Archive for June, 2010

Pinball Wizard Day 6

Alright, I’m a few days late, but here’s an update.

The playfield is in pretty bad shape.  Cleaning the top layer of grime off also took off a bit of the paint.  On the plus side, it revealed the true paint colors in some areas – the light pink was actually much more vivid, like a light fuschia.

Cleaning aside, I’ve got the mechanics and scoring working really well!  The biggest problem right now is that the ones digit doesn’t carry at ten, it just resets.  That and the gameplay is, by modern standards, mediocre.  Some sites claim that a glossy clearcoat will speed up the ball and make the game play better, but I’m a long way from that point.  More to my liking is a wax like Meguires Carnauba Wax as suggested by

Anyway, I’ve put the machine back together, enabled the bells, and think I’m at a point where I can invite people over and have some fun!  Well, almost, I have to take care of the dishes and laundry that have been piling up while I focus on the pinball machine!

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Pinball Wizard Day 5

20 years it slept in a basement in Moline, and today it awoke!  Ladies and gentlemen, I have played pinball, and it was good!

OK, enough gloating, on to the details.  I figured it was strange that the game seemed to stall when it was ready to play, but before lighting up the Ball 1 light.  There’s a reason – the bulb was burned out.  As were 5 more of a type I don’t have.  But I couldn’t get to any of them without taking off the glass, most likely allowing it to completely fall apart.  Instead, I pried a body panel off the back (huge amount of effort) and found a miracle: the glass is held together with a metal frame!  I was able to take it out without any trouble, move functional bulbs from less important areas, and re-assemble.

Next up was more wire-tracing.  I followed the wires from the flippers through the machine for about an hour, eventually leading me to the Hold relay.  For the fun of it (I find some strange things fun) I plugged in the machine, held the relay closed, and hit the flipper button.  It worked!  In fact, everything worked: the score started adding up, the slingshots (the bumpers that smack the ball across the table) and mushroom bumpers worked, the ball counter advanced.  It was wonderful!  So, first order of business: find something plastic to wedge in the relay and get in a few games!

So really, the video above is of a partially working game.  There’s a comb sticking out of the Hold relay.  Actually, I can’t tell why Hold would ever need to be un-held.  I’ll trace down those wires soon, though not until I’ve gotten in a few more games!  I’ll also have to disassemble, clean, and grease all the counter mechanisms (think clocks, but simpler and filled with oily, gritty nastiness from the last 45 years).

And I did it in 8 days.  My apartment can barely contain my ego right now.

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Pinball Wizard Day 4

Busy weekend, but I have updates!

The parts came in and I got them installed.  And no, that didn’t fix everything.  Sniffle.  I found that the sensor that detects if the ball is in the gutter was disconnected, as well as some other random wire.  Fixed.

Now, the real issue: I need to find out the boot-up sequence, and where it’s failing.  Easier said than done…

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Pinball Wizard Day 3

When my dad and I picked up the game, the previous owner told us as much as she could about the history of the table.  For twenty years the table sat untouched in her basement, hosting generations of daddy long-legs and dust bunnies.  She acquired it when a gaming company owed a favor to someone in her family and repaid the debt with the choice of either a pinball machine or a jukebox.

I’ve been doing a bit of research online about “Loop the Loop” and the company behind it.    According to and Wikipedia, the first coin-operated pinball game was created in 1931 by a distributor for Gottleib. The game, called Ballyhoo, was so popular that the new company switched to the name Bally.  In a side note, Bally later opened arcades under the name of “Aladdin’s Castle,” including one in Moline’s Southpark Mall where all of my adolescent quarters were deposited.

Depending on the site, the game was made in 1965 or 1966 by Bally.  There’s a good deal of information at the Internet Pinball Database including pictures of the backglass in good condition.  I’m also finding that some parts are going to be easy to find – flippers and bumper switches are pretty standard and available.  Others, like a nickel coin mechanism, are going to take a miracle.

Since I solved the more obvious problems yesterday, I’ve just got to make the game actually play. It seems to initialize just fine, and it thinks it’s ready to play.  Except for the spinner, none of the table mechanics or scoring work.

I started tracing down an orange wire that connected the flippers together – probably a ground wire that gets interrupted to halt gameplay.  It seems to connect to most of the mechanical components, so with a bit of luck it’ll lead me to the problem!  Well, it did lead me to a couple of problems, but only because it went to every 54-volt piece of the machine.  Anyway, new coils have been ordered to replace a couple of burned out ones, plus some spare light bulbs and a ball for the tilt mechanism.  I got the cheap shipping, so there’s not much I can do for the next few days.

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