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The Centipede shim John & Kristie

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projects :: Wednesday, December 17, 2003
The Centipede
FREMONT, SEATTLE, WA :: An arcade machine. Every boy dreams of having one. I guess I never stopped dreaming. I built one!

The idea for the project started when I was reminiscing about old video games, like Donkey Kong, Robotron, Joust, Ms. Pac Man and Street Fighter II. I thought it'd be great to play them again. I knew about emulators and roms for old console systems, like the Atari 2600 and NES. But I was surprised to find out several groups were also working to preserve old arcade games!

MAME, the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator, is a program you can install on your PC to play over 2800 arcade games. More are being added to the list every month. I obtained the roms for some old favorites, and had a blast seeing the colorful, blocky shapes and hearing the great sound effects again. But it just doesn't feel right when you're sitting at a desk, controlling an Italian plumber with a keyboard. I began to wonder, if people were playing old games again, could they be playing them with arcade controls?

Yes, they were! And some of the crazy bastards were even building their own arcade machines! Wow... I knew I had to be a part of this madness.

So I began my research. I read every message in the Build Your Own Arcade Controls message board. I learned an arcade machine is basically a computer in a big plywood box, with a large monitor and some arcade controls. Oh, and a coin door. Gotta have the glowing red coin slots on the front, or else it'll be lame.

Before I began, I needed to come out of the closet and confess my new obsession to my family and friends. I told Kristie I was building an arcade machine, and surprisingly, she supported me. I told my parents I was going to make a mess in their garage during the next four weekends, and surprisingly, they supported me. My dad even volunteered to help! I told my friends I was building an arcade machine, and surprisingly, they thought it was a cool idea. Maybe building an arcade machine isn't so geeky after all?

It is hard work, however. It requires weeks of planning, preparation and construction. I visualized every square inch of my new arcade. I built a model in 3D Studio Max, and drew a full-scale set of working drawings. I tried my best to find the best deals for parts and tools on eBay: an old coin door to refurbish for $50, a 22" NEC monitor for $200, and a plunge router for $50. I also visited the Home Depot over a dozen times.

Building an arcade machine might even involve a trip to the emergency room. On the day I was installing the t-molding, my utility knife slipped and nearly sliced off my thumb. Kristie drove me to Virginia Mason as I bled. It was a pretty impressive gash, and I have a nice scar now to show for it.

But three months and over $1500 later, I finally have my arcade machine, built with my own sweat and blood. It's worth it. I'm happy with the way it turned out. It looks like the real deal. Plays every game I ever played as a kid and teenager. And although it has the fancy slots for them, no quarters needed!

UPDATE: For more photos of The Centipede MAME Arcade Machine during construction, check out the following link:

If you're looking for the marquee graphic, here it is:
Centipede Marquee (large, hi-res file! 12MB)

Finally, if you plan on building something like this, here is an itemization of the costs:
Centipede Arcade Expenses

This entry has been viewed times.
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on Wednesday, February 1, 2006 at 12:46 PM

If you need any parts or want to purchase another game let me know.Nice job on the centipede my websight is www.backthroughtimearcades.com

on Friday, September 22, 2006 at 7:28 AM

I have tried contacting you previously regarding your Centipede build but had no luck. I am desperately seeking your advice now on the Centipede Marquee. I have tried purchasing one off of ebay from Yesterday Arcades and unfortunately came to find out that it was a COMPLETE let down. Faded colors, lines running vertically down the page, blurry. It just angered me when I saw what this guy was producing and selling to people. Of course the picture of the marquee for sale was taken at a distance and the item description was skewed. I see that you had yours done at Kinkos. What was your experience like. Do you have any advice on what paper to use, how much it cost you and perhaps and image you could forward. I see there is a vectored Centipede marquee image floating around on the web but it is not complete.
Thank you John for any help you can provide.

on Tuesday, September 26, 2006 at 12:36 PM

Hi Shawn,

I added a link to the marquee graphic in the description. It's a large PDF file, which you may need to scale depending on the size of your cabinet.

Good luck!

on Wednesday, September 27, 2006 at 3:04 PM

Thank you John.
I like the look of your site...any similar templates out there?
Also...great photos...any books you would suggest if I have digital SLR?

on Thursday, November 2, 2006 at 11:06 AM

Hi !!

Great work respect !! Have you the plans for me
to build the centipede ?

Greats from Germany

on Tuesday, August 25, 2009 at 6:26 PM


What an awesome project! I was wondering if you created the vector graphics or is it something I can find online. I would love to get a copy of it.

Thanks so much!

on Friday, September 4, 2009 at 9:44 AM

Hi Haezel,

Sorry, I don't have any vector art for the graphics. There's a link to the marquee art in the post (a high-res raster image). The side-art was purchased at Arcade Shop Amusements (http://www.arcadeshop.com/). It cost $134 for the pair at the time. Very high-quality print on durable vinyl stickers - worth every penny.


on Friday, June 10, 2011 at 1:29 PM

Hi John.
Awesome job. I have a MAME cabinet that broke in a recent move and I've been researching how I can part it out and use the pieces in a new project. I've decided I want to make something like this. The original Centipede cabinet only housed a 19" monitor. Is that a 19" monitor you placed in the unit? Did you have to add any width the cabinet to fit all the buttons for the control panel? What's the inside width? Do you have a design sketch of the CP? Thanks for any feedback and kudos to the many great projects you have posted here. You're an inspiration!

on Monday, April 2, 2012 at 9:44 AM

The 7800 was released after the NES yes but it was made years brofee, it was actually made to be Atari's answer to the Colecovision but didn't get released due to the home console market crash of 1984. So when Nintendo finally brought over the NES stateside and revived the home console market Atari decided to dust off the 7800 pro system. It's also interesting to note that Atari almost had the rights to release the NES here in the states but the crash killed that deal. .

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