You can buy M.A.M.E. cabinets. They're not expensive.
You can buy flat pack cabinets and put the bits in. That's not expensive either.
The other thing it's not, is much fun.
What I figured would be more fun was building a M.A.M.E. cabinet for as little money as possible.
Originally I was going to use my ASUS Transformer Tablet and deconstruct a USB joystick - but then I figured the quality wouldn't be that good, so that's another factor then - the quality.
Cost? Quality? Starting to sound like a project now... So lets 'define the scope' shall we. (Guess who went on a Project Management course recently?)
The scope is to build a good looking, high quality M.A.M.E. cabinet.
It must be a self contained unit.
It must have a good quality Joystick, and a minimum of 8 buttons.
It needs a CRT screen - the games I will be playing were designed for a 4:3 ratio and scanlines - LCD's don't come with either of these.
Most importantly of all, I want to do all this for a budget of £50.
To break that budget down broadly:
£15 for a Joystick and Button pack from Ultracabs.
£10 for a USB encoder for the Joystick and Button from eBay
£8 for amplified speakers
£10 for hard finishing filler
The more astute among you will have noticed some missing elements from that list - I'll address them one at a time...
1)The material for the cabinet.
I've been building furniture from pallet wood for most of the year.
Back in the spring I hadn't done any carpentry since school. However, fueled by an addiction to Pinterest my girlfriend decide I should try my hand at building a bookcase out of pallets that she could get for free from her dad's place of business.
It turned out pretty well.
6 months later we have a bookcase, a TV Unit, a kitchen unit, a fitted pantry, and a storage bench.
I've also sold a couple of coffee tables and birdhouses on eBay.
Turns out I can do this carpentry thing - especially with the two heavy boxes of my Grand dads old tools - and a barely used router - that my brother shipped down from Bedford for me.
As the pallet wood is of variable quality everything I've made so far is in a Rustic/Industrial style, this won't do for my M.A.M.E. Cabinet, hence the chunk of budget on finishing filler.
This stuff dries to a rock hard sand-able finish, the idea is that - when all is said and done and after a coat of paint - you won't be able to tell that the material is wood at all.
2) The PC
My girlfriends brother works for an insurance company in the tech department - I had planned to tap him up for any faulty PCs or Laptops he came across that could be cheaply repaired.
However, the subject came up in conversation with an old boss who advised me that he had a few old small form-factor PC's that were no longer required. I could have them gratis. Perfect.
3) The Screen
Freegle. I created an account at 9am, posted a 'want' for a 14 or 15 inch CRT monitor at half 9, and by home time the same day I already had 6 different people offering me their unwanted units.
One kind Freegler dug the monitor and all the cables out of the loft, cleaned them, and even offered to deliver... all before I'd even said I'd take it. Nice. (Cheers Helen!)
So that's my scope.
Take the above.
Turn them into a working M.A.M.E. system cabinet.
Spend the equivalent cost of one new PS3 game.
So, where to begin...