Recently I had the opportunity to acquire and old Merit Megatouch arcade game. The Merit Megatouch line of arcade games was introduced in the 90s and was commonly found in bars and taverns. At the time Merit Industries was considered one of the leaders in touchscreen arcade games and continued to produce hardware versions up until 2014.
The particular model that I have is the Merit Megatouch XL it was released in 1997. The Megatouch XL was available as a 13” countertop cabinet, a 19” cabaret cabinet or a 19” upright cabinet, mine is the cabaret cabinet.
As with all Megatouch games, the XL model also offers a variety of games to play. You have several base categories to choose from, card, strategy, sports, erotic (can be disabled), and quiz & word games – Merit also released several software versions which included additional games in each of the base categories. The original software version for the XL was simply called “XL” (1997), followed by the XL5000/XL Super 5000 (1998), XL 6000 (1999), Gold (2000), Platinum / Double Platinum (2001), and Titanium / Titanium 2 (2002) each one providing new games along with the base games from the XL version.
I knew nothing about the Merit Megatouches other than the fact that I’ve seen and played them before in restaurants. So to get it working I knew that I would need to do some research.
Naturally, the first thing I wanted to do was take a look at the insides of this thing and see what I was dealing with. I had no idea what to expect other than a lot of dust. To my surprise, everything was easily accessible – there is a bottom access panel that slides out exposing the circuit boards. It was here that I would find myself spending the most time.
The main components include a mainboard, riser board, I/O board and CD-ROM drive. I found it interesting that there was no hard drive, but after some Internet searches I found that it actually utilized the CD-ROM drive to store all its game info – essentially it was the hard drive – poor design if you ask me. Besides the basic computing components, the machine relies on a few things in order to boot properly – the boot PROM/EPROM, software CD, and the Dallas Key. The boot PROM/EPROM is located on the I/O board, it has a version of DOS loaded on it so it boots their first, and then looks for the CD and Dallas Key – the Dallas Key is what copyright protects the software on the CD – if it does not match it won’t work.
Further research showed that CD-ROM damage was a common issue with these arcade games, this was not surprising, after all, they were mainly in bars and taverns so all that smoke and bumping around couldn’t possibly be good for it.
My quest to make this arcade machine work again led me to a variety of places on the Internet and I found a handful of sites with a ton of information. I was especially thankful to the community over at arcadecontrols.com for pointing me in the right direction and helping me bring life to this piece of gaming history.
A number of first steps were recommended this included, changing out the CD-ROM drive, reseating all of the components including the boot PROM/EPROM chip – all of which I tried with no luck. However, each time the machine would give me a different error so I figured I was making some progress. One of the most common issues with these machines is that the riser board gets dirty or does not seat properly with the mainboard and I/O board. A solution is to clean the gold connector heads with a pencil eraser. After trying that and just about everything else I could think of, I was ready to give up.
But before I did I figured I would take a look at what parts were available for replacement, at this point, I had narrowed my troubleshooting down to either a bad mainboard or I/O board, so my focus was on replacing those first. I decided to try to replace the I/O board first because from my troubleshooting it seemed to be the most likely culprit. I looked around on eBay and saw that there were a handful of vendors selling various parts. I ended up finding a very helpful vendor that went out of his way to give me some pointers on what could be wrong. I ended up buying an I/O board from him and to my surprise, it actually worked. I was finally able to get the machine to fully boot.
You may think that this was the end of my journey to revive this ancient piece of gaming, but I wanted to know what else I could to with it. Back to the forums I went and found out that I could actually replace the CD-ROM drive with a hard drive. With help from another forum member who had already got this kind of setup working, I was able to successfully transition over to a hard drive version. This made things much faster and more reliable.
Its fun to tinker with something from the glory days of gaming, even more so whenever you are able to bring something back to life that you remember playing years ago – nothing beats that bit of nostalgia you get when you can relive those fun experiences.