Flash Limping Along

It’s alive!  Well sort of…  Last pinball night was very productive.  It was mostly me sitting around drinking beers while watching Mark replace the 40 pin PIA chip.  What a pain that turned out to be.  It was very difficult to wick all the solder out of the holes.  Once we did that, we put the new chip in and powered it up.  Turns out that we had a copper whisker between two of the pins, and as soon as we removed it, the driver board was up and running.  We finished all of the test EPROM tests which passed with flying colors.

We moved on to testing the “whole” system which involved powering on the machine with the real PROMs installed and praying.  Let’s test the displays.  Oops two of them are cracked and don’t look like they will ever work again.  Swap one of the working display cables with a bad display just to make sure, and y’up the two displays are toasted.  Next comes the lamp test.  Why is it when I buy a pinball machine, we can get it working in a couple of hours, but nearly every bulb is burnt out, and when Mark buys a machine, it takes us three months to get it working, but nearly every bulb is good?  There are literally only three or four bulbs out on the machine.  Oh well, let’s move onto the solenoid test.  (Of course, the one of the displays that isn’t working is the credit/ball number display.  This is also the display that shows you the test, and the solenoid that it is testing.)  Without that info,  it is a little more difficult to know what is going on, but it should still cycle through the solenoids.  Nothing…, not a single solenoid.  That’s easy, that is the main fuse on the supply board.  We test it which shows that it is bad, and replace it with one of Mark’s many fuses from his fuse kit.  (Who owns a fuse kit with over 200 different types of fuses in it?  That would be Mark.  Earlier we were looking for a voltmeter and he pulled out no less than six different DMMs. )  We replaced the fuse, hit the credit switch…nothing.  Ooops, forgot to put the pinball in the machine.  Cracked it opened, tossed in a ball, powered it on.

Threw a credit on the machine, hit the one player button and we were off and playing.  When you hit the right flipper you score 100 points.  Hmmm, play the machine, not the game, so I quickly racked up a couple thousand points without even sending the ball into the playfield.  Left flipper, well it doesn’t work at all, so that is going to make the game a little bit more difficult.  We play two or three games and it is time to go home for the night.  There was no background music, I’m questioning if I ever saw the lower pop bumper work, and of course the left flipper doesn’t work, but wow, not too bad for the first real power up of the machine.  All these issues are easy to fix.  The only one Mark is worried about is the displays being bad.  Looking at prices on the web, they are pricey to replace.  Looks like we might be making our own displays.  I’m thinking it should be pretty easy to reverse engineer those and make some new ones.

4 responses to “Flash Limping Along

  1. Wow so much work , I went down a very similar path and gave in ( cost mainly ) .
    I decided to make a mechtronic pinball instead using 4017 decade counters . They ; count the balls , reset the score , count 2 3 4 5 points ,reset targets , provide stepping lane change , progressive scoring from a single target , match , 2x > 9x bonus ,control the 4 ball multiball and light all the LEDS at the same time .
    While this is not a current ramp and shaker Dot Matrix machine it can be epic to play.
    Seems too much is placed on a cpu trying to cope in a random system hence all of the gripes about CODE.Letting some simple counters do the chores saves on the expense of the IO boards hanging off the cpu.
    Hope this could offer an alternative.

    • The cost hasn’t really been an object at this point. I’ve probably spent about $200 all said and done, and that includes enough boards to make five pinball machines. (I don’t have the parts, but the parts run about $80 each pinball machine.) I love the idea of a mechtronic because I own a couple of EMs and I love the old mechanical machines. They are absolutely amazing to me. It was amazing what they could do with only mechanical switches and relays. It is so much simpler to make a deep rule set game now because almost every chip that I use would be powerful enough to run a whole pinball machine. The IO boards are also very cheap, (running about $5 for each 16 signal input board). I could have made them even cheaper, using a simple shift register, but then I would probably need to add a capacitor as a filter to make sure that I caught all of the edges.

      Thanks for the suggestions. The gripes about coding I think stems from the fact that people fear what they don’t know well. The problem is that without that level of programming, you can’t get a deep rule set. Everybody loves games with lots of things to do, and different things to shoot for, and different modes. Well, all of those things come at the expense of requiring somebody to program those features.

      I’m still not excited about writing the compiler. I spent a while talking to a friend who had similar issues with their company’s product and suggested some open source projects that I might be able to leverage. These include pyparse and JSON. I’m not sure if they will get me the whole way to what I need, but I might be able to use them for syntax checking. I just have to spend the time to do the research. The other alternative is just start writing the code. I just finished the data structures that I need to support the language, so it should only be the parsing and the processing that needs to be completed.

      • I may have to look further into programmable logic. Thanks heaps for the reply given me alittle hope for a fully solid state venture. Further I’m so glad to see someone out there doing it. It seems every forum is just concentrating on store bought mods,not building machines. The satisfaction of making a machine from go to whow is awesome.
        Please feel free to bounce me any pictures or videos of your progress. kress

      • It is truly audacious (wow, I love that word) to try and create a pinball machine from scratch. One of my goals is to make it a little bit easier for other people. I’m fortunate enough to have a diverse background in many different areas. There are many other people out there who might not have the time to start from scratch like I can. If they can take pieces from the open pinball project and make their own machine, I would be ecstatic.

        You will probably notice in the blog entries that I complain about all the different things that I need to learn. While I am complaining about it, I also enjoy it because of the challenge. There are a good number of people mod’ing their machines. That’s great, but I liken that to repainting your house. It might be a different color, but it is still the same house with the same heating system, and electrical system, etc. My original hope was to get something ready for Allentown 2012 (white wood version). That was far too optimistic given the amount of time I can spend on the hobby. Maybe if I was retired.

        When I finally get my back box controller working (streaming videos, running a rule set), it should be generic enough for others to use it. It would be exceedingly gratifying to me for somebody to use that information to make their own machine even if they don’t use my controllers.

        From what I can tell, the pinball community is strong, but basically a bunch of older people who still remember pinball as kids. My kids don’t want to play pinball machines, they just want to play video games (Wow, I do sound old). Hopefully that will change but I doubt it. Video games have more pull in the generation that can always be entertained instantly.

        An original, fully solid state machine sounds fantastic to me. When you get it done, make sure that you take it to a pinball show so others can see it. The couple people who have completed pinball machines from scratch deserve all the praise that they get. It is a huge undertaking. Maybe other people will get new ideas, and it will kick off more people into building their own.

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