Stan’s Obligatory Blog


The lure of the silver ball

Filed under: — stan @ 8:28 pm

Back in 1984, I bought a pinball machine. It was a 1979 Bally Future Spa game, and I used to play it a lot when it was in an arcade in downtown Huntington Beach. For many years, it was the weird centerpiece to my bachelor living room, as well as a piggy bank. I never removed the coin mechanism, so I fed it quarters every night. And I managed to save lots of money that way.

Several years ago, I lent it out to a friend from work. He and his wife liked pinball, and they had two young boys, too. So the machine got some good use. But over time, it broke down and gathered dust. So last weekend, they brought it back to me. And I got out the schematics and started fixing it. Over the years, I’ve fixed this machine many times. It’s where I learned about electronics.

When I first tried it, it was stone dead. Some poking with a multimeter found that the main power supply fuse was burned out. So today I stopped off at Radio Shack and got a new one. Then the machine powered on. But the backboard lights were off, and the flippers didn’t work.

Part of the legacy of the time the machine spent by the beach is that a lot of the connectors are corroded from the salt air. This has been a problem for as long as I’ve had it. So I’ve managed to compensate by just wiring things together with alligator clips to bypass the worst of the corroded connectors. And after positioning three alligator clip jumpers, I was able to get the game to self-test and boot up. Then I played a couple of games.

Next, I replaced all the rubber pieces. My friend had bought a nearly-complete rubber kit for it a while back, so I put all those on today. I also noticed that the battery on the main board had come loose, which is why the game couldn’t remember the high score. So I soldered that back on with a little bit of wire.

The last details to take care of are some new rubber pieces for the four little posts, and a new target to replace the broken one. I ordered all these tonight. So pretty soon, I can introduce Lucinda to pinball. Don’t know if she’ll like it or not, but I think I’ll have some fun with it.

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