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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Inside the Taito Type X (Part 1)

The Taito Type X arcade board came out in 2004, and is essentially a custom PC running the Windows XP Embedded operating system. Using commodity PC hardware and software development tools meant significant cost savings in producing games. This however, did not mean crappy and bloated doujin style PC games coming into arcades, as Taito kept strict quality controls over was released on the platform.

I was expecting an older desktop sized computer, but was surprised to find the unit is the same size as a Naomi motherboard (although obviously a bit taller). The motherboard is a custom 865G type, with "Taito Type X Rev A1" silkscreened onto it, and comes with onboard dolby 5.1 optical sound support, although I don't know of any arcade cabinet that would actually use this. The base unit comes with a Celeron 2.5Ghz processor, 256M RAM, ATI Radeon 9600 SE (AGP) and proprietary JVS I/O card. Even though this may seem whimpy by today's consumer PC standards, its surprising how efficent XPE can be without all the extra bloat of unnecessary device drivers and services running. Raiden III and IV for example, play at a rock solid 60fps with increidble graphic detail and sound.

The proprietary JVS I/O card is the key to the entire system, as games will not run without it. It's not a PCI card, but rather a free floating adapter which connects to a COMM port on the motherboard. It also connects to the motherboard's control panel header (for power on/off and lights) as well as the onboard optical sound. The black square at the bottom of the card is actually a plastic panel covering a set of dip switches. On the Type X, the dip switches do nothing, but on the Type X2 they do things like change the game's output resolution.

Games are distributed as an IDE hard drive and USB security dongle, and are conveniently installed via a square opening in the top of the case (each game comes comes with its own top plate). The Type X can play on a standard 15khz jamma cabinet via a JVS->Jamma I/O converter, such as those used for the Naomi platform. The graphics card has two ports, one for 15khz lowres and one for 31khz hires monitors.

Here is the complete shooter collection for the Type X, consisting of: GigaWing Generations, Homura, Shikigami No Shiro III, Raiden III, and Raiden IV.