Polycade – Retro arcade of the future

If you’ve not heard of the Polycade, it’s the wall-mount arcade machine that in December ’15 easily exceeded its $20,000 Kickstarter goal. It is the creation of brothers Tyler Bushnell, Dylan Bushnell (sons of Nolan) and Charles Carden.

polycade wall mount arcade machine

Polycade wall-mounted arcade machine on Kickstarter

From their Kickstarter page… it’s a CNC-cut, plywood shell which is then spray-painted (twice) with gloss paint in a choice of finishes. Or if you chose it, is instead vinyl wrapped with printed vinyl. Designed for those who want something to fit in with a more minimal Panton-esque apartment.

polycade colour finishes

There are a few choices for the control panel with either Happ, Sanwa or Ultimarc sticks. Plus there’s an option to have a 4-way stick or trackball in the centre of the panel. Marble Madness anyone? It is also supposedly removable for any future requirement to swap it out. polycade street fighter 2 girl

The Polycade runs on a Raspberry Pi running RetroPie and is brought to life via a 28″ LED TV. These are due to be rolled out in March, so we look forward to seeing the production item!

Polycade update:

One of the perks on the Kickstarter was to ship out a bunch of signed Atari cartridges by Nolan himself, as well as a live broadcast. Looking at the blog, this has taken place and it’s funny to read some of the comments!

See more on Kickstarter.

No comments
DanPolycade – Retro arcade of the future
read more

Revival 2014 run-down

It’s been a week since we got back from Revival and what a great show it was too! Craig, Chris and the Revival team did an amazing job again. Plenty of consoles, computers, arcade cabinets, light gun machines, driving games, pinball machines, traders, talks, costumes, chip-tunes, special guests, competitions…

surface tension was there with our stand again this year in the chill-out zone. With us we had our Dual, Arcane and forthcoming upright, Retrograde. Plenty of couches to crash out on too. We had our Rubik’s Cube seat on one side of the Dual, but also built some quirky seating for the other side. A 555 timer seat modeled on the 8-pin through-hole IC, which got plenty of attention! If you’re interested, you can see how it was made here.

surface tension stand

We had a good buzz around the stand all weekend with all ages.

555 seat

The 555 seat with the Dual arcade table.

Super Hexagon Arcade Machine

Super Hexagon arcade machine

Super Hexagon worked a treat on the upright. Though the surface tension team were battling it out between us for the highest score, only to be beaten by a 12 year old (not pictured). Meh.

Super Hexagon Arcade Machine

Our feeble attempts before being out-done 🙁

Goldeneye 4 player

If you didn’t get hooked on this 20 years ago, what were you hooked on?!

retro computers and consoles.

Loads of consoles and home computers to bring back the memories.

retro systems for sale

Plenty of systems to buy as well as play.

Pinball machines

pinball machines

A plethora of pinball machines, but never a spare one!

Traverse USA arcade cabinet

Crazy Balloon arcade cabinet

Driving arcade machines

Standup arcade machines in a row

Stand up arcade machines

There weren’t quite as many stand-ups as last year, but more than enough to keep you occupied. Plus with all of the pins, you weren’t left twiddling your thumbs.

John Romero playing multiplayer Doom

John Romero was there for a Q&A session, and to kick your ass at Doom.

Revival Survival Cabinet

Craig’s Revival Survival cabinet made its debut…

surface tension in Revival Survival

…which surface tension feature in as we helped Kickstart the project!

SIDMAN at Revival

Chip-tunes supplied by SIDMAN.

That’s about it. We look forward to next year but aren’t quite ready to go at it again just yet! It was a long and tiring weekend, plus a busy run up to it.

Asteroids volcano switch

Defender Control Panel

1, 2, 5 DM coin slot


One Player Select button

Williams coin mech

No comments
Surface TensionRevival 2014 run-down
read more

Ultra portable MAME machine

The R-Kaid-R is a product of Love Hulten. You may have seen his R-Kaid-Revelation at the beginning of the year.

