Arcade Therapy

I’m back from a trip to both Fredericksburg, Virginia for Reclaim Open and after that Long Island, New York for some extended family time. All of that coming off several days in Lisbon, Portugal, so I was feeling the effects of being on the road for a bit. I have a lot to say about Reclaim Open, and that will begin here shortly, but before that I need to ease back onto the blog, so I’ll highlight some of my recent work in the bavacade.

Turns out the arcade work can also do double-duty as a kind of re-entry therapy. My bipolar gets pretty acute when I’m on the road and away from the family for a while. If I’m not mindful my thoughts can begin to spiral. So for this re-entry—before blogging or jumping headlong back into work—I took some time to tinker on a few games. I usually lug a bunch of arcade parts, repaired boards, chassis, etc. back from the US, and this trip was no different.* On top of the random parts, I also retrieved a few game boards I had shipped during my last trip to the US in February (including Sidam’s Condor, Exidy’s  Cheyenne, and Nichibutsu’s Moon Cresta). On top of that, I took a few with me from Italy, namely a Moon Patrol bootleg board with sound issues, a Bagman with sprite issues, and my back-up Yie-Ar Kung-fu board. So, in short, a lot of boards to be looked at, and below is the tale of the tape for board repairs:

  • The Sidam Condor board had a boot issue and missing star field caused by a bad 74LS32 chip. Mike ordered a MN6221AA melody chip and replaced that.  The last problem was that the foreground was shifted to the left, cutting off the “F” in Fuel on the left hand side of the screen. This was fixed by replacing chip 74LS00 at location J4. Seems like pin 6 of that chip was stuck at a logic high and never moved.
  • Moon Patrol bootleg- dead sound cpu, replaced but still no sound. Traced sound all the way back to the amp. The problem was the folks who made this bootleg pcb switched the +/- speaker wires on the edge connector. Simply swapping the wires at the speaker fixes this.
  • Yie-Ar Kung-Fu – there was nothing wrong, no graphics problems, sound or control issues. This means power is the issue creating sprites, need to test this hypothesis once that cabinet is put back together, more on that custom project setup shortly
  • Bagman – the Z80 cpu was bad, but Mike did not report any sprites issues after it was fixed. I had recurring sprite issues and assumed it was a board/chip issue, but turns out it was power, as it always is. +5V DC needed to be raised a tad.
  • The issues with the Cheyenne board were linked to the 440 Multi-kit. Turns out the the sound portion of the Exidy kit was causing the no sound condition.The logic portion (the kit) had a problem coming from the GAL chip. Specifically, addresses 14 and 15 were missing and these addresses get generated by the GAL chip.  The game boots and plays fine, but opted to remove the 440 Exidy kit and re-install original Cheyenne chips, now to fix that Hanterex Polo to get Cheyenne back up and running after nearly 10 months of that game being offline.
  • Moon Cresta was a strange issue, it was working fine until Zach and I tried swapping out the main CPU chip for a high-score save kit. Once we did that the game just threw garbage to the screen. Turns out the chip (and or high score save kit) needed to be soldered directly to board given the socket was not making contact with the chip’s legs— which seems odd. That said, the board is working again without the high score save kit, so might need to solder the HSS kit directly to board, we will see.
  • The non-working spare Dig Dug board was the final one Mike worked on, and that board had a bunch of missing chips, so that was a full blown salvage mission, but it works a treat.

That’s a fair amount of board work, but as of now there are no bad boards,. This will be a short-lived victory, but I’ll take it.

Next up is monitor chassis repairs.  I have two G07 cap kits (Robotron and Condor) I need to do, as well as a K4600 capkit for the Centuri Challenger. After that, the final project is the Hanterx Polo, which has been drawn out way too long, so I’m trying to resolve that sooner than later.

The other work happening has just been some random testing of parts and boards I brought back, such as testing a 15-pin Williams power brick for Make Trax: it works fine. I’ve also been testing boards like Condor (looks and sounds amazing)  Bagman (working again and power adjustment fixed the power-induced sprite issue), Dig Dug (works perfectly), and Zach reported back Moon Cresta is all systems go. So Cheyenne, Moon Patrol, and Yie-Ar Kung-fu are the last boards to test, but two out of the three will need to wait until the games are back online. That leaves Moon Patrol, and I’ll be testing that here soon.

This weekend I fell down a repair rabbit hole. I picked up a degaussing coil in the US, and brought it back to add the final touch to Exidy’s Venture (one of my absolute favs) which had a bit of discoloration on the CRT. The degaussing fixed the issue, but soon after the game was freezing and eventually it seemed the monitor was cutting out. When I adjusted voltage the screen came back, but this time with mono-chromatic colors and it was out of  sync. Major bummer. I started troubleshooting which lasted deep into Sunday to finally learn the monitor’s fine, but one of the chips that controls the color and sync (chip 13C) needed to have the solder re-flowed. I did that and re-seated everything and the game started working again and looking better than ever. That was a small, but rewarding, win.

It all becomes pretty consuming for me (which is true of most everything I do), but I find that focused attention and tinkering to solve small, elusive problems can be just what the doctor ordered when trying to return to a much needed work/life rhythm. Arcade therapy! But not so much playing the games these days as fixing them which is a really pleasurable, if unexpected, consequence of getting into this hobby.


*I even found all my Dungeons & Dragons maps and guide books feared lost, but that is a post for another day.

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4 Responses to Arcade Therapy

  1. Eric Likness says:

    So glad to hear so many of the consoles/cabinets are by degrees going back into full production. As you say small victories, you’ll take ’em. Until the next thing starts to age or wear and need replacing. But it sounds like things are close to stable and steady state. And that’s like money in the bank, being able to walk up to Venture, just like it was Aladdin’s Castle in 1982 and it just works and it looks good. That right there’s a time machine.

    • Jim Groom says:

      Exactly, a near mint Venture machine like this one is hard to come across. And I now understand why, those Exidy games like Mouse Trap, Pepper II, and Venture have the weirdest power supply ever, so getting Venture running was a process spread out over almost two years. The game is finally like new, so when the issues started Saturday I had to dig in because no one will stand between me and my 8-bit treasures! I find I play that game a lot, and it is re-kindling my interest in D&D, oddly.

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