Posts Tagged with "arcade-games"

The First Day of a New Life

April 17th, 2006 at 6:23 pm by Mark
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     Per my last post, today I went and worked on an intermittent problem on an Arcade-style Golf game, Interactive Technologies’ “Golden Tee 2005.”

     The internals were pretty cool: a 486-based motherboard specifically designed with a single, heat-resistant PCI slot, two 32-Meg DIMMs and a JAMMA card-edge to provide access to Video and Controls.  A completely customized 250-watt power supply, which appeared to be loosely based on ATX, powered the board, controllers and 10GB hard drive at the top.
     In the PCI slot lived a very unhappy 3DFX Voodoo3 card.  I hadn’t seen one of those in years, but there it was, in all it’s 60-degrees-celciius glory.  

     The problem was, that were intermittent problems.  The game would play fine for hours, and then spontaneously reboot.  Sounds like a PC, but I digress… It wasn’t.

     After the technician adjusted the monitor to an acceptable level (it’s old and needs to be replaced), I screwed around a little while tracing out the wiring.  Eventually, I found a loose ground hanging from the monitor that would just reach a couple of components when the drawer that help the CPU was pushed in.  I deduced that this may have been causing a short.
     A couple twists of the screwdriver fixed the loose ground, but not the problem.  I dug a little deeper.

     At some point, I noticed that the hard drive had been plugged into the second Molex connector coming from the power supply.  It was quite loose in its socket, so I unplugged it and pushed the metal sleeves inside back together.  It fit tight after that, but when I continued to trace to the end of the cable, I found that it wasn’t connected to anything.  Instead, it was hanging down at the edge of the CPU drawer.
     Every time someone pushed the drawer in and down, the loose connector was hitting the support beam and snagging the mechanism.  The effect was similar to tying a a fiften pound weight onto your hard drive power cord, holding the drive sideways, and dropping the weight.  That’s why the connector sleeves got loose, they would make intermittent contact, and short when reconnected, exactly they do in your computer.

     I couldn’t resist pulling out the 3DFX card to give it a once-over.  It was permanently mounted, but due to its handing upside down, gravity had taken its toll a bit and pulled to just the edge of contact.  The CPU was giving enough heat to make the metal expand at the card edge, and reboot the machine.  I put it back hard, tightened up the nuts on the flagnge that held it in place, and away we went.

     Pushing the drawer and in out no longer resulted in a reboot.  Graphics seemed to be fine.  But there’s no clear way to tell until you play it for a hours… and that’s what we did.
     5:30PM came fast.  Hours of abuse, and not a single reboot.

     What a cool day!

Mondays Should Always be so Fun

April 11th, 2006 at 12:00 am by Mark
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     After the “computer fire” last week which was finally resolved the weekend, I was worried about showing up at my clients’ office this morning, even though I was bring him a practically new company.  It’s not good to leave customers hanging due to your mistakes.
     We talked about it for a bit, and I’m still going to attempt to recoved some of the data from the old drive.  Difficult sometimes, but worth it in the end.  It also helps that nobody else locally is able to do any data recovery at all.
     But, being that I was still feeling like complete dolt, I hung around there the whole day today.  It’s a coin-op distributor — jukeboxes, pool tables, video games, foosball tables, etc.  A great place for geeky nostalgia.
     In the past few years, traditional coin-op video games have taken a backseat to the bar-top machines by Merit Entertainment.  If you’ve been in a bar in the last ten years, you’ve seen them with their touch screens and twenty or so games loaded on them — Blackjack, Solitaire, Freecell, and maybe a few small arcade-style games like Tetris.  Being that they’re a good money-maker, there are also quite a few units that come in for repair.

     What’s really interesting about the Merit machines is that not a traditional “video game,” but a well-engineered computer case with traditional components inside.  The first of the MegaTouch systems were based on 386SX-16 motherboards with small hard drives running MS-DOS.  The newer ones today like the MegaLink are outfitted with Socket 478 Pentiums with LCD flat-panels and 20GB hard drives running Linux (IMHO, a mounted filesystem on a bar machine just isn’t a good idea).
     The machine I looked at today was a newer MegaTouch, sporting a Socket 370 CPU and a 10GB hard.  There a few minor things wrong with it, but the incredible amount of fan noise was the first thing I attacked.  It’s hard to work on anything that’s screaming at you the entire time.  After plugging a few things into the proper places, I managed to get it up and running but for the bad tube.  
     Since I was standing around talking to a couple of the old-school game technicians the whole time, I decided to show off a little and save them some money, to boot.

     In the back of the shop, there sat a 15″ Compaq VGA monitor ripe for the picking.  It took a little time convicing them that this would suffice (they’re using to paying upwards of $170 for replacement picture tubes), but once getting into it, they were amazed.  The power boards were all standard sizes, and the only real different was the depth of the tube and the width of the yoke.
     A couple hours screwing around, and we had the whole unit back together, but the hard drive.  A little creativity on my part with a drill resulted in a professional quality refit to a location with less heat, and less chance of reverberation.

     When the moment of truth finally came to turn the power back on, they were amazed at the clarity.  The .28 dot pitch of the VGA monitor blew away the blurry, large dot pitch of the Merit replacement.  Blacks were black, whites were white and reds were reds.  Even when you start off with a working monitor and throw in a VGA, there’s a world of difference in both brilliance and clarity.
     We spent a good amount of time on it today, ensuring that the next few could be switched over painlessly.  Now, they’re scouring the area for 15″ SVGA monitors, and saving $170 a pop. 

     I love tinkering like that.  Soldering, unsoldering, wire-wrapping, drilling, heat-shrinking… It’s good, honest work.  And when you’re able to go in teach somebody something new and different that’ll completely change the way they do things for the better, it makes it all the more gratifying.

     Was a good day.  Good customers.  Good people.

     They even had the decency to wince and not laugh in my face when I told them what happened to the boss’s computer.

     Gotta love ’em.

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