He describes it as “A handmade hybrid made from solid wood, combining yesterday’s game physics with the digital spectrum of today”


The first thing I asked myself was “what happens to the joystick when you shut the lid?” Then I saw the rather clever way it unscrews, and is then used as the locking mechanism and carry handle. Genius!


You can see the technical specs if you click onto the shop, which it states will be open in September. It has an 8″ LCD, 8-way stick plus 10 buttons, USB and SD card access for loading ROMs, and a battery life of around 8 hours. It’s also set up for a whole host of emulators.


The R-Kaid-R has some really nice detail, see more here.



No comments
Surface TensionUltra portable MAME machine
read more

The Evolution of the Game Controller

This must be the most extensive charting of video game controllers ever, detailing 119 species and 11 genera over seven decades of gaming.

Each print is signed and numbered by the artists, from a limited first edition of 1000.

Using 100 lb. archival recycled stock certified by The Forest Stewardship Council, this print is pressed with vegetable-based inks in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Available through Pop Chart Lab for $30.00


No comments
Surface TensionThe Evolution of the Game Controller
read more

Nintendo Controller Coffee Table

I’m sure you all know by now that we love interesting coffee tables here at surface tension and we think this Nintendo Controller Coffee Table is awesome. Created by designer Charles Lushear, from the Etsy store ‘The Bohemian Workbench,’ this nod to retro gaming is completely functional. So you can actually play your old favorites while sipping on your morning coffee.

giant wooden nes pad

Made using maple, curly maple, birdseye maple, burl, mahogany and walnut, the Nintendo Controller Coffee Table will cost you a pretty penny but the workmanship looks absolutely superb. Though the novelty alone is well worth the extra coin. Play one round of Tetris on the coffee-bearing control board and you’ll be hooked. Sure, it might be a little harder to get your thumb to the B button in time, but the fact that you’re playing with your coffee table should take the sting out of any low scores.

playing giant wooden nes controller

Available through The Bohemian Workbench Etsy store and priced at around £3,500 plus shipping. Charles has some great other pieces available including controller wall art, an Elmo ukulele and the Karl Pilkington table which as you would expect is shaped like an orange.

You can reach Charles through his website – www.bohoworkbench.com or his twitter handle BohoWorkbench.

No comments
Surface TensionNintendo Controller Coffee Table
read more

iCade 8-Bitty Retro NES controller

We featured the iCade gaming cabinet for your iPad back in May last year, we loved it and now ThinkGeek have revealed the 8-Bitty controller which can be used for an iPad or iPhone and I love this even more.

It’s a much simpler task to identify the differences between the 8-Bitty and a NES controller than it is to list their similarities. There are two shoulder buttons and an additional two face buttons (for a total of four) not present on the NES controller – necessary additions given the sophistication of contemporary games. And the controller is more colorful than Nintendo’s gray, red and black original, with a front face of primary colors, and edged in a wood-styled veneer.

However, a closer inspection of the product photography betrays the incredible attention to detail and respect shown to the original NES control pad. The 8-Bitty recreates its inspiration down to an insane level of detail. There are the small, rounded oblong rubber buttons recessed into the face in the precise location of the NES controller’s start and select buttons. There are the chubby arrows on each of the D-pad’s four directional buttons. There’s even the tiny cuboid of missing plastic on the controller’s upper edge in line with the cable of the original controller. Hopefully the 8-Bitty will feel as authentic as it looks. Correctly weighted buttons and pad are a must.

No release date has yet been announced but ThinkGeek do have it listed on their site for $24.99 and if you’re interested they will email you once it’s available.

via: Bit Rebels


No comments
Surface TensioniCade 8-Bitty Retro NES controller
read more

EyeAsteroids – Asteroids controlled by the eye

I was browsing through The Sunday Times tech supplement yesterday and came across this eye-controlled asteroids arcade cabinet by a company called Tobii.


