Monday, August 24, 2015

Harry Potter and the Mysterious Brown Envelope

There have been many stories told over the years about extra items that have been found inside the conveniently cavernous and relatively discreet innards of amusement machines. As with all tall tales, you have to discount most of them as damned lies, but the things I have heard about include piles of cash, 'medicinal herbs', 'marital aids', firearms, bottles of unlabelled moonshine, false limbs, musical instruments and of course bongo magazines. Essentially everything short of Lord Lucan and Shergar. My friend once bought an old Tempest arcade cabinet at an auction and found inside a box of 3.5" floppy disks (ask your granddad what these were, kids) with girls' names written in a serial killer scrawl in vivid pink ink on the labels. He threw them away straight away without looking any further and throughly washed his hands four times. I think I would have done the same.

Inside the Judge was none of the above, but a large fairly heavy brown envelope. Opening it, at first I was a little disappointed that there were no deeds to a castle inside but was soon happy with what was present. It was pretty much the machine's entire documentation.

A bit of light reading.

"Congratulations on choosing the Mega City One fascistic law enforcement officer.
Please read the instructions carefully and it should give years of trouble free judging, jurying and executing."

This paperwork is usually missing from well travelled machines. It is often separated and lost over time on the machine's long journey from owner to owner. It is essentially a collection of instructions and pages full of frightening Star Trek style schematics and illustrations listing switches, solenoids, circuit diagrams and bulbs – pretty much everything in and on the machine that you can refer to when it needs fixing, replacing or testing. Which it will at some point.

Yup, all looks straightforward...

Yes, I still laugh at the word 'flasher'. I am a child.
Whilst all of this bumf is widely available and can easily be downloaded gratis from the internet, I thought it was nice that I had the actual tangible document that I could refer to instead of peering at an iPad screen. I imagine these books will be heavily thumbed through soon with pages folded over, pencil notes written in the margins and dirty fingerprints adorning the edges like a Haynes manual for a classic car. It was now time to jump in as the replacement parts had started to arrive!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

'Let us hurry. There is nothing to fear here.'

After a little internet research I discovered the screwheads on the backbox lock were a 'Torx size 20 with centre pin'. So I went down to Masters (other massive Australian DIY centres are available) and came back with a hex key swiss army knife. The screws came out with no problem and the lock and surround popped straight out, success!

The lock itself was a simple looking one that should be simple and cheap enough to replace.

Lifting the backglass out revealed the panel with many blown bulbs and a clear message to the
unweary traveller...

What could possibly go wrong?

The machine was off, so opening this panel, I ventured further to the actual backbox gubbins – The various driver boards and the brain of the machine.

My luck seemed to be in. The holder that should have contained the AA batteries was empty – that would explain why the machine reverted to factory settings every time it was powered on. This was good news as leaking old battery acid is can eat through circuit boards like Alien blood. I whipped them out and put in some fresh new Duracells. There are more efficient and elegant solutions like installing an button battery cell with holder or even adding an EPROM chip, but I went with Occam's razor for the time being. Everything looked good, no capacitors had split, no wires were broken and nothing was missing. But hang on... What was this taped above the PCBs? It looked like... a key? It couldn't be, could it?! I removed the key and tried it in the coin door's lock. Bugger me, it fitted and opened the door! I didn't need to drill out the lock!

So some bright spark taped the coin door key in the backbox for safe keeping and then lost the backbox key? Genius!

Once in there I took off the lock bar, slid off the glass and lifted the playfield. It was heavier than I expected – Everything in a pinball machine weighs a ton it seems. My heart was in my mouth, what Lovecraftian nightmare had been sleeping dormant in here for nearly a decade? Was I going to be responsible for ending the world by releasing an unspeakable demon?

It was clear of life, both living and dead – result! Everything was covered in a thin layer of black soot, which I think was the result of the bulbs blowing, but nothing that would inspire Hieronymus Bosch.
Oooh look, two 1 dollar coins. Both from 1984, oddly. They were returned into circulation by buying me a very nice takeaway coffee the next day. 

'Dancing to electro-pop like a robot from 1984.' 

 There was something else. In the black corner there was a fairly large, old brown envelope...