Status September 2013

June, July and August have been rough months.  No substantive updates.  The new job is taking up a lot of my spare time.  I have been able to play a large number of pinball machines, and continue to believe that the overall concept of Disaster is solid.  Time…that is what I am missing.  As things get more settled with the move, I will be able to put more time back into it.

I was over on pinside today, and there was a topic about the cost of creating a pinball machine from scratch.  They listed it at half a million.  (Saying it requires a game designer, mech eng, electrical eng, firmware eng, graphics artist, and a sound guy)  Since Disaster also involves doing video in the backbox, it needs somebody who can also do animation/video editing.

So let’s take these jobs one at a time.   Game designer…well the initial take is done but will need a lot of refining.  The plan is to do a white wood layout and make incremental changes to fix the flow and shots.  Mech eng…Mark was going to work on the mechanicals, and will probably still help me, but since we don’t live near each other, this will be difficult.  The plan is to minimize the BOM by keeping the number of coil types to an absolute minimum.  That gets the volume of those coils up and reduces the inventory of coils needed.  To get that to happen, it will require more mechanical engineering.  Electical eng…well that’s me.  Firmware eng…well that’s me again.  Graphics artist…hmmm, I’m working on that, and the best that I can hope for is some static graphics for the sides of the machine and the playfield.  Even that much work is up in the air because I’m basically begging for it.  Sound guy…didn’t even think about that.  Animation and video editing…again, nobody slated for it.  My current plan is to create a white wood, bring it to a couple locations, and then start begging for help.

So this means the focus should be on doing whatever is necessary to get the white wood working and playing.  A couple of 48V power supplies were ordered today.  These can be used to verify the driver cards that I’ve populated.  Those have been tested at low current/low voltage, but I didn’t have a power supply to kick the voltage up to real levels.  If anybody has an old power pinball power supply (about 48VDC) that they would be willing to part with, I’m definitely interested.  I may end up stealing the power supply out of one of my other pinball machines to do some testing.  In the short term, the little 48V power supplies I just bought should work fine.  I’m looking forward to kicking some solenoids in the next few weeks.

Way too much time has been spent on trying to get streaming video working.  Right now the machine can stream videos, but I don’t have any videos for it to stream.  I could spend another hundred hours getting that stuff working really well, but the videos still wouldn’t exist.  Short term goal is to just display the score on a monitor.  This shows the functionality of communication from the real time controller to the video controller.

Other small things that have happened.  Received a USB vendor ID/product ID from Openmoko.  So to create an official product that uses the USB, you need a vendor ID/product ID.   Some chip manufacturers let you use their vendor ID, and will assign you a product ID.  The chip that I chose doesn’t offer that, so normally a company would pay 5K or 10K.  That’s not in the budget, so what to do?  If the project is an open hardware project, send an email to openmoko, and they will magically send you a product ID using the vendor ID they purchased from  So the Open Pinball Project vendor ID = 0x1d50, product ID = 0x6070.  Thanks again to the Openmoko project for supporting open source projects.

This weekend all my machines move from VT to MA.  Then a night at Pinball Wizard arcade up in Pelham.  I call it research.

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