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There’s a special place reserved in my digital heart for the classic arcades like Tempest and Asteroids, and ironically it’s because of the flawless analog goodness of their vector-based displays. I still boot up a Tempest emulator for the Dreamcast from time to time, though while it remains fun to play, it just has no soul on a standard CRT.

There was a post on MAKE a couple months ago about a guy named James Brown who hacked a driver for MAME that displays on an oscilloscope via a soundcard’s analog output. Unfortunately, aside from photos, videos and a Gizmodo interview, I don’t believe drivers or a howto ever turned up for this.

I spoke with the Google about this subject today, and I came across the VectorMAME and the Zector Vector Generator (ZVG):

There were more than 30 vector based games made in the 80’s. To acquire a collection that includes all these games would be a monumental feat. Just to find that many vector monitors alone would be no easy task, not to mention the cost! Vector based arcade monitors haven’t been made in 20+ years, and you can’t simply use one vector monitor for all these games. Each monitor has different specs and runs at different speeds, making them incompatible between different gaming hardware. The hardware was unique for most of these games, making Multigame conversion kits difficult to design. And good luck finding an Aztarac, Sundance, 4-Player Eliminator, or one of our namesake, a Zektor cabinet! Some games are rare enough that even lots of money can’t get you one!

After collecting vector games for years, the realization that you can never have them all sank in, and we looked for an alternative. Why not build a Vector Generator that would somehow attach to a standard PC and run all the games supported by an emulator, such as MAME, on a single vector monitor? It would be kind of a 30+ Vector Multigame!

The ZVG connects to your PC via parallel port, and Zector claims it is able to drive most old analog vector monitors that you are able to obtain. It’s even able to drive an oscilloscope in X/Y mode. VectorMAME provides the ZVG drivers for DosMAME, which would allow you to put together a MAME cabinet that will play all of the old vector games on a real X/Y monitor. The hardware will set you back a couple hundred bucks, but it appears that this might be the only way to play some of your old favorites in all their glory.

Does anyone know if soundcard-oscilloscope drivers ever became available? It’s not as fun as a full 19-inch monitor, but I’m surprised that this hack hasn’t been released or recreated at this point.

Zector Vector Generator and VectorMAME – Link
MAME on an Oscilloscope: James Brown Interview – Link