Friday, March 29, 2013

into the backglass we go!

One more place gets a cursory examination, the head!  Or Backglass.  Or Back box.  Or whatever.

They keys for it were in the coin box.  Shall we?
oh you were spray-painted with a stencil, weren't you?

Turn the key, lift up and out, set the metal backing down, and...
top left we have the 4-player score reels.  I think the score is actually counted by a mechanism under the playfield, these just rotate.
Bottom left, that unit is the credit counter.  It is a wheel that goes up to 15, because apparently back in the day pinball wizards could rack up multiple free games.
I think the thing to the right of it tracks which ball it is for each player.
I have no idea what the things on the right are for.  Matching?  I'll check the schematics in a later post.

The things to adjust back here are, once again, clearly labeled.   The main thing to control is when to award replays.
There are actually loose wire-pins with 0-9 flagged on them.  Each of them has 2 points.  You grab one, insert it in to the offset hole, and then in to another.  I'm not sure if you can use 2 different wires for 2 differentiating replay scores, but I used the same wire because it was attached twice when I got it.  I set the score for 90,000 and 99,000.  Hitting those marks would award a free credit.  It takes some serious concentration/luck to hit 90k, and I couldn't imagine doing it with the original tilt intact.
Most of those blue wires you see are going in to the plywood, not connected to anything.  Their plugs are just there for future use.

That thing on the bottom right is a big ole connector you can move for 3 or 5 ball play.  Anyone who would set an EM for 3 balls has already been disposed of, so no need to tamper with this.

ooo a hole!
This part is important, especially for later discussions of moving a pinball machine.  What we see here is where the head attaches to the body.  4 easily accessible bolts, and 4 easily removed connectors.  If you've ever done anything on a motherboard, these by comparison are as hard as inserting toast in to a toaster.
Hands-down, the EMs are the easiest to disassemble and move.  Unplug the connectors, feed them in to the body.  Remove the bolts.  Head is OFF, and since it holds almost half of the weight, the moving job is simplified greatly.

first trip inside the machine

Let's open up our new old pinball machine!

Step #1 is get the key for the coin door.  Here is the inside of the coin door.

well hello in there

this is the coin acceptance mechanism
Let's take a closer look at that.   One thing that was pointed out to me was the tiny piece of metal that the validated coin hits on the way down.  If you tap down it gently with a pen, a credit will register.   There is no "Free Play" option on these older machines, so good to know in case you don't have quarters.
can you see that little metal lever, basically in the center of the photo?
And where does all the bounty go?  Straight in to the coin box:
oooo so rugged!

OK, so now it's time to open up the playfield.  See the opening in the top picture?  See that latch at the top of the opening?  That's the key to getting inside.  As best I can tell, this is pretty damn universal for about 50 years worth of pinball.  Pull that latch to the side and the front bar-rail comes off, and then you can slide the glass off.  This is all summarized in this youtube video.  That is a Simpsons Pinball Party.  There are 40 years separating these pins and it is the same action.
BE CAREFUL.  That glass is expensive, so place it somewhere where you won't bump it, preferably the end down on a carpet.  (feel free to Windex at this point, I guess)
Remove the balls.  This game only has one, so EASY.   Pull the plunger out, and lift the playfield up.

At the back there are rails for the playfield to slide on.
Slide it forward to the front resting area, and then lift it upwards against the backglass.
there's a LOT going on under the hood of any pinball machine.   The first thing that caught my eye were the 2 papers notes for coin slot adjustment.  When I got the machine, it was set for one coin  = 5 credits.  The little wires that attach to circles on the pins are chunky ol' jumpers to make your selection.  Just wiggle them out and put them at the selection you want.  On the left I have the bottom of 2 jumpers closed, so that is "1 coin 1 credit", which overrides the "2nd Chute Adjustment", which allows selection for 2, 3, 4, or 5 credits per play.  It should be noted that the coin door on my machine discusses Francs, so it allows operators to account for currency differences.  Let's not forget pinball had a dark period of being illegal in many major USA cities, so it was the international success that really drove it.

