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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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!