screen (yes, even the old CRT ones). You don't want a wide-screen TV in your arcade. Nope, No way, Never. So, HDMI and CRT=PASS.

The options for CRT monitors are shrinking. Soon, we might have no choice but to move to LCD's (or repair our own tubes). Even then, I'll be trolling Craigslist for old 19" 4:3 (non-widescreen) monitors.

Good Luck with your project!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Keyboard Hacks Obsolete (IMHO)

Save  yourself the frustration!
I received an e-mail from a reader asking why I didn't include a chapter about hacking keyboards. The answer: because this is the NO BULL MAME Arcade Guide.
The fact is when you can buy a mini-pac for less than $30 (plus shipping) or for about $5 more get a similar controller from Groovy Game Gear, spending hours first learning about things like matixing, ghosting, and blacking and then actually taking apart and figuring out how to hack your keyboard is just a waste of time.

Sure, ten years ago, it was a great option, but thanks to Andy and Randy (the owners of Ultimarc and Groovy Game Gear) it's just not worth the effort. Now, if you are a masochist there are several good webpages devoted to hacking keyboards (1, 2), but you will not find me wasting either of our valuable time discussing it.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

End of an Era -- Gameroom Magazine Closes

No, the No Bull MAME Guide isn't RetroBlast
Recommended. But I hope Kevin's back soon;
I'd love to send him a copy.
It's a sign of the times, with so many arcade companies going under this year. But this one really hurts. Not only was Kevin, the publisher, a great guy, but he'd improved the magazine so much in just a few years. In the end, subscriptions dropped as did advertising. I know several arcade builders who dropped their ads in the last couple years.

Thew good news for subscription holders is that Kevin isn't leaving them high and dry. He's giving everyone a free PDF edition of every issue. That's a class act.

I for one, hope that Kevin brings back. Maybe as a blog?

Friday, November 5, 2010

The No Bull MAME Arcade Builder's Guide

This is the blog for my book, The No Bull MAME Arcade Builder's Guide. Please feel free to post any comments, corrections or other arcade related stuff.