Posts Tagged ‘control panel’

Anyone looking trough arcade parts or cabinets will read “JAMMA board” or “JAMMA compatible” at some point. But, who’s JAMMA? What does JAMMA stands for and why do we care?

Up until maybe 1985, arcade machines were wired pretty much in any way doable. Each manufacturer had different habits, and every machines were wired differently. Total mess when trying to diagnose problems, and a headache to upgrade any cabinet to a different game.

Then came an arcade manufacturers association in Japan, named the Japanese Amusement Machine and Marketing Association, and they standardized their interface connectivity into one single standard – that standard came to be known as the JAMMA standard.

Mainly, JAMMA is a standardized connection pattern that permits every game under that standard to work in one another’s cabinet by using specific pins for everything from joysticks to buttons passing by power input, video and sounds. It does facilitate upgrade, but also diagnostic by permitting to interchange potentially faulty boards with known working ones. Any working ones.

It facilitated operator’s job considerably.


The JAMMA connector which interface between the cabinet’s buttons/joysticks and the board’s game is a 56 pin 3.96mm/.156 pitch edge connector similar to what was used in the days of cartridges. 28 top and 28 bottom pins. It is pretty much an arcade cabinet universal plug-and-play interface that includes all needed for standard 2-player arcades.

The standard went out in 1985 – meaning that any games older than that will certainly NOT be JAMMA compliant. Most games out after that do follow the standard to some extend. Certain games such as Street Fighters needed extra buttons; those buttons are added trough supplemental connectors.


In the beginning, there was mechanical game machines. Then came computerized videogames arcades. Soon enough, these videogames cabinet were equipped with sticks for gaming controls. Historically, when “home videogame consoles” separated paths from “arcades”, they too used joysticks, but then evolved into using “gamepads”… while “Arcades” still use them sticks. Let explore how this all came out.


The first video game arcade dates back to 1971 and was named “Computer Space”
It looked what was then futuristic, curved shapes and all. Despite original press release using a rotary encoded handle, its control panel had zero ergonomy and was (somewhat) complicated (particularly for its time) with its weirdly positioned buttons. Modern-day gamers would be eased as this plays about as well as using strange keyboard key combination, but in a non-computerized age this wasn’t optimal.


The Invention of the Spinner

It was soon realized that, for the sake of having substential revenue from a machine, controls needed to feel more natural. The main issue with Computer Space was that players had to read instructions in order to understand how to play, but people wouldn’t want to pass trough that learning phase.
The first revelation to fullfill that goal was the “spinner” – that spinning analogic wheel that helps controlling a paddle of some sort. It is still symbolized by the classic arcade videogame Pong released in 1972.


Pong was simple: no buttons, only a spinner. Controls were simple enough that players would know right away how to play.

Other input devices such as a trackballs were also used on other games such as missile commands.