Get Dad an Arcade Machine for Father's Day
Arcades were big in the '70s and '80s, but died out during the '90s.
CREDIT: Public Domain
A new tie is an acceptable Father's Day present, but if you want to deliver something a little unexpected, consider giving Dad a freestanding arcade machine, capable of running more than 200 classic video games from the '70s and '80s.
Recreating an entire arcade from scratch is only possible if you have a huge basement and an entire shelf of '80s hair metal vinyl records, but making a single machine (called a "cabinet") is well within the reach of mere mortals. Although you can either buy a prebuilt machine or assemble your own from scratch, neither option is perfect: The former is expensive, and the latter requires a little legwork.
A company called Dream Arcades sells five different styles of arcade cabinets, each one boasting a collection of classic titles from Atari ("Asteroids"), Midway ("Joust"), Namco ("Pac-Man") and more.
The standard model, called the Cabaret Dreamcade 2.0, offers a cathode-ray tube screen, two built-in controllers (each with a joystick and six buttons), 140 classic games and a cabinet that's small enough for children but big enough for anyone up to 6 feet 2 inches to play without bending over.
The price tag is not for kids, though. A Cabaret Dreamcade 2.0 will set you back $1,899, plus $279 shipping in the continental United States. Furthermore, if you want slightly more obscure titles like "Q*bert" or "Golden Tee Golf," you'll have to shell out anywhere from $29 to $99 each.
But if you're willing to put in a little elbow grease, you can save a bundle by building your own arcade machine. [See also: Cool Gadgets Top Tech Gifts for Dad]
Dream Arcades' machines are simply PCs running old video games on emulator software. Video games from the '80s and '90s require very little power to run properly, so any old PC will do fine. Companies frequently sell PC compilations of their old arcade games, like the Atari: 80 Classic Games in One collection on Amazon (this one retails for $40, although other collections tend to be cheaper). Similar collections exist for Midway, Sega and Capcom, as well as thousands more unlicensed "clones" if authenticity isn't a big deal for you.
The hard part is finding a cabinet housing. North Coast Custom Arcades sells a variety of kits, but its basic stand-alone model retails for $550. Trawling eBay or Craigslist for prebuilt cabinets is time-consuming, but can yield a pristine specimen for only $100 or so.
If you know how to read a blueprint, though, consider building a cabinet from scratch: sites like Jakobud.com provide everything but the wood. The process is lengthy and difficult, to be sure, but if you have access to basic woodworking tools (and can use them without impaling yourself), you can probably build an arcade machine.
The Internet hosts quite a few good arcade-building tutorials, such as the one at HowStuffWorks. A few basic skills in PC gaming, woodworking, electronics can help you craft a machine that would be right at home in Flynn's Arcade from "Tron."
Whether you buy or build, an arcade cabinet might be just the thing to inspire a little quality time with your dad and remind you both a little about growing up in the days before multiplayer games had to be online.