The potential in this kind of technology is amazing and obviously extends way further than gaming. I saw something similar at the Eurogamer Expo last year at Earls Court running Trackmania Nations.


“Using your eyes as a game controller is an almost magical experience. It’s as if the game can read your mind, creating the sensation of having supernatural powers.

Using your eyes to direct attention is fundamental in human interaction. Using your eyes to interact with games, on the other hand, is completely new. With gaze interaction, the game understands your gaze the same way people around you do, taking immersion and game intensity to a new level.”


No comments
Surface TensionEyeAsteroids – Asteroids controlled by the eye
read more

Fixing a sticky Happ trackball

I’ve experienced a couple of Happ trackballs recently that seemed to get stuck in one direction. Though with a little roll back and forth it would continue on it’s way. Very frustrating when trying to kill millipedes!

Fixing a sticky Happ trackball

These trackballs were brand new, though because they had been sat on the shelf for 9 months, the grease and anti-rust agents must have solidified a little. So, I have written a set of instructions on how to overcome this problem. Saying that, it’s not limited to new trackballs experiencing a rolling problem, but you might be able to revive your old Happ trackball that has seen better days rather than replacing the bearings. Well, worth a shot before replacing the 6 sets of bearings anyway.

In this article, I am servicing the 2 1/4″ version, but I believe the same goes for the 3″ too.

You will need…
Phillips screwdriver (large and small)
Countersink bit (or similar)
Thin mineral oil or penetrating oil (not silicon or PTFE-based lubes)

Step 1 – Removing the screws

OK, so the first step is to open the case up by removing the 4 screws. Plus the 2 screws holding the rings crimps with earth wires.

happ 2 1/4 inch trackball

Step 2 – Opening the case

Open up the trackball and remove the ball itself. You will see 3 rollers, each with 2 sets of bearings. Remove the 3 sets of rollers/bearings.

happ trackball disassembly

Step 3 – Separating the bearings

Separate the bearings from the rollers. The idler bearings will come straight off, but for the axis rollers you’ll need to remove the encoder wheel. These will be threadlocked, so grip the roller with something like a rubber glove or rubber jar-opener. Do not grip it with pliers!

happ trackball shaft bearings encoder wheel

You should end up with 6 bearings, ready for a bit of TLC.

happ trackball bearings encoder wheels

Step 4 – Applying oil to the bearings

Apply a small amount of oil to the bearing access ports, running it all the way around the groove. Try not to get oil on the inner ring of the bearing as the last thing you want is oil on the trackball itself. If this happens, ensure you clean the inner thoroughly. Repeat for the other bearings on the one side only for now, and leave them face-up for 5 minutes letting gravity do it’s work. Then repeat for the other side.

lubricating happ trackball bearings

You can see the 7 lubrication holes to access the bearings. For future maintenance, this can be done without taking the enclosure apart if you take a look at the trackball housing. A bit more tricky not to get oil all over the rollers!

NOTE: Don’t use WD-40 or PTFE based products for this as they will just clog up the bearings again after not too long.

happ trackball bearings

Step 5 – Spinning the bearings

Now it’s time to spin the bearings. I used a countersink bit with a lump of blue-tac on the end to give it some grip. So, hold the bearing in your fingertips, spinning them up slowly at first then give them all you’ve got. I would suggest for about a minute.

spinning the happ trackball bearings

Step 6 – Reassembling the shafts, bearings and encoder wheels

Dab off and excess oil from the bearings and place them back on the rollers, along with the encoder. Use the same method to ensure the encoders are on tight, ideally using threadlock. Place the ball back in the housing rolling it back and forth. You should be able to feel that the ball rolls more freely and hopefully the roller doesn’t lock up

happ trackball test spin

Replace the housing and screws and you’re good to go. Ideally this should be done periodically, but we know realistically that’s not going to happen.

No comments
Surface TensionFixing a sticky Happ trackball
read more