Kicking It Old School

My Christmas present to myself this year – a 1974 Gottlieb Duotron pinball machine, courtesy of a local shop that once upon a time rented, sold, and serviced pool tables, juke boxes, and pinball / arcade games, but has transitioned to a warehouse full of relics and a small business in refurbing and selling old games.

Truth be told I’ve been virtually tire-kicking games for a while now – via Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. I knew I was serious when I took down a folding table that had become a catch-all rather than a work space, replacing it with two shelving units – leaving plenty of space in my basement office for a game. And while I was a bit concerned with dissassembly, transport, and reassembly, the shop offered delivered and set-up. Sold….

The game was mostly working, with some small issues, so I’ve spent the last few weeks cleaning, tweaking, updating. Burned out bulbs, a few functions not working properly, replacing the rubber rings / elastics and some faded plastic bits. etc. It’s all up and running!

There is a significant industry out there for information and supplies. I was able to purchase a schematic and manual from an authorized source. I bought a kit of rings / rubbers curated for this machine as well as pop bumper caps. I purchased a spares kit (blubs, fuses, a new pinball, cleaner and polisher) and some LED lamps (to judiciously replace the incandescent bulbs, especially in the back box where the lamps tend to heat / damage the backglass artwork. I even found a site that recreates the instructions and replay / award cards so familiar to those who have played.

And, as an old school engineer who has been around long enough to have played this game new, and knows my way around a schematic, but never did a lot of work with relay / ladder logic, the game is an opportunity to break out a multimeter, jumper cables, and do some serious troubleshooting.

The ingenuity and complexity of these beast is amazing – stepper units to add bonus points, count players, track first and last balls, scoring reels, a motor with cams to trigger relays periodically. The Tilt devices alone are amazing.

So yeah, Merry Christmas to me. Something for an electrical engineer who does far too little engineering or troubleshooting work these days to mess around with!