An Interview With Jeroen “Sprite_tm” Domburg, Creator Of The Tiny MAME Arcade Cabinet

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When I first saw this tiny gaming cabinet this morning, I was fascinated. Who was the creator, Sprite_tm, and why did he do such and excellent and thorough job of turning a tiny Rasberry Pi device into a little gaming cabinet? In short, how did he get inspired as a maker?

I sent him a few questions and he was kind enough to reply.

TC: I love the project. Why did you do it?

Jeroen: The intro to the article basically states that already: I had a Raspberry Pi and I wanted to get familiar to how it works. It’s a great tool to have in your toolbox: need a powerful controller running a standard OS for your robot / Internet-controlled doorbell / Twitter-based death ray? Just get one of these for a few quid. Knowing how they work means I can put them to work much faster the next time, which may come in handy if I actually try to make something useful.

TC: Who are you?

J: I’m Jeroen Domburg, nickname Sprite_tm. I’m a 30-year old software/hardware guy from the east of the Netherlands. I’ve been fiddling with electronics all my life and when I studied electronic engineering, I decided my projects should get a site of their own. That site became Spritesmods.com and I’ve been adding projects to it since. In real life, I have a job as a software engineer at a broadcast equipment manufacturer.

TC: What was the most difficult part?

J: I thought it would be designing the case; I’ve never designed something to be lasercut before, and immediately trying a ‘weird’ shape instead of a cube to try it on meant I’d have to learn about quite a few things. In the end, it did take up a lot of time to make sure I got everything right, but the process itself wasn’t as complex as I thought.

The most difficult part probably was the LiIon circuitry. Not only because the design itself is tricky (some components have two or three separate functions, making it hard to not break function A when you want to modify function B) but also because LiIon-batteries have the nasty habit of going ‘boom’ when you mis-treat them. It took some time and calculation to convince myself it was actually going to work OK all the time, and even if one part doesn’t do its job, I still won’t have an explosion on my hands.

TC: How did you start hacking?
J: I don’t know why I started it, mostly because I was probably too young to remember. It’s always been a hobby of mine, even in my childhood I’ve been tearing apart stuff to see how it works. I’ve never made hacking in itself my daytime job, although I’ve always been trying to get some overlap: hacking and electronic and software engineering go well with each other ofcourse.

TC: What’s your advice for folks trying to hack their own Raspberry Pi projects?

J: Just dive into it! Raspberry Pi’s are cheap as chips, and the community supporting it isn’t half bad. So, if you have an idea, just get one, read up on whatever you’re going to need and just try to make it work.

TC: Easy for you to say. What’s your favorite arcade game?

J: From a technical point of view, I really like the vector arcade games. It’s awesome to read the engineers had to almost build their own secondary CPU from scratch to get the vectors working, not to speak of the analog mess involved. I actually built one myself – Black Widow – just to see if I could do it.

Just to play, I have a soft spot for Dragon Saber. I ran into one of those on a holiday, and fell in love with the levels and especially the music. I also like Outrun, I was addicted to the PC-version when I was young and the arcade version is even better.