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Data Airlines: Mr Roboto’s Arcade

It’s late Friday night and your mind is mush. You’re afraid that playing your old NES would finally break it beyond the point where it can be fixed by blowing into the cartridge. You find a dark brown, wooden chest stowed away against the wall, with a spherical panda on top of it. You displace the panda and open the chest.

Inside is, constructed using a trashed laptop mounted into the classical chest, an arcade machine which resembles none other. Booting this laptop will bring up a welcoming screen and game field for Mr Roboto’s Arcade… And hey – there’s an enticing big, red panic button too!

Yes, the logo has alpha transparency and more than 16 simultaneous colours. But it looks cool!

Located next to a sliced and diced, ancient Swedish military DL40 phone switch in a livingroom up in Umeå, Sweden you can find this great construction which will sooth your retro gaming needs. It grants a warm, fuzzy feeling in the otherwise dark winter where the climate offers a harsh environment, often far, far below freezing.


Of course you should own a copy of the game before playing. Ahem.

The laptop (hidden behind its own monitor) runs Ubuntu Linux modified to boot up into a self-hacked menu system (using PyGame) where you play a character from the Bubble Bobble game.

To launch a specific gaming console emulator, use your character to jump and shoot small purple balls on it. You are then presented with a long list of games available which are scrolled through and played with any USB-connected controller. A little notice in the upper right corner shows you the current console.


Game console menu and the big, red panic button.

Whenever you feel like it, you can throw yourself over the big, red panic button. It’s hooked up to the USB controller of an old, long gone, IBM keyboard and has been mapped to the Esc-key. Hitting it with great force will immediately, at any time, return you to the main console menu. This comes in handy whenever frustration reaches a certain level, or playing against opponents who simply brag too much…

To turn off the arcade machine, your menu character has to jump around and find hidden steps to stand on. One of those are for example on Mr Roboto’s camera. A mysterious blob located off-screen in the upper-right playing field has to be shot twice in order to end this joyous experience.


2 player mode is supported. Pandas are bad winners, mind you.

Next up in the project is probably hooking up the arcade machine to a projector instead of the original laptop monitor. Anything to boost pixel size. Adding further console emulators to the list is also a given, of course.

Then who made it? Ludvig Widman, homebrew hacker and electronics hobbyist. He’s also got his own project description.

Written for Data Airlines by Mikael “MMN-o” Nordfeldth.