30 Years of Dust (post 2 of 4)

(a continuation from the previous blog post on Rebuilding An Arcade Game)

First things first, I needed to take EVERYTHING out of the cabinet so that we could clean and refurbish. The marquee, the TV, the glass and plastic bezels, the control panel, the coin box, the original power supply, the switching power supply, etc…

I don't think the original owner knows about "Spring Cleaning"

As you can see from the picture on the right, 30 years of dust can really tarnish things. This is the original Centipede power transformer (albeit with a few modifications to bring it up to current spec to work with a switching power supply). Everything looked like this so a thorough cleaning was necessary (not just to make it look good, but dirt and dust can impede electrical flow as well).

Almost everything is held in with simple carriage bolts.

I took out everything of the cabinet with 1 exception: the CRT TV. I don’t know much about tube televisions, but I do know that they have capacitors that can store lethal amounts of electricity. I’d heard a few stories about people getting pummeled with enough voltage to bring some serious pain. I also know that CRTs can be quite heavy and if dropped will actually IMPLODE causing shards of glass to spit out up 6′ away. Yeah, I was a little intimidated.

I went online and found a great site on rebuilding old arcade games (www.arcaderepairtips.com). There, they showed me how to properly “discharge” a CRT TV. Wasn’t very hard, but quite scary for me. I actually had my wife Amanda stand close by wearing rubber gloves, ready to shove me away from the current if I got electrocuted. 😉

Screen Burn on an old PacMan. Click to see closer.

The TV came out and was in fact, quite heavy. Good news is I didn’t drop it. Bad news is that once it was out, I could see that it had quite a bit of “screen burn.” Too much to be salvaged (unless I wanted to read “1200 points for extra life” across every game).

So I went online and started researching arcade monitors. Turns out that they stopped making new CRTs years ago. They are now quite expensive because they’re either used or New Old Stock (NOS). I also was concerned about the electricity thing, and the weight. Whatever goes in there has to be properly mounted again as the screen actually goes vertical on those old games. It was mounted horizontally on my “reconfigured” Centipede/Wonderboy cab. This concerned me.

I also noticed that all the new arcade games (from like 2000-on) used new LCD technology that looked way better. LCD monitors are brighter, lighter, crisper, and use WAY less electricity (read power consumption and heat). Oh yeah and they’re cheaper too. The only downside is that it doesn’t have quite that same “crappy” CRT look that we just accepted in the 80s (which I actually kind of wanted because it’s all about nostalgia for me. I want everything to be as authentic as possible).

After...(with new LCD)

Before... (old CRT)

After much deliberation, I decided to go with the LCD (and now that I’m almost finished with rebuilding, I am SO glad I did). I knew that it would end up looking much better and have way less problems if I went this route. CRTs have so many complications and just the sheer weight to ship one was pretty ridiculous. By the way, I did find out that although you and I may have used CRTs in our homes back in the day (and use LCDs today), the ones in arcade games are a little different both in mounting and also quality (after all, an arcade game is on for like 14 hours every, single day).

Before...

After...

Back to the actual cabinet: it was actually in quite good shape, but definitely needed a little TLC. Amanda and I cleaned the sides up from any skid marks and dirt over the years. We did this with ammonia, soap, and water. We also wanted to get the black “black” again.

As you can see in the pic on the right, the bottom of the cabinet had taken quite a few shoe kicks, probably from stealing quarters here and there. We wanted that looking new so with slapped a fresh coat of paint on it. We did this to all the areas that were black.

Before...

After...

The entire cabinet is also surrounded by plastic t-molding on the edges. This had also taken a beating so I ripped it all off. I ordered some new t-molding from arcadeshop.com and installed that once we started putting everything back together.

After...

Before...

With the cabinet starting to shine up, we looked to where we should focus our efforts next. There was still so much to do! The control panel…

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Rebuilding An Arcade Game (post 1 of 4)

Remember these guys?!

I have ALWAYS wanted a stand-up arcade game in my home. You remember Chuck E. Cheese’s or Aladdin’s Castle? Man, I spent SOOOO many quarters at those places. I always thought it be so awesome to have one of my own.

In junior high, I even attempted to build my own. My thought was if I could just build the cabinet, I could put a TV in there with my Nintendo. I drew up plans and daydreamed about it during school. Alas, I’ve never been very good with a saw, hammer, and nails.

So yesterday I’m running for exercise with my daughter Stevie and I see this guy hauling an old Atari Centipede arcade game (circa 1980 — the year I was born) to the curb. I ask him if he’s getting rid of it and he tells me, “I bought this forever ago thinking that I would make a project out of it, but it’s just sat in the garage and now the wife says that it’s gotta go.” My reply, “I’m all over this like a cheap suit!!”

Finally in the garage - day 1

Getting it home was no easy task. Not only is the cabinet extremely awkward to carry, it also weighs close to 400 pounds! We wiggle the thing into the back of the 1000 Generations van and I drove a few blocks to my house. I wasn’t sure if Amanda was going to go for this, but to my joy, she loved the idea (she did know that I’ve really wanted something like this for a while)!