It's almost poetic.  Almost.
I love that things you are supposed to look at are so clearly labeled!  Just a bit closer to that we find this:

The three main fuses are placed in a wonderfully convenient location for easy access, and HEY, a play meter!
OK, 2 things about the play meter.  First, I don't expect that there has actually been 106,084 plays on this game.  I think in inspecting it alone we hit the credit button 100 times, each adding to the meter.
But hold on a sec, this meter goes to 999,999.  I think that says quite a lot about the confidence in manufacturing.   I'm not actually sure what other heavy-usage games from the era are reading, but to design a game that you expect to break half-a-million plays in a commercial setting?  That shows some confidence in engineering.
At $0.25/play, 100,00 plays is only $2500, so it seems reasonable, but to think some of these might have pushed a half million plays ($12,500) by the mid-80s?  That's impressive, even factoring in the maintennance.

Just to the left of this we have the awesomely simple tilt mechanism.
It's that vertical wire.  It's supposed to have a weight on the end, but I have that removed currently for a more push-and-shove game style.  If that wire hits the ring at the bottom, a circuit completes and it tilts.
What I was surprised by though is that upper-left pinball.  That thing is RUSTY, 37 years young, and if it rolls up it finishes a circuit and tilts.  I'm unsure as to why they'd need that.  If the machine was tilted up at the front, wouldn't the dangling tilt mechanism cover that scenario as well?  But well, there it is.

Having the machine up also gives quick access to the playfield light bulbs:
They are mostly uncramped, and easily accessible.

One final feature from the inside:
Thank you, # 74.  You approved a fine product.

the purpose of this whole blog thing

I am new to this whole "owning an actual pinball machine", and I have a lot of learning to do.  I will try and share the thought-processes, ordeals, resources and solutions I encounter via this blog in hopes it will assist other people taking the plunge and getting in to the hobby.

Let's start with a picture.  Here is what I actually bought:

This is Royal Flush by Gottlieb from 1976.  An electro-mechanical classic, and a beauty of a machine.  There would be only a few years after this came out until the solid-state era.
It has a very good rule set, for an EM at least.  The main feature is the 9 drop targets, which award 1000 each and if you get the right combos, award bonuses.  But there are also 3 Joker targets, and hitting each increases the value of the drops by 1000 each, as well lights various rollovers for 3000 each.  There is a eject hole that awards 1000 per joker lit, as well as a roll-over that opens a gate in the right out-lane to save your ball. 
Only a single pop-bumper, but I like games with just a single bumper.

For some basics of pinball, I highly recommend this article, The Absolute Beginner's Guide To Buying And Owning a Pinball Machine.

The first few things I learned about that I want to go over:
  • moving the pinball machine
  • getting inside it and the basic guts
  • documenting problems
In the future I will get in to researching the various issues, maintenance, and all that good stuff.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Since I was very young I had been drawn to the allure of pinball.  I think back to an early birthday party my brother was attending at a bowling alley, and I was the tag-along sibling.  Everyone got a quarter for the arcade at the end, and I chose the pinball machine.  No idea what one it was, but while everyone had quickly died in their respective arcade machines, I was still on ball 3 and everyone had to wait.

I played sporadically in my youth, but only would ever stumble upon a machine once or twice each year, and would rarely have more than a quarter or two, or time for more.
I re-discovered the silver ball in the last few years, through reading the now-paywalled Pinball Ninja blog.  That taught me the magical secret that pinball still exists, but now mostly in people's basements.  (or for those even more devoted, throughout the rest of their residence as well.)

I wanted to start checking for machines locally and I found a spreadsheet of all pinball machines in Canada, as well as the MAACA forums.  I read and learned.  Eventually I started going to "league nights" hosted at people's homes.  This was a culture shock in the sense that I had never before played a perfectly working pin.  Always out in the field, the pins I were used to had weak flippers, broken toys, slanted legs, dirty playfields, choose one or more.  In people's houses, they took care of their games and lovingly restored them, and also plunked down the serious coin for new machines.  They also had some of the highest rated titles out there.  Twilight Zone, Addams Family, Simpsons Pinball Party, Lord Of The Rings, PinBot, Attack From Mars, No Good Gofers, etc.  The A-Listers.

Living in a small-ish downtown home, I spent a good year figuring owning one was out of the question.  But then I started to organize and strategize.  Long story short, a half-year spent casually sorting, purging, cleaning, and reorganizing, I had the most efficiently organized garage and basement.  I also had green painter's tape on the floor marking space where a machine-or-3 could eventually reside.

Then I bought my first pinball machine, and so I decided to start this blog.