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The Monitor FAQ

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I am going to start to compile information on monitors with MAME. this will include information on arcade monitors as well as PC's.  The format will be mostly question and answer with isolated facts and trivia thrown in so you can impress girls at bars with your elite knowledge (don't try this as you will remain single longer).  Please feel free to contribute information you have that is not posted


Theres nothing worse than reading an FAQ and people are having a dispute over whats correct.  if you see an error--PM me and I will correct it in the thread with the correct information  Thanks!.  I have attached a pic showing the parts and their common names.

Q:  What monitor do i need to run mame?
A:  you can use 1 of 3 things,  a PC monitor, a genuine arcade monitor or a television. 

PC monitor:
easiest to use.  plugs into your windows or dos (or Linux ;)) and automatically selects the best fit for the display you are using depending on the game.  Does not look genuine without the addition of scanlines or other such software since your monitors ultimate resolution is much higher than an arcade monitors.

Arcade Monitor:
At little more tricky to get going but easier with the advent of the ArcadeVGA interface.  Without the ArcadeVGA, games are not all correctly displayed in regular mame and a more advanced version of Mame is required, hence advmame.  With advmame you can configure all the game resolutions manually for best possible fit into the monitor you are using (i.e. fitting vertical game like Pac-Man into horizontal screen). 

More advmame info can be found here: 
ArcadeVGA info can be found here:
Help configuring your system to run advmame can be found here:

Using a television:
I Used an old ATI 4mb PCI rage 128 card with s-video and RCA out.  I plugged in the s-video cable to the tv and configured ATI's settings to recognize the second display.  Then on the next bootup it automatically looked and found the tv and used it is a display device (from bios all the way to windows)--very very easy!  Between the RCA and S-video, the S-video offered a superior display with better colors and a more solid picture.  Windows and mamewah (my frontend) were run at 640x480 and it looked pretty good (arcade monitor still preferred here though ;))

Q: but which one do I choose?
A:  that depends on your time, level of expertise, comfort with electronics, money etc.  Only you can decide, and some research on your behalf is in order to see which you feel most comfortable with.  Each has their own limitations and difficulties and your specific situation will govern the choice. (too vague? you want someone to think for you? ok--Use an arcade monitor its more authentic and you can brag later how brilliant you are interfacing what is basically a dummed down tv to your pc ;D)

Q:So now you have a monitor, how do you hook it up?
A:  Pc Monitor--plug it in as normal. 
Arcade monitor will need some special interfacing.  On your monitor mainboard (chassis) there will be 6 to 10 pins for input.  These are different depending on your monitor and you will need to identify them before continuing (more on that later) but for arguments sake you already know your monitor and what input is supposed to go where.  These being RED, GREEN, BLUE, GRD, Horizontal+,Vertical+, Horizontal-, Vertical- and sometimes an additional GND. 

Identify these values on your video cable (see here:  And connect RED to RED, Blue to BLUE etc.  All your grounds can be combined into one and connected to a single ground on the monitor chassis.  With regards to horizontal and vertical sync, this may be monitor dependent to get it to work.  Some require H- and V- from the monitor to be connected to separate H and V lines in your cable and some require them to be connected together. 

You may also be required to power the monitor with an isolation transformer--this means you CANNOT just plug your monitor into a wall socket, you need to isolate it from the incoming ac power.  if you aren't sure whether you need one or not just ask in the monitor forum,but chances are if it came from an older arcade game you will need one.

Fortunately you are likely not the first to own this monitor so there is help available here or in arcade newsgroups.  Just identify your monitor (more on this) and ask how your sync should be connected.  At little research and you should find this information without even asking.


Q: You said you would help me identify my monitor, so identify already...
A:  Ah the impatience of youth... ;D

The best thing to do first is look for a tag or sticker that explicitly says what model you have.  Please note that only manufacturer's and a few gifted arcade guys can identify using serial numbers --please find model numbers (it will say model:_____).  Failing that, look for identifying marks on the boards themselves (chassis and neckboard)  Sometimes there are numbers, sometimes there are letters that can help identify what it is you have. 

