It’s ALIVE!! (post 4 of 4)

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

It works!

With the cab repainted, everything completely cleaned, and the control panel rebuilt, there were only a few things left to do! First, the marquee lighting wasn’t working, so I replaced the fluorescent bulb. That didn’t work so next I swapped out the old FS-2 starter with a new one. That did it.

Then I ordered a very nice 19″ LCD monitor to replace my screen burned CRT. The LCD is incredibly light compared to the CRT, and didn’t take much to hang (I just cut 2 pieces of wood to stretch across the cabinet).

I plugged in the screen to the game’s PCB to make sure things worked. To my delight, it did! It was so incredible seeing Pacman come up on the screen. I knew that no matter what happened from here on out, at least the game would power up!

Beautiful original glass

I wanted the cabinet to really shine so I went online and found the best looking original Centipede marquis and glass screen bezel I could find. They looked better than I could have hoped for (though admitting, cost more than I had hoped too).

Now came the part that took me the longest: wiring. Though I bought a wiring harness online, I needed to strip many of the 40+ wires at both ends. Then, I needed to make sure that all the wires were attached tightly to the inside of the cabinet. If the wires were loose inside, they could cause all sorts of problems.

Wiring up the control panel was very rewarding. Unfortunately, the trackball didn’t work when I wired it up. I couldn’t understand. I rebuilt the entire thing! What was wrong?! I couldn’t find ANYTHING on the internet saying what could be wrong.

Don't use the green...

get the red.

I want to be the first one (at least that I’ve seen) to post why an original Atari trackball WILL NOT work with the iCade 60-in-1 PCB: it’s the green PCBs in the trackball. For some reason, they just flat won’t work with the iCade. SO, I had to buy a new Happ red PCB (I realize this is tech-talk, but for anyone else out there who might be rebuilding one of these, I want to relate how to get it done). Once this came in the mail and I wired it up, everything worked great. Get the new red PCBs for the Atari trackball if you’re rebuilding — you can buy it here.

In the process of all this wiring, I’ve learned how to use a soldering iron pretty well! That was cool for me, as I hadn’t had much experience with one before.

Power for monitor

The last piece of wiring that I wanted to do was get the power supply for the monitor to plug into the power supply so I’d only have to have 1 power cord coming out the back of the cabinet. A little scary for me considering that I was working with a full 120v. Yikes! After a quick stop at Home Depot, I had all the tools I needed to wire it up. After I double-checked the voltage rating with my new multimeter (another new tool I’ve acquired in the process of rebuilding this game), I plugged in the monitor and……success!

All finished. I closed the back up and switched it on. Everything works flawless & the cabinet looks great! I’m really proud of myself as I’m not one that is usually all that good with this sort of thing. I’ve also ALWAYS wanted to 1) learn how these old games actually worked, and 2) actually own an arcade game! On the downside, my initial $20 investment inflated rather quickly, but I’m glad I did it. What a great 2 weeks for me. I can’t wait to invite the guy who originally sold me the game to come over and play! He’s gonna kick himself. 😉

All in all, I spent around 45 hours on the game. Not bad. Below I’m including a bunch of images of the finished game in my garage. If you’re ever in the area, drop me a line and let’s play it out. I’m getting quite good at Burgertime, Centipede, and Donkey Kong (1, 2, & 3)! Thanks for reading! I’ve really enjoyed sharing the process with you.

With love,
Steven

Before..

After


Before...

After

Before...

After

Before... (old CRT)

After (new LCD)
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Control Issues (post 3 of 4)

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

After everything that could be repainted got repainted, things were really starting to look good!

Wonderboy 2 control panel

The next step for me was to completely replace the existing Wonderboy 2 control panel (the part with the joystick and buttons) with an original Centipede one. 2 problems with this though:

  1. They don’t make Centipede control panels anymore. I’d have to try to find a used one to fix up.
  2. Centipede only has 3 buttons (1p, 2p, and fire) and a trackball (no joystick). If I’m going to put in all the classic games (Pacman, Galaga, Dig Dug, etc…) along with Centipede, I’d need to have a joystick and 2 more buttons. You’ll see in a minute.

My Centi panel. A beauty huh?!

After scouring the web for a while, I found the best Centipede control panel I could for the best price. $45 bought me the control panel you see to the left. Yikes.

So, obviously I needed to completely refinish, mod, and then rebuild this thing. I took all the buttons out. They barely pushed down! The trackball wouldn’t budge. No rolling. That’s okay though as I had a plan. 😉

I took the original overlay off much easier than I had expected. I used “Goo-Gone” and within 30 minutes, the entire panel was scraped off using a paint scraper. Now I needed to take off 30 years worth of rust.

For this I used a simple brush wheel attached to my cordless drill.

Again, it came off pretty easy. Cool!

Next up, I sanded off all the gooey glue that remained from the overlay. I used simple 120 and 240 grit sandpaper.

Anything can clean up real good with a bit of TLC.

Then I repainted the whole thing with flat black Rustoleum. It turned out great!

The next night I went out to the store and bought a drill bit for the 1 and 1/4″ holes that needed to be drilled (one for the joystick, and two for the additional buttons). I foolishly tried to do this with my cordless drill only to realize there was NO WAY I was getting through this incredibly thick steel with my drill (not to mention I later found out that I had accidentally bought a wood drill bit, not a steel one — oops). I needed a drill press.

Just before we finished drilling the 2 button holes on the right.

Thanks to my neighbor next door, I got back on the right track and had the holes drilled in no time. I was really astounded at how nicely this was turning out! With the right tools, the job can be done.

After applying the new overlay I had bought (I got a New Old Stock overlay on eBay for a great deal!), it looked great! Now to start adding the pieces back on.

I turned my attention first to the trackball. You have NO clue how disgusting it is at the bottom of a spinning ball that people have rubbed for 30 years. NASTY. Like I said, the ball didn’t even spin, so I knew I’d need to buy some new parts. Upon opening the unit, I saw that the bearings inside were completely rusted through. I found the right replacements (www.arcadeshop.com), along with a new trackball, and went to work.

The original unit with ball removed

Can you tell which bearings are new?

Again, which is new?

Shiny and new

I added a new joystick and three new buttons before cleaning up the original Atari LED lights that select 1 or 2 players.

Unfortunately, the lights in those LEDs were not labelled so I had no idea how much power to feed them. I tried +5v, and unfortunately, that turned out to be too much (now I know that LEDs run at +1.2v). I burned them up and I couldn’t get them to come back on. They still work great, but no light comes from them. I may replace them down the road, but I think it looks fine and these are REALLY hard to find online. When you do find them, they usually cost over $20 a piece!

I’m really pleased with the outcome of this part of the project. Next week, I’ll show you how I hung the new monitor, wired everything up, and actually got the thing turned on for the first time!! It’s ALIVE! 🙂

BEFORE

AFTER

The internal wiring

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…