7/14/2017 – Youtube videos of talk available

If anybody is really bored this weekend, here are the videos of the talk that I gave on pinball electronics.  Goes from EM machines to what I call Gen3 machines.  Those who couldn’t make it to Pintastic 2017 might be interested.

I forgot to mention the total cost of the Van Halen machine.  All said and done, it cost about $480 to make it a reality.  That included everything from the base non-working Dolly machine to the two cards that I blew up and replaced because I kicked out the ground plug.

Without further adieu, here are the videos.  (It was broken into 3 separate files by the camera, and I don’t know how to join them together, so sorry about that.)

Look, it’s Dave Marston as the thumbnail!



7/12/2017 – Pintastic 2017, Now it is over

Pintastic 2017 has come and gone.  I am as happy to see it gone as can be.  Too much stuff trying to be forced into a small period of time.  It was all done.  Some could have been done better, but, everything was done.  Here is a quick run down:

Drove there Friday morning and met up with Dave Marston.  Made sure that he had my presentation, and we could display it on the screen.  That all went well.  Met with John C.(originator of pinball night back when I lived in CT), and we started the unload of the machines.  After about an hour and a half, both machines were set up in the free play hall.  That’s when I noticed an issue…I had forgotten to bring the boom box topper for Van Halen…

You can’t have a music pin without having any speakers, so it was back into the car to drive an hour each way to grab the topper from my house.  Doh!  My own fault for making sure all the machines were in the car, but not doing a final walk through to see if I had missed anything.

We got back to Pintastic at noon and finally got the machine all together.  One issue with Pintastic is that the free play room is amazingly loud.  Ear splitting loud.  My kids don’t want to go to Pintastic because it is so loud in the main room.   In my basement, the speakers are so loud on the pins, that I only turn the amplifiers up to about 1/4 power.  At Pintastic, I needed to turn the amplifiers the whole way up, and the call outs could not be heard clearly over the din.

Back to the machines.  Van Halen was running perfectly, but SharpeShooter was having issues with one of the solenoid cards.  After an hour, I finally traced it to the fact that the high power ground for that card wasn’t working properly.  I could have tried to jumper the wire to another ground wire, but then I pulled out the molex connector and squeezed it slightly.  That was enough to make the connection, and everything was working properly.  These are the standard molex connectors used for PC power supplies where the connector on the board is a pin, and the wires from the playfield surround that pin.  I have never seen those fail before, but it could be because I tugged the wires too hard and bent the circular pin.  It was an easy fix once I figured it out.

While the Van Halen pin never had any problems, players could not hear the callout to tell them how to choose David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar as the lead singer.  If I had it to do over, and wasn’t so frazzled from fixing SharpeShooter, I would have simply defaulted the game to randomly pick the lead singer.  As it was, people many times started a four player game before pounding on the buttons enough to start the actual game.  If I was standing there, I would explain how to start the game, but most of the time, I wasn’t standing beside the machine.  Van Halen actually ran all weekend and never needed to be reset.  That is a testament to that little Pi and how well it worked.

So now everything was working, and we decided to go to lunch.  (Went to BT Smokehouse which is by far the best restaurant in the area.  Much better than the Oxhead Tavern).  Got back, and found out that every once and a while SharpeShooter lost USB communication.  That was one of the changes that I made between two years ago, and this year.  I didn’t have time to fix it properly, so I threw a keyboard and mouse onto the USB bus which fixed the issue most of the time.  Now that it is home, I can fix it properly.

By the time we got back from lunch, it was almost time for the seminar.  I sat in on the last half of the seminar on making a 60 in 1.  The guy seemed really knowledgeable and seemed like he had been building them for years.  After that, I did my seminar on general pinball electronics.  I have to give a shout out to Richard K.  for giving his opinions on the best way to clean contacts and controllers in EM machines.  The talk ran a little bit long, and we didn’t get to the last few slides.  It sounded like there was a mixture of people interested in pinball electronics, and were building their own machines.  I gave away a bunch of free stuff and hopefully everyone was happy.

After the talk, I finally got a chance to go play some pinball.  We ended up playing until the close of the freeplay room.  We went into the VIP lounge but it was even louder in there.  There were so many people, and the room was so small, that we just walked right out.  We adjourned to the bar, had a couple of beers, and then closed out the night.

Next day, machines were up and running properly, so I got to spend more time playing a ton of EMs.  I love the old EMs.  They are certainly my favorites when going to a show like this.  There was a Zaccaria Time Machine that I really wanted to play, but it had a failure and wasn’t running.