Once I had it in the garage, I was able to take a closer look at the thing. While the artwork on the sides was in relatively amazing shape, I noticed that the marquee sign was not “Centipede,” but “Wonderboy 2.” Wonderboy? What the heck is that? Click here for info on the Wonderboy series, but I wouldn’t waste my time…

Then I noticed that the control panel was totally different. No trackball, but a joystick surrounded by some really lame looking overlay. A few other observations: the glass bezel in front of the screen was not quite right, having been painted over at the bottom, and the CRT TV inside was placed horizontally, not vertically like it was supposed to be.

Wonderboy: It's like Zelda, but with horrible graphics, annoying sounds, and terrible gameplay

I plugged in the game and it fired right up. Unfortunately, it fired up to Wonder boy 2. LAME. I then discovered that while this is an authentic original 1980 Centipede cabinet, it had been converted some time ago (probably around 1989) to this horizontal scroller.

Well, I’m not interested in having a Wonderboy game, but I am VERY interested in having Centipede or something else super-vintage like that (Pac-Man, 1942, Tempest, whatever…). So, what do I do now?

Honestly, I couldn’t have been more excited about all this. If I would have plugged it in and Centipede came on perfectly, I would have thought it was cool. But the chance to actually completely rebuild this thing and learn firsthand about how it works? I was THRILLED!

This is how big the board is for Centipede. Today, you can fit about 35,000 of these on a flash card.

I searched around on the net to find original parts and was really pleased to see that while they haven’t been made in years, they aren’t totally scarce yet either.

Then I invited some friends over. They told me that you can now buy a specialized board that has Centipede plus 59 other classic games on it! Pac-Man, 1942, Dig Dug, Super Breakout, Donkey Kong, Mappy, Arkanoid, Galaga 1, 2, 3, 4….

This presented a bit of a dilemma. I really wanted to rebuild an authentic Centipede, but as I researched I found that not only would it cost me almost double to just get that 1 game, but in the end, I’d only have 1 game. So what I’ve decided to do is this: I’m going to refurbish the cabinet to be a beautifully restored Centipede cabinet with original artwork on the sides, control panel, marquee, backglass, bezels, etc… But inside I’m going to put the 60-in-1 board (to see where I bought this board, click here).

This was not going to be an easy task! I’d need to find either original parts or at least New Old Stock to make it authentic. Because the inside of the cabinet was also completely redone, I knew I’d need to do some serious woodwork as well.

Halo doesn't hold a candle to this...

I just started in on this project and want to keep updating you on it. Maybe you’re like me and always thought about doing something like this. Maybe you think I’m crazy when I could just download all 60 of these games on an iPhone for probably $4. Regardless, I’m having a BLAST and I truly feel like the end product is going to be something to be proud of. Heck, I’d love for you to come over and play me in Dig Dug or something!

I’ll keep you posted as it comes along. Expect updates every few days or so. I’m working on this every night after my little girl goes to bed (and often after Amanda does too). I’m knee-deep in this thing now and I’m having a nostalgic blast!

Overcoming…

My brother just came out of something really painful. What’s weird about it is that I pretty much went through the exact same thing several years before he did. What’s weirder still is that as we talked about his situation, he had no clue that I had been through a similar event. You see, I had never told him.

It wasn’t because I didn’t want him to know. Sure, I was feeling bad about it, but it wasn’t that I didn’t want him to know. It wasn’t even that he wasn’t around, as we lived in the same house at the time!! I had just done a bad job of being transparent and sharing my life. I wasn’t telling my stories.

Revelation 12:11 says, “And they (being us, as believers) overcame him (the devil and his wiles) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” This Scripture says that we overcome by 2 things: the blood of Christ, and the word of our testimony. Read: we overcome partly by SHARING OUR STORY.

This is fascinating. We will have victory in our lives not by pretending to have it all together or by living in cloistered closets, but by sharing the good and the bad of our lives with others. The ups and the downs; the highs and lows; the hills and valleys. Everything that is our story.

As a worship leader, I hear from folks often who really think that I have it all together. I guess they just assume that since I’m elevated off the ground by 12-24″ and have a microphone with a cord going into some speakers that I’m somehow different! When I hear stuff like this I wonder if I’m doing a bad job of being real. Truly, I believe that it is by being transparent and sharing our stories (both the testimonies of God’s faithfulness and the disappointments of life in a fallen world) helps people OVERCOME.

Jesus cried in front of His disciples. Sure, there were plenty of stories to share about God’s faithfulness, but there were moments of tears too. He wasn’t afraid to show His sorrows as well as His joys.

The truth is, if I hadn’t gone through that painful season of my life, I would not have the countless blessings that I now have. I’m on the other side now! It was great sharing from this side, but I learned a bit today that I need to share “the word of my testimony” at all times, in all seasons. And because I went through that season of life, I’m able to give encouragement and comfort to someone who feels a bit disillusioned. I’m able to help someone overcome.

Steven