Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Classic Merit Megatouch meets Classic Apple

The Merit Megatouch Bar/Table Top Game Machine

The Merit Megatouch Maxx (Saphire)
Megatouch Force
Maybe its nostalgia, maybe its a truly great piece of software/hardware, but I have always loved these machines.  I remember vividly playing photohunt at a local dive bar at a time when touchscreen technology seemed quite futuristic.  With less processor power than an iphone and resistive touchscreen technology that connected via serial cable, its amazing that I still see these machines being used frequently in bars and taverns.
Merit Ion Megatouch
(Courtesy of Jester's Amusements)

While I don't really know much about the various product lines that Merit offered, I do know that the most common machines I saw were the CRT Merit Maxx (with its jewel themed updates) and the newer Megatouch Force.

I'm putting together a game room and a Merit Megatouch was something I hoped to incorporate right from the start.  At first I looked at the modern LCD versions (such as the Aurora or Ion Lines).  In my opinion, the prices were astoundingly high for the level of hardware.  When I looked at older machines in various conditions, I again saw very high prices and a ver slow depreciation.  This didn't bother me so much, as it gave me an excuse to DIY it and truly make it my own.  Unfortunately, I found out that Merit does not license its software.  Thus, the reason for the high prices is really the software as well as excellent customer support from Merit.

Choosing parts is also somewhat of a pain as Merit is very protective of its software (as is its right).  Buying individual parts requires making sure your hardware and physical security key matches up with the Merit supplied hard drives.  The best bet is to obtain a working machine with defective screen and/or in physical disrepair, but functional inside (easier said than done).

So here is the motherboard:

Megatouch XL with Maxx Diamond conversion
Its technically and old Megatouch XL that was upgraded to the Megatouch Maxx
I again want to point out (both for my own protection and to state a fact).  This is a native Merit board, HDD, I/O card, and security key (the object with the battery and tag in the lower left corner of the motherboard).  The AT power source is new and replaces a defective one.  This is in NO WAY a hacked board and there is absolutely NO use of cracked or stolen/pirated or otherwise altered software.  Instead this is a genuine Merit Megatouch with some working parts (motherboard, I/O, HDD) and some non-working/damaged parts (powersource, touchscreen, CRT, enclosure) that I am replacing with available alternatives.

Booting is slow, the fan is loud, but it works
There is something very rewarding about repurposing old hardware that is otherwise destined for the trash.  This is especially true with "classic" hardware.  While "classic" is obviously in the eye of the beholder and difficult to define, to me it means, "a device that performs its original function in such a manner that it can not or at least has not been significantly improved upon, even if that function is currently considered obsolete."  With the iMac G4, from a mechanical engineering perspective, it "did its job" perfectly.  It allowed for nearly effortless manipulation of an LCD monitor.  Thus, making it easy to have the LCD conform to all potentially desirable viewing heights, angles, and tilt.  New technology may eliminate the need to change viewing angle to make a screen readable (IPS).  It may/will replace the need for LCDs with superior and more customizable viewing technologies (ex holograms, project glass).  But, if your goal is to have an all in one computer with a 15 - 20" LCD screen viewed on a desk, I don't think it has ever gotten better than the iMac G4.  People who love classic cars would likely say the same thing about their passion.  Similarly, Merit has barely changed the formula and, even in the iPad age, can still sell its touch devices for thousands.  This is because these Megatouch Machines "do what they do" perfectly.  They play simple, entertaining touch games that are both nostalgic and timeless.

The 17" ELO 1715L
A 300 watt AT PSU was easy enough to find for a few dollars.  The touch screen was somewhat of a happy coincidence.  The original touch screen was a 3M and I actually found an old touchscreen controller for this device.  However, I also an old 17" 4:3 LCD touch monitor from ELO.  While I was fairly certain the VGA would scale up easily to 17" from the original 15" CRT, I did not know if the touch screen would work or if I could calibrate it for 17".  I had forgotten that this particular touch monitor had both a usb and serial port option for touch control (I was planning on getting a USB to serial adapter), but did not need it.  It seemed to work, but clearly needed calibration.
First run - Touchscreen not Calibrated
The Menu Control connected to Momentary switch
I need to thank "Dark Paladin" and his work with Merit Megatouches.  In his project, which can be found here:

http://home.comcast.net/~dark.paladin/megatouch/

He reveals the 4 important pins including the two grounds at the top left and second from left, as well as the setup pin (top right) and Touchscreen calibration pin (second from right on top).  Using a momentary switch to temporarily ground these switches will send you to the Setup and Touch Calibration Menus respectively.  His design is definitely worth a read to anyone considering a similar project.
Touch Screen Working ... Photo Hunt Time
Some issues such as I/O, Sound, and Quieting the fan still need working out.

But the first thing to consider is the permanent housing.  The motherboard is way too bid for the iMac G4 and too wide for the iMac G5.  However, the other white plastic desktop of the era I feel would make an ideal home.  I am referring to the 17" Flat CRT based eMac.  Elimination of the CRT will give plenty of room for the PSU, Motherboard, I/O and HDD.  Cooling mechanisms and air flow are already present in the chassis.  In addition, my current 4:3 17" LCD should fit perfectly.  Despite this transition, because the CRT in the eMax is actually flat, it should be indistinguishable from the outside.

