Well, it seems like I am a sucker for punishment. A couple of weeks ago, Fiona and I attended Nerd Con and brought three pinball machines for the public to play. We loved sharing our hobby with the public, so we decided to do it again! This time, we headed to Collector Con, an annual collector's convention with memorabilia, pop culture collectables, comics and games, and all sorts of other toys. This convention was in Leumeah, so not too far away from us, and another great opportunity to introduce pinball to the masses. Bringing three pinball machines to Nerd Con was difficult with just one ute and having to make several trips to and fro. So, this time we only brought two machines: Fish Tales (Williams,1992) and Demolition Man (Williams, 1994).
Yesterday, Campbelltown Council hosted Nerd Con for the first time, a small pop culture expo featuring cosplay, games, workshops, and plenty of stalls. I thought this would be a good opportunity to spread the pinball gospel, so Fiona and I decided to bring three machines to the event for the public to play: The Getaway (Williams, 1992), Fish Tales (Williams, 1992) and Tee'd Off (Gottlieb, 1993).
It's Pinfest time again! Once again, Fiona and I headed off to our annual Pinfest pilgrimage, this time for the fifth year in a row. This was Pinfest's second year at Club Macquarie in Argenton. The Newcastle Pinball Association is responsible for organising Pinfest each year and they did a fantastic job again. This venue is great for the event but as Pinfest gets more and more crowded every year, and people contribute more and more machines, it always seems as if we are short on space! All in all, it shows pinball is still popular and, if anything, getting more popular as time goes on. Not a bad problem to have!
Last Action Hero (Data East, 1993) came to me as a restoration project for a customer who had had the machine for some time but was moving it to a new location. He wanted it to be fully working so he could set it up in his factory. The machine was relatively functional, but had a few issues that required extensive repair. I have a soft spot for Data East machines, so I was keen to take this one on and see how a full restoration would make it pop like new again.
It's been a while since my last post! Over the last few months, Fiona and I have been busy with a mix of our own arcade projects as well as various repairs for customers, so let's go over one of the recent repairs for another Fish Tales (Williams, 1992)! This customer had not played their Fish Tales in several years and it had sat around not working. The difficult part was that the customer (and the machine) were in Orange, NSW. A bit beyond the typical house call distance! Luckily, he was able to bring the machine to our workshop for the various repairs that it needed.
This restoration was for a customer who had just come into possession of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Data East, 1991) pinball machine from a family member who originally wanted to sell it. Luckily, he convinced them not to sell it and instead get it restored. Of course, I was happy to help, and was keen to get some more experience with Data East machines. Early 90s Data East machines are generally not known for their fantastic gameplay, but the games are simple and fun, which is all that was really needed in an arcade in the 1990s.
Once again my favourite time of the year is here... Pinfest! I have a blast at Pinfest every year so I'm always excited for September when it rolls around. Pinfest is an annual pinball festival that takes place in Newcastle on the Central Coast and is hosted by the Newcastle Pinball Association. It is always a fantastic event with many machines on free play for the general public to play. This year, Pinfest was at a new, larger venue, so I was doubly excited to check it out and play pinball all weekend.
The dot matrix display used in most modern era pinball games is a high-voltage plasma gas discharge display. High voltages are required in order to energize the plasma in order to illuminate it, creating the dots and pixels we see on the display. This process is controlled by a specific section of the display driver board (part no. A-14039) in WPC games. Pinwiki has a detailed description of problems that can occur with these displays and how to fix them. In particular, the section on testing DMD controller voltages discusses the high voltage section of the board and the voltages you can normally expect to find on it. When the components on this section of the board go out of spec, they can affect the display, rendering text and images on the screen impossible to read (if present at all).
At this point, it was time to rebuild the display driver boards in a couple of my games. The display in my Getaway (Williams, 1992) seemingly worked fine, but the voltages being produced by the board were way too high. On the other hand, the voltages on my Judge Dredd (Williams, 1993) were perfectly fine, but the display would occasionally fail and stop working mid-game. Both of these problems were fixed by rebuilding the high voltage sections of the display driver boards.
Up until this point I had spent almost all of my time restoring Bally and Williams games. I was comfortable enough with doing plenty of repairs on those machines, but I was keen to get some more experience working on a game from a different manufacturer. Enter Tee'd Off (Gottlieb, 1993). Gottlieb was one of the major manufacturers during the 1990s so I figured that this machine would be a good point of reference for future Gottlieb DMD game restorations. It would also be interesting to study the differences between how Gottlieb had done things and what I had become so accustomed to over the last several years. However, the greatest challenge with this Tee'd Off was definitely going to be the playfield repair work. There was a lot of wear on this playfield which had worn the playfield artwork away to the point that the playfield wood was showing. So, this was a good opportunity for Fiona to put her painting skills to use as well.
Time to lay down the law! Judge Dredd was the last Bally/Williams machine I had left to restore of my original road trip haul. I had left it to last mainly because the look of all the ramps criss-crossing the playfield, the idea of having to fiddle with the Deadworld, and the sheer size and weight of the damn thing all told me that this would be a painful restoration. Just looking at it and comparing it to Demolition Man (Williams, 1994), my only other widebody game, the Judge Dredd playfield was packed with more features and more mechanisms, which meant more to clean and more to service. But, as always, I was up for the challenge!
Here you will find logs of our pinball machine restorations, repairs, discussion about general pinball topics, and recounts of our random pinball adventures.
Check back regularly for updates!
Running this website is a hobby for me, just like pinball. I like being able to show my restoration work to everyone so that others can learn from it and learn to fix their own machines. If you enjoy reading the content, please consider donating to offset some of the website's operating costs.