Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ground Kontrol

The second post in my Arcade Safari series comes from a recent opportunity to visit Ground Kontrol, the classic arcade/bar in Portland, Oregon. As you stroll up to the front door, you can hear a continuous loop of arcade ambience on a speaker above the door, a nice touch.

They have a wide array of vintage video games as well as an upstairs pinball parlor.

Interestingly, they also sell vintage consoles. All the games ran on quarters, and the machines were in pretty good shape. Only one machine was dead when I was there (Battlezone).

I'd like to sum up the experience with the good and the bad.

The good:

  • Nice selection of machines.
  • Friendly staff (quick to return a lost quarter).
  • On a Sunday afternoon, you have your pick of games, because the place was pretty empty.
  • Only one machine was out of order, which was impressive, given the number of machines they have.
The not so good:

  • My biggest gripe--the overbearingly loud music pumping through all corners of this place. I was there at 3PM on a Sunday, and it was incredibly loud. (I used to play in a band every weekend--I am no wuss when it comes to loud music.) When you have to yell to someone you are playing a 2 player game with, it's too loud. It wasn't even 80s music.
  • A few of the machines were quarter eaters, but the staff was pretty good about it.
  • Some of the games were placed a bit too close together, face to face. When I was there, some guy was sitting down and playing the Ms. Pac, which totally blocked off access to the Galaga behind it.
  • They are a bit light on vectors (perhaps due to reliability) and didn't have any laser games.
All in all, an interesting place. They do have some interesting bands/DJ's sheduled there, and are supporters of video game related bands, which is very cool. This is definitely a good place to grab a beer and play some games if you are in the area. It's a short walk to the waterfront and the Chinese gardens, both highly rated local attractions. Just don't forget the earplugs.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Separation Anxiety

I finally got my old Tron back. (It had been in my Sister's care for a number of years.) This was the very first game I brought back from the dead--and when I say dead, EVERYTHING was dead on this machine--the power supply, boardset, monitor, fluorescent lights--the whole works. Anyway, it has been sitting for a while, and a number of the things I fixed need attention again.

One suprise I noticed when moving this thing was the fact that the back portion of the cab was separating. The cab has not seen water (nor does it have any water damage) so I was suprised to see this. I guess too much moving and wear and tear can have that sort of an affect on a cab. These Bally/Midway cabs are not built in the tank like fashion that Atari used. You can see some of the separation here:

That's the support that handles the orientation of the backdrop as well. The support holding the fluorescent tube (just above this and off frame) was also super loose.

One of the back panels had broken off as well..

(That's where the back board is supposed to connect.)

I considered a few routes, and upon consulting with Dave, he confirmed that going with big clamps and wood glue was my best option. I headed over to Sears Hardware, and they had a sale on monster clamps, in a color that would make the MCP proud. Here's a shot of the clamps pulling the back of the cab back together while the glue sets.

The cab is a heck of a lot sturdier now!

I started to go through the wiring, and found the wires for the switch (in the top of the cab) twisted together with no cap. I fixed this, then decided to fire up the monitor. The monitor showed some rastering, which was good. I then hooked up the boardset, and got some screen garbage (doh! these boards used to work..) and shortly thereafter, the monitor blew. There was a loud snap followed by some buzzing. I had capped this monitor, but heck, that was probably over 10 years ago! This monitor chassis had lots of random issues to begin with, so I ordered a replacement with new parts. I'll keep you posted on how it turns out.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Arcade Safari

One thing I want to do with this blog is use it to document classic arcade machines in the wild. At one point in time, the classics were everywhere. Now, not so much.

I used to go to school in New Haven CT. There is a record store there of some note called Cutler's. During the late 90s, Cutler's had a whole row of classic 80s video games and pins up back. They had Tron, Centipede, Ms. Pac, Galaga, and a whole slew of others. I recently went back there, and all they had up back was one solitary Ms. Pac machine.

Quite a few years ago, I had spoken to the guy who had his machines on location at Cutler's. He was a local collector. Apparently, the owner of Cutler's lease was mandating that they move next door/reduce their store to a smaller space, and also madated that they ditch the arcade machines. The claim (so he said) was the machines brought in a 'bad element'. Funny, the people I saw playhing the games during that time were in their 30s. Heck, some of them were bringing their children with them to show them the games they used to play. I used to get a lot of inspiration to fix up my Tron (and collect more games!) by visiting Cutler's. I certainly dropped my fair share of quarters into those games, and I had some good high score battles on the Tron there.

You know what stinks? Cutler's had a retro arcade set up to celebrate the arcade goodness of the past, and even that got shut down. If you appreciate the history of these things, do what you can to preserve and celebrate it, because not everyone looks fondly on this stuff.