At 11 am, I walked a couple people through what the inside of the machines looked like, and how the boards worked.  It ended up only being a couple of people from Manchester, NH, but I was glad to see their interest.

At about 3:00 pm, I ran out of steam, and decided to pull the machines and go home.  Through my own mistake, I had never really put the machines officially in the free play room.  The nice part was that I could pull the machines a little bit early and not be charged a fee.  I went back to BTs for a last meal and drove home.  I was absolutely spent on Saturday, and then spent most of Sunday laying on the couch.

When I get a chance, I will put the videos of the talk up on youtube.  Both John and Derek K. recorded the talk.  That’s about how it went.

7/4/2017 – Ready for Pintastic 2017

We are ready for Pintastic.  All the machines have been moved to the garage so I can put them in the car on Thursday night and drive them to Sturbridge, MA Friday morning.  I gotta tell you, I’m sick of building pinball at this point.  I need a vacation.

I just figured out last night, that not only did Joe and I retheme a whole machine including rules, electronics, and art from middle of January to now, but I also rewired SS3 from Gen1 OPP boards, to Gen2 boards, and updated the Pinball Framework to support the newer cards.  That is one heck of a lot of pinball for one year, and I am tired.

I will see whoever is going to Pintastic this weekend.  I’m giving a general seminar on pinball electronics on Friday at 3:00 pm.  There will be a good amount of free stuff given away.  Come one, come all.   I’ll be around all weekend so stop me if you are interested in seeing how the machines work.

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6/28/2017 – Another Van Halen Gameplay Video

Fixed some small stuff tonight, and shot another video.  This will probably be the last video of Van Halen before Pintastic.  Gotta jump back over, and get Sharpe Shooter 3 back up and running.  My gosh, these machines just might be done before Pintastic!

6/27/2017 – Pictures of Van Halen

Truth be told, it is time for me to go to bed, and I don’t feel like writing anything.  I’m getting pretty darn sick of working on this machine, but it is nearing completion.  About two weeks left, until Pintastic.

Shameless plug, come see my seminar at 3:00 pm on 7/7/2017 at Pintastic in Sturbridge, MA.  I’ll be there all weekend, so stop me and ask me any questions you want.  A good number of people there know who I am, so I should be pretty easy to find.  Stop by the Lermods booth at Pintastic, and they will set up free shipping of OPP cards from Mezel Mods.

End shameless plug…Here are the pictures I took tonight.

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6/24/2017 – Some new videos of game play

This is mostly for the people who subscribe to the blog but aren’t subscribed to the youtube channel.  Last couple of days have been very busy.  While trying to fix the light bulbs, I accidentally pulled out the connector for the ground of the transformer.  This caused all sorts of issues, included blowing up some of the MOSFETs.  After struggling for a couple of days and fixing things piecemeal, I simply gave up.  I replaced the two OPP cards that drive all the solenoids.  It was about $20 in parts and about 1 hour in soldering to build the new cards but the savings in my angst was well worth it.  I didn’t have some parts on hand so there was a Mouser order involved.  I now have a much better supply of MOSFETs.

I switched from the cheap MOSFETs (FQP13N06L) to using IRL540 MOSFETs.  In the first cards, I had a couple IRL540s and mostly FQP13N06L.  After accidentally disconnecting the ground (actually the current return for the high voltage solenoids), it turns out that many of the FQP13N06L either failed or failed later after several games.  Below is the sequence of events:

  • I lifted the playfield to adjust some bulbs.  I pulled too hard on the cable at some point, and it pulled the connector off the transformer that returns the current for the solenoids.
  • Lowered the playfield, and started playing a quick game.  At some point during the game, I noticed that one of the sling shots was on constantly.  (It was stuck on for a while before I noticed it…maybe 30 seconds).  Performed a test or two and proved it was the MOSFET.  Soldered in a new MOSFET, and started a new game.
  • Almost immediately another MOSFET failed.  This time it was the knocker.  Once again, tested, and this time I simply desoldered the high voltage wire to the knocker.  (The knocker isn’t currently used in the game code).  At this point I thought something was wrong but I didn’t know what.
  • Powered it up and started playing again.  I can’t remember, but I think the other slingshot failed at this time.
  • Finally powered everything off and checked the connections.  Found the two sides of the high current return connector were almost completely off.  Plugged those back in.
  • Now everything should work.  Powered everything up and after batting the ball around for a while, either a slingshot or a pop bumper failed.
  • Frustration set in.  Gripe a lot and eventually go to bed.  Next day looked around in the bin of built cards and found I had enough to replace the OPP board that had 8 solenoids on it.  Built that card into a full card, and threw it in the machine.
  • After about 5 minutes of playing the new card fails with one of the slingshots being locked on.  (I can’t remember if it is the same slingshot that was locked on for 30 seconds or if it was the other slingshot).
  • Got frustrated again and decided that I was going to replace all the MOSFETs with IRL540s since none of those failed.  Made order from Mouser.

