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What Is This, a Space Invaders Arcade Cabinet for Ants?

What Is This, a Space Invaders Arcade Cabinet for Ants?


Space Invaders is one of the most iconic video games of all time. Released by Taito in 1978 as an arcade machine, the game soon found a home on the Atari 2600 console and almost every console since then has a port of Space Invaders.

Gameplay is simple but challenging, which made it appealing to casual and hardcore gamers alike. To celebrate this historic game, Nu Iotachi built this itty bitty Space Invaders arcade cabinet that is actually playable.

The entire cabinet stands a mere 80mm (3.15 inches) tall, which means that space was at a premium. For that reason, Nu chose to use an Arduino Pro Micro board to act as the brains of the operation. Its Microchip ATmega328 microcontroller contains a processor running at 16MHz, which is far faster than the processor in the original Space Invaders arcade cabinet. But that had 8KB of RAM, which is much more generous than the 2KB available on the ATmega328.

The memory limitations of the ATmega328 forced Nu to develop his own text-based graphics library for the SSD1306 monochrome OLED screen, instead of an existing library like the popular AdafruitGFX graphics library.

Nu's graphics look true to the game, but require a minimal amount of RAM and run at the appropriate speed. The OLED screen has a resolution of 128 x 64, which is less than both the original arcade version of Space Invaders and the Atari 2600 port. Even so, there are enough pixels for gameplay.

Nu put the Arduino and the OLED screen into a tiny replica of the US Midway arcade cabinet. Nu constructed that using thin hand cut plywood and painted it. The controls are innovative, with pinhead joysticks for example. It looks just like the real arcade cabinet and functions in the same way.

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