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Wanted: ion iCade


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Anyone have an iCade they'd like to get rid of?  Or maybe you've seen one at your local thrift store?  I'm not having luck finding one locally.  Update:  I found one on craigslist.  See below.


Why would a true retrogamer want one of these?  Well, I was thinking I could hack it be be a mini-MAME cabinet!  Skip the ipad part.  I want to take it apart, add a usb joystick adapter, a mini LCD, and possibly a Raspberry Pi to run MAME.  Plan was to document the process here on Atari.io as a blog post. 



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Found one on craigslist for $20!!


My draft plan:


1.  Take this thing apart to determine if the controller wiring is usable.

2.  If yes, purchase a USB controller board and wire it up.

3.  Start testing with a laptop.  Does the controller control MAME properly?

4.  If yes....look for an LCD screen that will fit. 

5.  Raspberry Pi purchase and configure. 

6.  Paint the console and put it all together.


I have an ancient GPS screen that has component in.  I'm not sure if that will work, and it might be too small (7").  But first things first....



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OK, this is getting good.  I took the iCade apart and found gold. 


The cabinet came apart very easily.  I placed it aside for later.


The controller is one sealed casing.



with a ton of screws:



Taking that apart reveals pure beauty.  Very nice quality joystick and buttons with lovely colored (easy to trace) wires.  Looks like everything will easily come apart from the little bluetooth board that's the heart of the iCade.  That's garbage now, but it's so cool that it will come apart so easily. 




Now on to the next step...acquiring a USB controller board.  Off to ebay!

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Testing the joystick and the USB adapter. 


The joystick connectors fit perfectly fine as-is into the USB adapter! 



But the buttons do not.  In the Icade, they used this single connector.  The USB adapter expects two wires per button.



So my idea is to snip the connectors that came with the USB adapter and crimp on these fancy Harbor Freight connectors. 



Aha!  They fit now.  Just testing one single button for now.




And BOOM, it works in Windows.  Of course I got the joystick wires backwards on the first try.



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It is working.  But what a pain in the rear.


Getting ROM files onto the Rasp Pi is an ordeal.  For whatever reason, it doesn't like my router and it's really tricky to get it connected.  Once you do, you use an sftp program to move files onto it.  There is a method of using a USB memory stick instead, but it doesn't let you delete anything copied already to the RP. 


And that's not the only thing...you have to use MAME version .37B5 rom files.  I guess there is a way to convert more modern rom files, but it isn't easy. 


Good news:  This older version (B) of Raspberry Pi does run MAME games with no speed issues at all.  Donkey Kong, Pac Man, Frogger, 10-yard Fight, Berzerk...all that I've tried work fine. 


It's perfectly silent.  No moving fans or hard drives. 


That is all for now. 


Now to figure out how to rotate the display 90 degrees....

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It's been awhile, but I do have an update.  I have a lot of MAME games working just fine.  Just need to fine tune the button configuration, and I'll be ready to throw this back together. 


Some random notes:


- Raspberry Pi, while small, is a total pain in the rear end to work with.  Maybe mine is faulty, but it just won't hold a network connection for more than a few minutes.  I've tried different cables and all. 

- Next attempt at a MAME cab will just use a Windows XP setup.  Maybe a small ITX board. 

- I'm not going to spend any more money on a new/bigger screen.  As I said, I hate the rasp pi.  So build what I have and move on.

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And another update.


I've solved my Rasp Pi networking issue.  It was my power adapter!  Underpowered.  I was using a .4 amp adapter.  Switching to a 0.7 amp unit solved the problem!  I don't know what made me think of checking that.  Sometimes I'm convinced it's divine intervention that plants theories. 

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