Sunday, December 7, 2008

Let there be light!

Tis the season for lights, and I've been doing my best to take care of a major pet peeve of mine--games with nonworking lights. Collecting and playing standups is about the arcade experience, and part of that experience is lit up marquees and coin door lights. I was lucky to score an original marquee when I purchased my Centipede cab, but the fluorescent fixture was dead. One trip to Ace Hardware and I was able to find a starter and a fluorescent bulb. I'm pretty happy with the results:

Next up was a tricky puzzle with my Gauntlet coin door lights. (As you may recall, this game has 4 coin slots, one for each player.) They have never worked since I have owned the machine, and as it turns out, the problem was deceptively simple. I had tried changing lights/checking voltages on the left side door, and never found voltage. My big problem was I had 2 dead coin door lights on the right hand side door. As they say with Christmas lights, when one goes out, they all go out--and this is true for Gauntlet coin doors. They are wired in series, so if one side is entirely dead, the other side will be too. This is not true for most games--since there is only one coin door. Live and learn! The lights are lit, but I still need to fix them up with some new inserts and a new plastic piece for the rightmost slot.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Return of a classic

I've been going great guns on the Centipede restoration, and am happy to report that Centipede lives!

There were a few twists and turns (literally) along the way. First, let me get the obligatory trackball comparison shot out of the way:

The one on the left was nasty. It looked like someone poured lubricant directly on the ball in order to lube the bearings! The control panel I picked up got new bearings, rollers, and a snow white leaf button from Bob Roberts. Here's a shot of the control panel.

I *thought* the overlay was an original that had faded, but upon closer inspection, it appears that the overlay is an inkjet reproduction. It's not wide enough to cover the whole panel, and the cutout under the fire button hole is kinda ragged (but hidden here). I have a new silkscreened overlay on its way, but right now we are getting scored on functionality. Cosmetics will come in time.

After plugging in the new ARII (audio regulator two) power board, harness, and testing all the test points on the ARII, I was ready for the moment of truth--installing the game PCB (printed circuit board). Usually it's a bit of a nail biter, but you can only sit around and test voltages for so long.. I plugged in the board, and this is what I saw:

Upside down success! It was suprisingly easy to play, because I had installed the trackball backwards by mistake. After inspecting the monitor a bit more carefully, I discovered that someone had cut and swapped the yoke wires. These are the wires that go from the chassis board to the yoke (a set of deflection coils) on the monitor neck. Swapping wires allows you to reverse the way the picture is drawn on the screen. (The person who converted this to a Mania Challenge did this in order to get the correct display.) It's weird that they cut the wires, since the wires go to a molex connector where you can easily pop the pins out (with a paperclip) and reverse them. This is the route I took, which put the screen in the proper orientation.

With all this attention to the monitor, I noticed that the circuit board was held in place (literally) by a thread. Only one of the bolts was in place--the other was wedged between the bottom of the board and the cabinet shelf. (It's amazing it didn't short anything out.) Another annoying aspect of the monitor was the pinkish glow that it had. I wasn't able to adjust it away. I figured it was time for a cap kit, so I ordered one from Bob Roberts. I just finished installing it tonight, and the difference (shown in my blurry pic below) is clear:

No more annoying pinkish tinge! I also reflowed the video connections for the monitor and bolted the chassis board in place properly. I also got out the Windex and gave the thing a good cleaning. The monitor is now in good shape on this machine. Here's a picture of the Centipede in the row. (This is pic pre cap kit--I got the machine up and running quickly on a day we had some friends over.) I have the glass bezel, but I'm planning on touching it up before installing it.

There is still a lot to do on this one--marquee lights, coin door lights, uncovering the side art, etc.. but those can wait for a little while. I had forgotten how much fun this game is to play! I'm chasing GAB's high score (whoever that is), but I'm off by an order of magnitude right now.. See you in the arcade!