Building a custom micro-controller for early Bally/Stern solid state pinball machines

This is an introduction to an up-and-coming technology that a small group of pinball and electronics enthusiasts are developing. A custom microcontroller that interfaces with Bally-35 MPUs and allows you to write customized rulesets, even completely re-theming games. This is the first part of a journey that I hope to take everybody on.

NOTE: This is a video I recorded several months ago that I forgot to make public, so I’m much further along.. But thought it might be interesting to show this early look at the development of this technology. Now there are etched boards that can be acquired.

Quick demo of fully-modded Stern “Trident” pinball with new rules and sound

After getting my Trident operational, I installed the BSOS system and have been working on fine-tuning the custom code and sounds. Here’s a short demo of what the new Arduino-based controller does to a standard Bally 18/35/Stern early solid state game.

Resources (courtesy Dick Hamill):

The code is all available on GitHub. It’s broken down into a base library and then machine-specific implementations. Rewriting other games requires a moderate knowledge of C/C++.
https://github.com/BallySternOS

Here’s a suggested parts list. If you bought all these things, you could create 6 of these boards. If you don’t need that many boards, you might find cheaper ways to source smaller quantities. I haven’t done any work to figure out if this is the cheapest way to source any of this stuff.

Cheap Arduino knockoff x6 ($20.99) – needs CH340 driver for programming / has to be ATmega328P
https://www.amazon.com/ATmega328P-Controller-Module-CH340G-Arduino/dp/B08NJNJCTX/

0.1″ 40-pin connector (40 pieces for $7.99)
https://www.amazon.com/Honbay-Single-Female-Connector-Arduino/dp/B06Y4S6G29/

32-pin Prototype PCB (2 pack for $9.99) – this won’t work for Alltek or MPU-200 because they have a 34-pin connector
https://www.amazon.com/Prototype-Snappable-Arduino-Electronics-Gold-Plated/dp/B081QYPHHP/

Wire ($7.99) – tons of wire
https://www.amazon.com/REXQualis-Breadboard-Assorted-Prototyping-Circuits/dp/B081H2JQRV/

74125 – ($1.95) https://www.jameco.com/z/74125-Major-Brands-IC-74125-Quad-Tri-State-Bus-Buffer_49373.html

Boot switch – x2 ($8.99) this switch will work for activating the Arduino board and toggling the speaker (see the writeup here to find out why: https://ballysternos.github.io/install.html)
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07XMH174C/

OR

@RoyGBev has created a PCB and kit (doesn’t include the Arduino) here:
https://pinside.com/pinball/market/shops/1304-roygbev-pinball/04736-arduino-nano-adapter-for-classic-bally-stern

How to add a switched power outlet to your pinball machine

These days modding games is all the rage: adding fancy toppers, custom lighting, subwoofers and powered speakers and more. But many pinball machines don’t have a facility for you to plug in extra stuff in your game. Many games do have a “service outlet” inside the game, but this is what’s called “un-switched” meaning it’s on all the time – mainly so technicians can use a soldering iron on the game with the power off. In this video I go over the process to tap into the switched power lines of the game to add your own extra outlet(s) that come on when you turn the game on.

Prototyping A Brand New Mata Hari Ruleset!

I’ve been working on a new project that I’m very excited about. There’s been a movement to create an inexpensive, non-destructive and simple way to mod early Bally/Stern solid state games and add more features. In this video, I demonstrate an early prototype of the system used to modify a Bally Mata Hari pinball machine to include new features such as a skill shot, modes and even a wizard mode.

Want to learn more about this project? Visit: https://github.com/BallySternOS

Repairing/Replacing a Stern/Bally Power Supply/Rectifier Board

As part of the ongoing restoration of a 1979 Stern “Trident” pinball machine, here’s a series of videos outlining how to replace the rectifier board on these games. This varies a bit between Stern and Bally due to wire color codes. References are here.

Source: PinWiki

Building replacement LED displays (from a kit)

This is a fun series of videos of me trying something new. Let’s replace the old gas plasma displays in a Bally 35 solid state pinball machine with new low-voltage LED displays. This reduces the power consumption of the pinball machine and cuts out the high power portion of the power supply board for the display – a whole area we don’t have to worry about any more by switching over to LEDs. The price for this as a kit is quite reasonable (and cheaper than replacing them with used displays usually). But it takes some time and skill to populate your own circuit boards. I’m going to give it a try. Let’s see how it goes!

Here is a time lapse of me doing the lion’s share of the board work:

And here’s the finished product!