Just when I thought I had my Raven running beautifully, it just started acting up. I would press the start button and the game would begin to start, but then not kick out a ball, the sound would stop, and none of the coils would fire. It was very odd. I knew from experience that Gottlieb games can get a bit wonky with irregular power or switch inputs, so here’s a short, 2-part video series of the “rabbit hole” I went down trying to figure out what was wrong? (As always, Ockham’s Razor tends to prevail)
Along the way, we learn a few things about the switch matrix on these System 80 games and how they differ from other manufacturers like Bally/Williams when it comes to trying to trace switch matrix issues. Here’s part one:
One of the first things you have to do when you get an original Gottlieb System 80 game is deal with their on-board NiCad battery pack, if it has not already been addressed. Gottlieb installed these batteries on the actual MPU board itself and like on other games, it’s a common cause of serious problems with the game. The batteries begin to leak after awhile, releasing electrolytes that corrode the MPU board and the components on it. This can happen even if you don’t see any obvious leaks. The batteries need to be replaced. There are a few options you have to do this: a remote battery pack (3 AA batteries along with a blocking diode to keep them from being charged if they’re not rechargeable batteries), a 2032 lithium coin cell, or my favorite, a 5.5v 1.5F memory capacitor. The memory cap will last the longest and will not destroy any components on the board. It will keep a charge for at least a month or more without power. Here’s a video of me adding this fix to a Gottlieb System 80B MPU
I got a new pinball machine in the other day and one of the flippers was sticking up. In this video series I go over examining what was wrong and how to address it. There are a number of causes for stuck flippers. The most common cause is a dirty or worn coil sleeve. Also sometimes there can be a hang up with the EOS (end of stroke) switch (more common on Bally/WMS than older Bally or Gottlieb games).
Now that I’ve got space to pull more of my project machines out to work on them, I’m diving into Sys80 stuff. The first order of business is to work on a “Jacks To Open” machine, which is a solid-state remake of Gottlieb’s popular wedgehead, “Jacks Open”. This game came with the battery removed (or maybe I removed it when I got it – I don’t remember honestly) but the MPU board was in good shape, but the game wouldn’t remember any settings because obviously, there was no battery-back-up.
This is a simple fix, and for these games it makes more sense to add a memory capacitor than a remote battery pack, so in this 4-part series, I go over adding the memory capacitor to the machine. Check it out:
I finally found some time to take a look at the Mars God of War I pulled out of a hurricane katrina-damaged house in New Orleans last year. The batteries on the MPU board had hosed the connectors as well as the main board and I am set to replace it with Pascal Janin’s PI80x4 board. In preparation for that, I have to re-pin some of the damaged connectors… as this video shows, things are never as easy as they seem…..
These days I’ve been working more on renovating my new pinball space.. that’s going to be an ongoing project now for the next few months, and as a result, I’ve been avoiding going on any pinball hunts, but the other day an innocuous ad appeared in the local paper for a short estate sale with “pinball machines”. It was nearby and I didn’t have any conflicts so I thought I might drive by and check it out.
As it turns out the pinball machines were not at the location of the estate sale. They were at another abandoned house that was wrecked by hurricane Katrina. I managed to talk the owners into letting me take a peek – they were very concerned about people even entering the other house because the roof had collapsed and there was mold, broken glass and debris everywhere. It’s really a shame because I could tell this house used to be very nice, but the occupants just left and never came back and everything inside deteriorated.
When we got to the place, the first game we discovered was a disappointment… it was not an actual coin-op game, but instead a circus-themed home-version pinball game. Of no interest to me. The other game turned out to be a Gottlieb Mars God of War — made in 1981. A System80 game. It didn’t look too bad but it was nothing that got me very excited and once I started looking around I realized there were no keys to the head so it would have to be drilled out to access and remove the head. I was going to walk and not even make an offer, but my friend Matt said, “How about $50?” The sellers were asking $250. All I could think about was how many years would be taken off my life expectancy for every minute standing inside this mold-encrusted room trying to access the game and was it worth any amount of money?
When we explained what was probably needed to get the game working and to move and disassemble it, the sellers agreed on the price of $50. It was hard to tell what condition the game was in or even if any boards were in it because we couldn’t get into the head. I said I’d head back home to get some equipment — the house had no electricity so I needed to bring power and a drill to get into the lock. On the way back I contemplated whether or not it was worth it. I knew it was a decent deal but like I said, I’ve been becoming increasingly picky. I spoke to my friend Wes and he reminded me, we are now working on a new space that can house a lot more games and these funky, uncommon titles are exactly the kinds of things we should have, and he was right. So I confirmed with the sellers we’d be back to get the game.
And here we are..
Right now we just picked up the game and moved it into the new space and threw a tarp over it. I hope to continue the video series exploring the game but it’s probably going to have to wait a few weeks.
There are exciting things happening here.. We’ve formed a local pinball club and everyone is helping refurbish an abandoned church – it’s a time consuming and expensive proposition, but very rewarding. I’ll be sharing progress on that as we go too, and now we have another cool game to restore and add to the collection that those that visit will get a chance to play!
Also, after opening the head, it was discovered that the game is complete, but as expected, the battery on the MPU has heavily damaged the board. This was a good excuse to order one of Pascal Janin’s PI-80 boards. We’ll want to have one around anyway — that’s another thing I’ll do a video report on soon. The downside is, at present, the replacement System 80 board is a whopping $390 shipped! When you look at the average sale price/value of these System 80 games, and think, “Wow, he got that game for $50 what a steal!” and then realize right away it’ll cost $400 just to get it to boot up, and the game may only be worth $400-$600, $50 is about right. These 80s-era Gottliebs are not profitable to restore, but I can justify it when I’m making these videos to share with everybody else. I hope you enjoy them! – Mike