So that’s the whole story.  Why did the FQP13N06L fail after I reconnected the ground?  Could it be that I now have a solenoid with an internal short somewhere in the coil.  I don’t know, but at this point, it is working.  Could be I have a ticking time bomb that will fail during Pintastic.  Only time will tell.

Here are the two videos that were done yesterday.  I apologize for the scattered commentary but the kids felt they needed to ask me questions during it, and pass me notes, so I repeat things often.

Here is another video of the white wood mode.  I finally realized that using the target at the end of the inline drops is not going to work because it simply traps the ball.  (Scott Danesi could have told me that earlier, but I’m not trying to achieve a Danesi lock.)  I ended up moving the reset to the Eddy target for white wood mode.   During the real game, it waits a couple of seconds for the ball to drop out of the inlines, then resets it.  I wonder how the old Dolly code reset the inlines?  It had to be a hit of a separate target, or maybe it never reset them until the next ball:

Here is a second video showing the OPP Pinball Framework and rules driving the machine.  You could see scoring happening, but well, I set up the camera too low so it got cut off.   Sorry.  I try to explain some of the rules.  It seems really easy to collect Alex (5 hits for each letter in the pop bumpers), so that might need to be increased to 10 hits per letter.

Speaking of Pintastic… it happens on July 7-8th, 2017.  The machine will be there in the freeplay room.    (I’m also planning on bringing SharpeShooter 3 again).  My seminar is at 3:00 pm on Friday, July 7th on general pinball electronics.  I will probably spend the last part of talk discussing a little bit about the making of the Van Halen machine.  Dave Marston said he is setting up two different times when I will be hanging around the two OPP machines in the free play area and I’ll give tours under the playfield, in the back box, etc.  Let people see how it all works and ask questions.  Supposedly there is going to be a time on Friday and a time on Saturday for that.  Like I said

At the seminar on Friday, I will be giving away a bunch of free stuff…also known as parts that I removed from Dolly and no longer need anymore.  I’ll also give away another set of OPP bare boards.  If you sit through my seminar, you deserve a chance at some free gifts.

I will be around all weekend.  So even if it isn’t one of the designated times, simply stop me, and ask me questions.  (On Friday I’ll be wearing an OPP T-shirt, so that should be a dead give away)  The machines are there until 10 pm on Saturday, so after I get sick of playing pinball, I’ll look forward to talking to people about their homebrew pinball ideas.

2017/06/13 – Starting to go back together

We are getting down to the line.  Less than a month to go.  The machine is still not back together, but strangely, I feel at ease with it all.  Worst case the machine can be played in white wood mode.  The question is…”Is that good enough?”  The answer is “Heck, no!”  We gotta go for broke.

We need some plastics.  Got the sheet of PETG a couple weeks back and found the proper tool to cut it out are the tin snips.  (At least that is the proper tool in my tool chest).  After cutting it out, I used a Dremel tool with a sanding barrel on it, to make the edges nice and smooth.  Just have to apply the vinyl overlay which is sitting in the basement waiting for my time, but I want to take my time with it.  That will probably happen on Friday.

Isn’t going to be much of a pinball machine if we can’t display the scores from the game.  I built a mount out of wood, and used the monitor mount that came on the back of the monitor.  Nice part about it, is that it provides a push button to remove the monitor easily.  This worked out even better than SS3, because it actually locks the monitor in place without requiring a screw.

Last up is the topper.  Nothing says the 1980s like a boom box.  Joe provided me with a topper, and I added a little of my own flare.  That should give true stereo sound (which Dolly never had), and the sound quality should be significantly better.  You can also see that I ended up mounting the Bally interface board, coming up with a good way to hold the cables so that stress isn’t put on the connectors (used velcro to hold cables at the right positions and makes it easy to take everything apart for transport to Pintastic).  Finally I mounted the PC power supply that is providing 5V for the raspberry Pi and 12V for the amplifier.  That’s all I have for tonight.


Nothing says the 80s like a retro boom box