Archive for June, 2010

Pinball Wizard, Day 2

Today I got the mangled switch stack bent into shape, score rotors cleaned, left flipper unstuck, power cord replaced, and spiders evicted.  When powered up, the scores reset to zero and it looks like it’s ready to play, except none of the controls work.  If I trigger a “Tilt” by making it think I’m cheating, I can hit the start button again to reset the credit counter to zero and re-initialize.  The next step will be to take the back panel off and see if there are any dead bulbs that might provide a better idea where in the process the game’s stuck.

I’ve also started a wish list for replacement parts – one of the bumper switches is broken, and a set of chrome legs would be nice.

It’s not decision time yet, but I’ve been thinking: do I keep the existing theme and try to repair/replace the glass and the missing plastic trim pieces, or do I create my own themed machine?  On the one hand, the existing theme won’t be too hard to spruce up.  The sides are a couple of simple stencils, the two missing trim pieces could be re-created fairly simply, and the glass… Well, I could take a high-res picture of the broken glass, Photoshop in the missing areas, buy a translucent printout and smush it between 2 pieces of plexiglass.  On the other hand, if I’m going to have to touch up practically every inch of the machine anyway, why not personalize it to something I’m interested in?  For instance, an XKCD or Questionable Content theme?

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Pinball Wizard


In theory, I’m going to resurrect a pinball machine.  In practice, well, we’ll see.

Over the weekend I got a 1966 Bally’s Loop the Loop pinball game – non-functional.  A very nice woman had it sitting in her basement for the last 20 years and wanted to get rid of it, so she gave it away to a random stranger – me.  From what I can find online, it was pretty rare even when it was made, with only 1055 produced.  It’s very rare today, but not very valuable since it isn’t a great game.  So, here are the challenges I face while trying to restore it:

  • The game mechanism is entirely mechanical.  There are no electronic components, which are more of my specialty.  It’s a mechanical computer with spinning wheels that push switches, and I’ve never worked on anything like it before.
  • Replacement parts are almost non-existent.  If I need to replace a cracked flipper, I’ll probably need to build it myself.
  • I don’t have much time to devote to this project.  I’ve got many other time- and money-consuming projects going, including volunteering at a community theater, building a miniature humanoid robot and maintaining a 1981 corvette that I drive daily.


So, what have I got on my side?  Well, I don’t have cable TV, so I have a bit more free time.  I’m not hurting for money (yet) so a few spare parts won’t deprive me of dinner.  Most of the mechanism looks to be in good shape.  There are a dozen configuration notes inside the cabinet, almost everything’s labeled and the game came with the original wiring diagram!

And here’s what I have to fix:

  • One switch stack is severely bent
  • The coin mechanism is missing
  • The power cord is a fire hazard
  • It’s very dirty, rusty, and needs to be repainted
  • The back glass is shattered
  • The left flipper is stuck
  • Both flippers are cracked
  • Two trim pieces are missing

After that I just have to find out why it isn’t working and I’m all set!  Tonight I replace the power cord, re-wire the start button to use banana plugs and attempt to find out how to trick it into thinking that I’ve inserted a coin.

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