This weekend, with help from a friend, I'll be picking up a free original arcade game, Asteroids to be specific.
The game itself is described as "on the fritz": I will see if it can be fixed, but with old video games, it's hit or miss. Either it's a simple problem like too much dust or loose cables, or it's an insoluble problem like a chip that's gone or a short on one of the boards. About the only middle-of-the-road problems are those with the analog components, the controller and screen, which could be replaced but it's probably not worth it to replace them.
But the real point is for the cabinet. You can spend $400 and up for a similar brand new cabinet into which you can assemble a MAME machine and control panel. Or you can use a real cabinet to get a far more authentic feel, with the beautifully cheesy art on the side and the lit upper panel; and in this case, get it for free!
With a suitable installation of MAME and a control panel that includes all the controllers you need for every game you like, you can have a single arcade game in a proper cabinet that is an entire arcade in one box. And that's what I'm going to do eventually -- though the control panel is the tricky bit, because you need so many controls. Got to have a proper Tempest wheel, and a trackball, and a pair of eight-direction joysticks for Robotron, but you also have to have four-direction joysticks since eight-direction ones screw things up in games like Make Trax or Pac Man. And then there's rare games like Gyruss that really need a many-direction joystick too. And then there's all the buttons.
You end up with a really crowded panel, where it's challenging to retrain the twitch reflexes to hit the right one of the many controls. My favorite solution is the modular control panel but that's going to take a lot of work to make -- no one sells a premade panel set like that, so far as I know. More's the pity.
This is a project for another year, but I look forward to it all the same.