-PAC2"> The I-PAC2 (see Figure 8-19) is Ultimarcs entry-level product, offering 28 programmable direct mode inputs with shift-key functionality. This allows one of the keys to double as a shift key similar to a shift key on a keyboard. When pressed by itself, the key simply generates what it has been programmed for. When pressed in conjunction with one of the other 27 buttons, it generates an alternate keystroke for that button, affectively doubling your total inputs to 55. The I-PAC2 is available for $39 for the PS/2 keyboard-port model, and $43 for the USB model. Through some sophisticated programming, Ultimarc has designed their product not to suffer from the six-simultaneous-keystroke limit that native USB keyboards have.
Ultimarc has provided four different methods to program the I-PAC2. First you need to set the jumper on the encoder to allow for programming (as compared to using the default MAME configuration). This needs to be done only once and can be left in that mode to allow reprogramming whenever needed. The first two methods involve running the I-PAC configuration application. Both a DOS mode and Windows mode are included on the encoders CD. The Windows version is pictured in Figure 8-20.
Programming is straightforward. Click on the control you want to change, and then press the button you want assigned to it. The labels on the programming menu correspond to the labels on the wiring blocks on the I-PAC2. Save the configuration to the encoder (and a backup to disk) and youre done. You can also program the unit on-the-fly by pressing a special keystroke combination (requires a second keyboard plugged into the pass-thru) that brings up a built-in configuration menu. It has all the functionality of the two programming applications except for loading and saving to disk. Finally, demonstrating an understanding of the needs of arcade cabinet builders, the programming applications can be used in command line mode to read in a configuration file, allowing for automated programming of the encoder. Also, at least one front-end application (Chapter 13, "Installing the Computer") has built-in support for the I-PAC, enabling programming to be changed within the game environment.
Some of the other features include the ability to be used with a Macintosh computer along with a native Macintosh programming application, a third-party developed Linux programming application, and the ability to daisy chain the encoders for even more inputs. Also, there is an optional 32-inch LED harness that attaches to the encoders board, emulating a keyboards Num-Lock, Scroll-Lock, and Caps-Lock LEDs. The long harness and design of the LED mounting allow you to mount them to your control panel, adding colorful red, yellow, and green lights that will correspond to certain MAME functions.
Wiring the I-PAC2 is straightforward. The inputs are attached to by screw-down terminal blocks and include two ground terminals. By daisy chaining your grounds on your controls, all your wiring can come directly to the encoder board without requiring extra wiring blocks.
The I-PAC2 is tailor-made by Ultimarc to suit a two-player control panel. The impressive list of features and high quality of design have made it a favorite of arcade cabinet builders. The low cost of the encoder makes it an attractive alternative to a keyboard hack.
The I-PAC4 is Ultimarcs follow-up to the successful I-PAC2. It is the big brother to its predecessor, having double the number of inputs. Essentially, it is two I-PAC2 units installed on one board. The I-PAC4 retails for $65 in the PS/2 keyboard configuration, and $69 in the USB port configuration. See Figure 8-21.
Everything written about the I-PAC2 holds true for the I-PAC4 as well, except for the number of inputs. The I-PAC4 has 56 inputs broken into two groups, each with a separate shift key. This allows for a total of 110 inputs. The rest of the feature set is the same, including the programmability, LED harness, and multi-operating system support.
The I-PAC4 is effectively the same as purchasing two I-PAC2 units, with a slight cost savings and the convenience of programming all inputs with one interface. Custom designed by Ultimarc for people building four-player control panels, it has quickly become a favorite among the arcade cabinet building community.
Ultimarcs Mini-PAC is the latest encoder to join their line-up. This unit works identically to the I-PAC2 and supports 28 inputs using either a PS/2 or USB connection. The 2-1/4-inch Mini-PAC can be seen in Figure 8-22.
The Mini-PAC adds trackball and spinner support to the I-PAC2 functionality, requiring that the encoder be used in USB mode. The Mini-PAC is primarily targeted at OEM and frequent cabinet builders, with the available wiring harness, 28 encoder inputs, and trackball/spinner functionality designed to allow for quick hookup. Prices for the Mini-PAC range from $29 for the encoder and PS/2 cable only up to $69 for the encoder, USB cable, trackball cable and full wiring harness.
Youll be pleasantly surprised by some of the sophisticated features available with the I-PAC2 for the low costs involved. The encoder includes a keyboard pass-thru, a jumper to toggle between a pre-programmed MAME configuration and your own configuration, and several programming options. With the pre-programmed MAME configuration, most users will be able to plug the encoder in and use it without having to program it at all.