Last bet, take as good a top down picture as you can--this may require you to discharge the monitor and remove it from the machine but since it's likely not working anyways you will be doing this regardless (more on this later)

Armed with your picture, visit: OR

Bob Roberts-big bear bulletin board and see "whats my monitor" about halfway down the page.  Bob's site is excellent for newbies and experience people alike for finding new information and ordering parts --especially cap kits (more on this)  It may take awhile but you should be able to match yours with one there.  If you don't, post it here and someone hopefully can help you.  Your picture should be below 250KB in size and have a resolution of 640x480 (everyone hates uber-large pictures).  You can also email bob and ask if he can help you although the last thing I want is someone to fire off pictures to him without even trying to identify it or without asking him!

Q: So my monitor has X/Y symptoms what do I do?
A:  Cap kit.

If your monitor suffers from odd colors, waviness, dimness, and general surliness the first and foremost thing you should try is installing a cap kit.  These means replacing the vast majority of the electrolytic capacitors (caps) with new ones.  (these are the colored vertical cylinders on your board) As your original caps will heat up and contract over a period of 20 years, eventually they break down and/or leak causing all sorts of headaches to arcade enthusiasts everywhere.  Replacing them is always a good idea.  To do this you need to <gulp> discharge your monitor.

How to discharge a monitor:

See here for pictures and directions:

As this gentlemen points out, it isn't so bad if you pay attention!!!  DO NOT connect your alligator clip to anything other than the chassis of your monitor and the end of your screwdriver.  The ground in your outlet has absolutely nothing to do with your monitor do not ground the anode to anything other than the chassis of the monitor.

Just to hi-lite some points:
1. unplug the monitor from the power source
2. use a long handled screwdriver with a well insulated handle
3. keep the screwdriver side of the alligator clip as close to the end of the screwdriver (away from you)
4. keep one hand in your pocket
5. take off watches or rings and conductive things mindful of the chassis padawan--if you are touching it you could become the primary circuit path--NOT GOOD
7.  its always a good idea to pause a minute and discharge another time and another before removing the sucker cup (anode cap).

I left this vague so that you will go to the site and read how its done in its entirety.

Now that you have discharged the monitor, desolder the caps and replace with new ones that you ordered from Bob Roberts or elsewhere.  BE VERY OBSERVANT AS TO THE - AND + MARKINGS OF THE CAPS!!  If you get one backwards--poof!  it could also take other components with it.

Notes on arcade monitor dimness.

(most) Arcade monitors were meant to operate at around 5V, while most video cards output at 1V.  Therefore in order to increase the brightness of the picture you can either crank up the brightness controls (some suggest this shortens the life of your monitor but I can't confirm this with any hard evidence or experience) or you could try a video amplifier.  Ultimarc ( ) makes a ready made one or you could build your own from here:  I make no claims as to whether this works but am merely presenting options.

A MAME monitor FAQ is a great idea. I hope to write some more tonight.

What is the resolution of my monitor?
Monitors are classified by their horizontal bandwidth and number of visible lines. This effectively describes their resolution. You can roughly estimate their vertical refresh rate (frames per second) by dividing the horizontal bandwidth by the number of visible lines. For a standard resolution monitor this would be 15750 / 240 =~ 65 Hz.
resolutionhorizontal bandwidth# lines# colorscomparablestandard15.75 kHz240unlimitedCGA or NTSC TVextended16.5 kHz288unlimitedCGA or PAL TVmedium25 kHz380unlimitedEGAhigh31.5 kHz450unlimitedVGANote that we are talking about CRT monitors only. If your monitor is advertised as LCD, TFT, plasma or projection it cannot be classified using the table above.

(Thanks for contributing b3atmania!)

To test your colors (to determine if you need a capkit or just adjust some pots)  run the "Sente Diagnostic Cartridge" in mame and select test 12--color bars.  Your colors from left to right should be: Black, white, red,green,blue, cyan and magenta.


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