Spy Month: The Secret Code Machine

Spy Month continues with the Secret Code Machine, a great little Caesar Cipher built in Scratch to help keep your secret messages a secret. https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/185866145/

It was a little tricky at first to work out how it was to function but like I’ve always told my pupils, if they can explain a concept clearly in plain English then building a project is made a great deal easier.

Incoming message…

gsv ivw ulc uorvh zg nrwmrtsg

The nice thing about the Secret Code Machine is that you can cut and paste the encoded messages into emails etc to send to people. Works best on laptops or desktop machines.

First Coding Spy Month - The Secret Code Machine

Spy Month

We will shortly be posting theme related projects and ideas for people of all ages and abilities to get stuck in and have a go on our Facebook page. There should be something for everyone to enjoy so keep popping back to our page to see what December brings. Click here to be taken to our Facebook Page.

December’s theme is all about Spies and we’ve already put together some fun and creative projects to share with you. If you fancy setting us a challenge, then why not suggest a spy related idea for us to attempt.

First Coding Spy Month - December 2017

Salisbury’s Digital Drinks

Last week saw The Old Fire Station here in Salisbury host another Digital Drinks event. Here digital curious people of all ages, abilities and interests get to meet up and discuss ideas over drinks. This was also the perfect venue to showcase First Coding’s courses that start in January.

As a way to draw people in I brought along the arcade cabinet that I made (the build process being detailed here) and loved talking to visitors to my table about providing the younger generations with the building blocks to create their own ideas using Raspberry Pis.

First Coding at Salisbury's Digital Drinks

I was also fortunate enough to attend the talk given by Jeremy Heath-Smith, executive producer of the Tomb Raider games and found his account of his ups and downs in the gaming industry to be very honest and incredibly inspiring.

The Finished Cabinet

Here is the arcade cabinet, powered by a tiny Raspberry Pi Zero in its finished state and I really like the way it turned out. I’ve learnt a great deal during the build process and will be in a better position should I take on a similar build. Although the whole build came in at around £40 (not including the screen), I have learnt that it is worth investing in decent materials to finish off the look of the cabinet.

Raspberry Pi Arcade Cabinet

When trying to work out how to cover the frame cheaply, I actually put the question to a couple of online forums and a number of people suggested self adhesive car vinyl and so this is what I went with. It turned out to be a very wise choice as it’s durable, easy to apply without trapping any air bubbles and does a really good job of hiding any woodworking mistakes. The red edging is simply insulation tape but I think I can find a better alternative.

If you’re considering building your own cabinet but are put off by taking that initial step, I would definitely giving it a try. If I can do it then so can you. We sell raspberry Pi retro gaming kits in our shop here which will get you started.

A Working Cabinet

This was my favourite stage of the build as I now had a working model. It was nice to play the cabinet in its entirety as it highlighted a few faults, the main one being the width. Although the dimensions of the cabinet are all based around the screen I’m using, it all feels a little excessive for a single player set up. I’m now regretting not making the cabinet dual control – Next time!

Here is a short video of the cabinet in a working state.

Controls for the Arcade Cabinet

Although the Retro Gaming Pi Kit comes with a USB controller, this wasn’t ideal for the arcade cabinet. The hunt was on for a set of USB arcade buttons and joystick as this will still work with the the Raspberry Pi and a quick search on eBay revealed a set for the nice price of £10.

The milling out of the holes for the buttons was easy to do though the next step of crimping the connectors was a struggle with the type of pliers used. Still, the button wires fed nicely into the USB board which was hot glued to the underside of the MDF panel. If you’re having trouble with the wiring then check out this helpful USB Arcade Controller Wiring Guide.

Retro Pie Raspberry Pi Arcade Cabinet Controls

I’ve learnt the hard way that it’s good practice to test as much as you can during any build and after connecting up the new controller panel, it all worked first time. Playing the classics with a controller is one thing but replaying them how they were originally intended, with a joystick and buttons really transforms your gaming experience.

Building the Arcade Cabinet

The gaming cabinet is being built without any plans and this is going to make for an interesting project indeed. All dimensions for the cabinet are being based around the screen that’s going to be fitted inside and from here I was able to cut out the basic shape for the sides of the cabinet.

It got easier moving forward, joining the two sides with more MDF board cut to measurements based around the TV screen and before long the cabinet soon started to take shape.

Retro Pie Raspberry Pi Arcade Cabinet First Cut

I’ve never been good at woodwork but will always give things a try. I found this part of the project a little frustrating as the lines I cut weren’t as neat as I had hoped but I should be able to hide a few mistakes when I come to cover the cabinet and add the graphics. Still it’s nice to see some reward for my efforts even at this early stage.

Check out First Coding’s Retro Gaming starter Kit here.

Building A Low Cost Retro Arcade Cabinet

I love retro gaming, my collection of old consoles will testify to that but there has always been one thing that I’ve never had the opportunity to own due to the ever increasing price tags they carry – the arcade cabinet.

So a challenge was been set to build a low cost arcade cabinet that will be based around a kit similar to the components of First Coding’s Retro Gaming kit. The kit contains a Raspberry Pi Zero which will be perfect and the SD card provided runs Retropie with arcade games already loaded onto it, so it is perfect for a project such as this and a great build to kick this blog off. Be sure to follow the cabinet’s progress here on the First Coding blog.

Raspberry Pi Retro Gaming Kit