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. πŸ˜‰

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 (, 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! πŸ™‚



The internal wiring

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!