Archive for the 'Classic Arcade Games' Category

Oct 14 2007

Save The Last Human Family!

Published by under Classic Arcade Games,Games

Today I performed some badly needed maintanence on my Robotron cabaret (mini) arcade game. The game had been exhibiting a number of problems for the last year including start up failures, garbage on the display, and random resets. The problems made the game almost unplayable so it was time to give it some well deserved attention.

robo1.jpgThis game is probably the most rare and valuable classic arcade game in my collection.  A “cabaret” or “mini” arcade game is a smaller version of a normal upright arcade game.

Cabarets typically have a much shorter production run than their full sized counterparts. In the case of the Robotron mini, the estimated number produced ranges from 50 to 500.

The short production run of the Robotron mini along with the game’s popularity has made it a real collector item. It’s very rare, but once in awhile you see one go up for sale for ebay.

I spent over a year convincing the previous owner to sell me the game. He operated an amusement device business locally and I believe he was the original owner.

I used to buy other games from him regularly and when I saw him I would always ask about the Robotron mini. For almost a year his answer was always no, but one day, to my surprise he agreed to sell it.

That’s enough game history – let’s get back to the exciting work of classic arcade game maintenance!

Upon powering up the game it would often display error messages like the one below, which suggested it was losing its settings memory.


More problematic, however, were the frequent game resets which were often preceeded by garbage appearing on the screen. Since Robotron machines were known for having power supply problems I ordered a new Happ Controls Power Pro 110W CE Power Supply.

After opening up the game and discharging the CRT using my handy high voltage probe, I began the job of installing the new power supply. It appeared that the game’s power supply had been replaced at least once before. One nice thing to note about the Robotron mini cabinet is the hinged rear door as shown below.


Installing the new power supply was fairly straight forward. I hooked up the power and then calibrated the +5V line using the pot on the unit. Next I moved over the various power connectors to the appropriate outputs of the power supply. Here’s how the installed unit looked:


In addition to replacing the power supply I also went through all the PCBs and reseated the plugs and connectors. This can sometimes fix a problem with a poor connection. I also pressed down on all the socketed ICs to make sure they had not come loose due to heat.

Another item that I replaced was the set of three AA batteries used to save settings and high scores. One of the batteries was corroding so a fresh set was way overdue. Upon power up I was greeted with the message:


Which told me that I had not made any horrible mistakes installing the new power supply. I successfully played through several games and did not experience any of the prior problems. Success!

Next on my list of game repairs are 1) Berzerk fails to start up, 2) Defender has a controller problem, 3) Tempest fails to start up and also needs a monitor cap kit, 4) Battlezone needs monitor work, and 5) Donkey Kong Jr. Fails to start up. At least my normal Donkey Kong game is still going strong…

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Oct 02 2007

Happy 30th Birthday Atari 2600!

Published by under Classic Arcade Games,Games

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Atari 2600 video game system. It’s hard to believe it has been 30 years since the world was introduced to this revolutionary game system. I still remember the excitement (mostly by me) the day my family bought our Atari 2600.

The first order of business when we got home was figuring out how to hook up the RF switch the back of the TV. The switch allowed the TV input to be switched between the game and the normal antenna.


I remember spending hours playing games like Combat and Basketball with my Dad. Those were fun times. The graphics were very primitive but all I knew is that it was awesome to be playing games on the television!

The game, by far, that captured my imagination was Adventure. In this graphical adventure the player explored a magical kingdom in search of an enchanted chalice. Along the way the player encountered castles, dragons, mazes, and had to solve a number of puzzles before ultimately finding the chalice and returning it to the gold castle. The chalice was guarded by Rhindle, the red dragon, who you can actually see in the banner at the top of this page (looks a little like a duck).

 I still have my original Atari 2600 which is sitting in a spot of honor on my game collection bookcase. Thank you Atari 2600 for the great memories and introducing me to the world of home video gaming!

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Aug 12 2007

Donkey Kong Tournament

comiccon.jpgOne of the highlights of attending the San Diego Comic Con this year was competing in a Donkey Kong Tournament hosted by Picturehouse, the studio distributing the documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.

While wandering around the gigantic exhibit hall I noticed a two story booth with several classic Donkey Kong arcade games on the second floor and large flat plan displays on the sides. The displays allowed people down below to watch the game action going on upstairs.

 There was a sign with the rules and instructions for signing up for the tournament. The basic idea was that the top four players from each of the first three days of the convention would come back for finals on the last day.

Although I own a classic Donkey Kong arcade game, I hadn’t really played it much in the last year and was pretty rusty. After watching some games it became obvious that most people did not have much skill or experience playing the game. I decided to give a try and was given a pager which would beep when it was my turn. About 45 minutes later the pager went off and I returned to the booth for my turn to embarrass myself.


They send me upstairs which turns out to be a lounge with bean bag chairs and the two Donkey Kong games. I notice that the games are in really nice shape. The cabinets and artwork are outstanding and the monitors look great.

I play the game and despite making a number of stupid mistakes I manage to land in the #4 position for that day’s high score. Since my score wasn’t very high I figured someone else would probably beat it before the end of the day.

At that point I headed back out into the exhibit hall and resume my wandering through the endless rows and isles of dealers. Towards the end of the day I was back in the exhibit hall and decided to check on the status of my score. As expected, someone had beat my score and I figured that was it.

Toward the end of the next day the organizer called me on my cell phone and asked if I could show up for the finals the next morning. It turns out that I was in the #13 position and they wanted me there as a backup just in case one of the finalists didn’t show.

The next morning I show up at the booth and fate has it that someone couldn’t make it and I was in the finals.

The first 20 minutes or so is spent doing media photos and being interviewed on camera. I had to agree that Picturehouse could use my picture or video to promote the film and/or possibly appear on the DVD extras.

dk-tourney6.jpgThe picture to the left is of the 12 finalists and Steve Wiebe who is in the movie and a world Donkey Kong champion.

Steve is the one standing in the middle wearing a white shirt and I’m the guy standing next to him on his right (i.e., left side of picture).

The tournament was held as a standard single-elimination. Each player was paired up with another person and the winner of a two player game would advance to the next round.

I did okay on my first game and moved on to the second round of finals which started about an hour later. The six remaining finalists were split up into three groups and we went at it again. This time my game did not go so well and I was knocked out of the competition. 

The experience of playing in the tournament was really a lot of fun. Donkey Kong is one of my favorite classic games and just being there with other people who are passionate about the game was awesome. Meeting Steve Wiebe was also very cool and it turns out he lives about 20 minutes from my house in Woodinville. It’s a small world.

The tournament sparked a renewed interest for me in Donkey Kong and I’ve been devoting some time to it since returning from the convention. I’ve actually made a lot of progress in my game and my current high score is 228,200 (27th screen). I’m hoping someday to achive a score of around 500,000, however I know that is a long way off.


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