The I/O hub can be fitted with the momentary switches and the existing on/off button can be used.  The existing front speakers seem perfect for this mod.

Broken eMac = Future Megatouch?
Although it is bulky, there is a classic look to it and it will allow for a single contained unit.  I have picked up the broken eMac seen above.  The front bezel needs repair or replacement, but it otherwise appears to be in good shape.

All in all, I think this will make a very fun project while I await small form factor Ivy Bridge Boards for my new Pro iMac G4 mod.

Please feel free to ask any questions and as always, thanks for reading.
TO BE CONTINUED ........

15 comments:

  1. your megatouch hardware is an XL, not a MAXX.
    maxx is a different motherboard (about 3-5 times as powerfull) and a differnt i/o card.
    DL some manuals:
    http://www.amientertainment.com/support/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are correct, but that's why I say "Its technically an old Megatouch XL that was upgraded to the Megatouch Maxx". This board has the XL to Maxx retrofit and is running Diamond 2 software. I may try Jade 2 on it, but I may need to upgrade the RAM. Any advice? I also have an Ion Aurora RX board I'm hoping to get working, but that's for the future.

      Delete
    2. right,
      the XL is a 486DX2-66 and the Maxx is a K5 class cpu at 200mhz - there is not upgrade.
      the software works simply because it contains the drivers & you have the dongle - but some games may run slow.

      i'v done loads of tests on XL/Maxx stuff.
      i have a Maxx running Emerald from a CF-card with no dongle.
      (i own the full hardware inc drive & dongle)
      i made the mods for reliability - the dongle has a 10-12year life because of an internal battery.

      jade2 probably wont work,
      upto Emerald2 is DOS based, after that it's Linux based and does more hardware checks etc.

      if your really running Maxx software, you should be able to remove the flash,eprom & nvram from your i/o card - try it.
      the flash was a cache, the eprom was a vitual bootdisk and the nvram was for storing settings - all for the versions that ran from a cd.

      i suspect your eprom and probably also the flash are disabled at the moment using jumpers.

      here is a tip:
      keep an eye out for an old motherboard with onboard video,ISA slot and K6-2 cpu - it will run and solve the biggest XL problem.
      and that is the rubish bios that wont recognise many harddrives or boot from a cd-rom.
      it will also let you use newer ram.
      (i recommend atleast 64meg)

      what Ion stuff do you have?
      it's really just a standard motherboard.
      either an Asus K8N-VM, an ECS NForce2-M or an Intel LittleFalls (D945GCLF)
      and a USB interfaced i/o with a dongle on it.

      do you have the i/o card?
      also, it uses a USB touchscreen controller - a Microtouch EXII series (EX121)

      Delete
    3. Thanks for describing your megatouch project! I had not heard of Megatouch until my son brought home a Megatouch Maxx upright Crown Edition that was broken. It was not booting, only beeping. We cleaned the DIMM RAM contacts with acetone and q-tips. It then booted into game mode. However, after a few power cycles, it would get hung at various points in the boot process.

      I though it would be better to move the hard drive to a campact flash card, so I copied the hard drive data using dd from each of the 5 partitions. Then I created 5 partitions on the 4G CF card, and copied the data to each partition. All the files all showed up on my Linux box with the CF card inserted, but wouldn't boot in the Megatouch cabinet (operating system not found). I tried various methods of getting the CF to boot (chroot to lilo but hda device not found, extlinux, syslinux after change boot partition to FAT) without success. Is there a method of moving the files to CF for this game system?

      Thanks!

      Steve

      Delete
    4. steve, boot problems on maxx hardware are caused by the caps on the motherboard and in the psu.

      your cf card problem may be because the Linux based o.s. needs atleast 6gig - atleast the install disks do.

      go here:
      http://www.amientertainment.com/support/downloads/download_manager.php

      and download Force2005.5 disks.
      those also install jade2 on a maxx.
      you can use them to auto-partition & install your CF card - then overwrite the files with crown.

      Delete
  2. Hy i have read yor post and can you tell me where can i buy 2 touch screen for 2 Megatouch xl that i have here i want to put on them a Flat touch screen 15". is just connect the screen and it will reconize it?

    Best regards

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I got mine on ebay. The original touchscreen was a 3M resistive and as the commenter below and my project above seem to confirm ELO resistive touchscreens seem to work natively as well.

      I would look for older ELO (or 3M) LCD touch monitors with Serial Connectors (not USB).

      Delete
  3. all xl software, and Maxx software upto Emerald2 is dos,
    so you can probably use anything you can get a dos driver for.

    the xl software already has drivers for ELO and 3M/Microtouch SMT2/3 hardware.

    ReplyDelete
  4. How to make new hard drive or CF work with upright XL Platinum? Current hard drive crashed and has sector errors. I ran recovery software on the bad hard drive, but do not know if I have all the needed files. river4 at live dot com

    ReplyDelete
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