Sunday, April 19, 2009

Now you have a friend in the paper business!

I finally dug my Paperboy machine out of storage. This one has had quite a journey.. I found it out in California while on a warehouse raid with my friend Dave (and his friend Mike). I was only out there for the summer, and had to return to the east coast to finish up school. Dave shipped the machine out (many thanks!) and I took it back to the apartment I was renting. I managed to get it working, but it was always flaky--it had power issues I was unable to track down, despite a lot of tinkering. I managed to pick up a Championship Sprint kit for it, which is a lot of fun with two players. After finishing grad school, I stored the machine at my parents' business, and moved back to California. There it sat in (literally) cold storage for about 7 years! Then, I moved back to the east coast, got a house, and started assembling an arcade in the basement.. it was time to reclaim the Paperboy.

Given that it was flaky when I put it away, I was not surprised to see that the machine was dead 7 years later when I plugged it in. Paperboy is a power hungry machine; it has the normal power block that most Atari machines have, but it has an extra big blue bolted to the floor of the cab. It uses an ARIII board for +12 volts, +5 volts and audio amplification, and then has a second power supply (in my case a switching power supply) that supplies +5 volts for the CPU board. (The machine needs +5 volts for both the CPU and the video board--both of which take up a lot of room in the cabinet.) When it's running, it pulls about 2.3 amps, more than twice what typical older machines require.

The troubleshooting went like this.. I noticed that I had a cooked fuse on the power block, which was traced to the circuit that is supposed to supply 12 volts DC to the ARIII board. This is a very simple circuit, consiting of a transformer, a fuse, a bridge rectifier, and two big blue capacitors. Upon replacing the fuse (slow blow) I found that I was getting about 3V DC, where I should be getting about 4 times that much. I thought I might have a short in the big blue.. I unplugged the leads that lead to the big blue, and tested to see what kind of output I was getting on the DC output of the bridge rectifier--and I was getting no where near the 12 volts (unsmoothed) that I was supposed to be getting. Then I checked the output from the transformer itself--12 volts right on the money. The problem was a bad diode in the bridge rectifier. One order to Bob Roberts for $3, and I had a new rectifier. (I also picked up a replacement big blue, and an ARIII repair kit just in case.) I replaced the bridge rectifier and the big blue--now reading a solid 12V DC on the ouput. I tossed in an ARIII board and bolted it into the machine. (Had to run out to the hardware store to pick up some 6/32 bolts to hold the board in place.) I plugged in the machine.. nothing. I got out the multimeter, and found that while I had good voltages on the CPU board, I only had 2.5 V (instead of 5 V) on the video board. The video board has its 5 V supplied by the ARIII. I happened to have another spare ARIII, so I popped that one in. As I looked down at the multimeter and saw +4.97 V on the readout, I heard the test tones go, and then the speech test said "Now you have a friend in the paper business." I walked around to the front of the machine, and saw that it was operational:

Then I proceed to play the game for the next three minutes, in that wonderful feeling of joy/disbelief that often accompanies an easy fix! I did a bunch of cleanup on the machine--the control panel, the glass, was pretty dirty. The handgrips were really funky from being in storage, but some hand soap and some scrubbing with a brush in the sink got them back in order.

The kicker is this--the day I got this thing back to my house from storage, Rich (from thisoldgame) announced that he is selling a reproduction overlay for the handlebars (conspiciously missing from this machine). This is the first time that part has been reproed.. is that good timing or what? I just got notice that mine is in the mail, and I'll post an update when it is installed.

If you need me, I'll be on Middle Road.