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!

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One Response to “The First Day of a New Life”

  1. hort Says:

    hey i have a question for you…i have a golden tee machine and while its not rebooting…i am wondering if it maybe is the video card that is causing my problem of freezing the game…if you have any suggestions that would be great


    chris hortness