You may or may not know this, depending upon how technologically inclined you are, but you can buy ROMs of the old classic arcade games like Ms Pacman, Arkanoid, Spaced Invader, and much more. (You can also download them off of limewire or kazaa, but that’s illegal if you don’t own the arcade machines) Then there is a group which has developed a program known as the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) which you can use to play these old games. “So?” you may be thinking, “I can find shareware versions of all of those games.” Yes, but this is the actual original version of the game pulled right off the arcade machine without any changes to it whatsoever! What could you do with this? You could do what thousands (or at least hundreds) have already done: build your own arcade machine! There are a few webpages and books on the subject, I know there is one really good book on the subject available at Borders, I can’t remember the title, but it’s fairly obvious. Something like, “Build Your Own Arcade Machine.”
The basics involve building a replica of an arcade cabinet and then sticking a computer inside instead of an actual arcade computer. This allows you to play all the games you have bought (or downloaded) instead of just one game in the cabinet. You can even buy authentic arcade controls online from specialty shops dedicated to making authentic arcade controls. Then you could invite some budddies over and play those arcade games like in the old days. I, myself, plan to do this for myself and my father-in-law who is an arcade-game-junkie. He plays those Nintendo Atari re-releases whenever he’s got a chance.
“Wow, Eric, I’m just as excited as you, but what does this have to do with Linux??” Glad you asked, because I’m ready to divulge that. The BEST part of constructing your own arcade machine is that you can use whatever OS and computer you want. Also, MAME is available for FREE! Linux is free too! So your only cost is hardware and the ROMs.
But the reason why Linux amazed me today is that I finally got MAME working on my Linux laptop. I almost felt this was a lost cause because on my 1.5GHz 1GB RAM Windows XP desktop, the games ran rather poorly. The sound was way off and the characters didn’t quite move around correctly. Boy was I surprised! I loaded up the game in my 500MHz 128 MB RAM Fedora Core 3 GNU/Linux computer and it was blazing! The sound was perfect, the movement of the characters was awesome. I mean, this is how is SHOULD be these arcade games run on a crappier computer than my cellular phone, so it should have been no problem for my desktop. That’s why I was very pleased with how well it worked on my Linux computer. Also, I ran it from the command line so I could see that it was performing all sorts of optimizations which the Windows port doesn’t do.