A MAME cabinet is an arcade game that has been retrofitted with a computer in place of the original system boards. This, (along with emulation software), allows you to play almost any game you can imagine in true arcade fashion.
It is called a MAME cabinet because of the MAME Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator program. This program currently supports over 3000 games, (although about half of them are clones of other games). But you can get a lot more games than that into a MAME cabinet. Once you add the Nesticle, Zsnes, Dgen, Callus, No$gb, Meka, Raine, and Ultra HLE emulators you will have well over 10,000 games on a single machine. That is assuming you download all of the available roms.
Mame cabinets are also great for playing PC games. You haven't played Quake 3 Arena until you have played it on a MAME cabinet, provided there is a trackball on the control panel that is.
Your MAME cabinet is going to be the center of attention everytime you have a party. (Once everybody figures out that you have their favorite game).
You can see pictures of people's MAME cabinets at www.arcadeathome.com
My First Mame Cabinet
My MAME cabinet started out life as a Pac Man, (Namco cabinet serial number 23002). It later became a Pac Man Plus, and it was a Capcom Bowling in bad condition when I got it.
I bought it at an auction for $25, (the screen was dead but the game played "blind"). I got it home and quickly cobbled together a MAME cabinet that only had a trackball and 3 buttons. I soon moved, and my cabinet layed dissasembled in my garage for months. Until I decided to do it again, (the right way this time).
It currently lives in my garage next to my Vs. Golf arcade machine. I leave Rockman The Power Battle running on it whenever I am not around. Quite a few people have visited my house and played. Never knowing that they were playing on a PC.
This above cabinet does not exist anymore.
My New MAME Cabinet
I recently built a new MAME cabinet to replace my old one. Here are those details.
It is in a Williams Defender cabinet, which has been refinished in gloss red. The control panel is black, and I am using the original Defender monitor glass. The marquee is from a martial arts game (I still can't figure out what game it came from).
The computer is an Athlon 650 with 128 MB ram. Graphics and sound are provided by a GeForce 2 MX and a Soundblaster Live. A generic DVD drive, and a LinkSys network card round out the periphrals.
The control panel features a single 8-Way joystick with 3 buttons (and there are 5 other auxilliary buttons on the panel as well). A CompUsa crystal trackball with hidden buttons dominates the right side of the control panel, (this provides control for the GUI, and for trackball games).
Xamot now owns this cabinet, but the internals have been changed.
Ok, I built yet another one. I used another Namco cabinet refinished in yellow. This one is powered by a Pentium 233 and uses a 19" industrial s-video monitor (through the tv-out function on a Voodoo 3 video card). The control panel is an exact replica of the one on the new Ms Pac-Man/Galaga machines that they just came out with, I even have a real Pac-Man 4-way joystick (the only difference is that I added a second fire button).
I built this one for all of those older games that only play properly with a 4-way stick. The total cost on it was less than $100 (not counting the computer).
This one has since been sold.
Scratch all those, they are all gone. But I do still have two MAME cabs.
The first one is a brown Galaxian cabinet, with a Pac-Man Plus marquee, Pac-Man monitor bezel, and a reproduction Pac-Man control panel, which I added two fire buttons to. This one uses a Pentium 233, and a 19" PC monitor mounted vertically. I use arcadeOS as a game menu, and run Windows 95 for an operating system. This one plays about 200 games (all of them are vertical and use a 4-Way joystick).
The second one is a handbuilt cocktail table (as described under How to build a cocktail gaming station).. It uses an Athlon 650 CPU, and has an 2 Robotron joysticks, a 4-Way joystick, and a horizontal monitor.