Sunday, February 23, 2014

Top Score: SPECIAL

I have been investigating the SPECIAL awards in Top Score.  At first glance I was thinking (and hoping) that the Special award should also give 10,000 points.
Long story short:  It only gives a replay credit.
I would love to re-wire it to ALSO give 10,000 points as well since who needs a replay in the home environment?

Let's start with the G and F circuits:
F is 500 point relay, G is 500 points + bonus relay.  Zoom in on the schematics and you can see how the switches oscillate depending on which relays are triggered.  A is the alternating relay, so those are the switches that alternate between one or the other depending on the spin of the spinner.
DX, EX, and FX relays are for balls 3, 4, 5 (or 1, 2, 3 on a 3-ball game) and so add extra scoring options as the game progresses.

click all schematics to make them look less like illegible garbage

Check the schematics below with the ten thousands and thousands score units.
At first, I thought this was connected to the bonus circuit, but was quickly reminded that this was it's own separate circuit in parallel:  Notice the "Point Score Adj" bit in the center.  That relates to the pins in the backbox which can be adjusted to set the replay scores.  If the thousands and ten thousands line up for the replay switches, a credit is added and the knocker is activated (that is cut off down at the left)
no really, click to embiggen.

Note the "C" solder points in the upper left.  Those are the wires in the schematic that just go straight in to the unit, that "common" point, and are used for the replay checking.

Here is the section that connects immediately below:  the upper left wire is the chain of signals that trigger the valid replay.
But in this one we see the circuitry around the "tens" position, which lines up with the FS relay, thus advancing it for each 10 points scored.  The FS relay is one of the mechanisms used to determine if the "special" lights are lit.  (if set to the "conservative" adjustment)

Now here is the big chunk where we look in the Special logic:
Any questions?  No really, I can answer them, if so.

At the very top we have the FS advance relay.  We can see it has a toggle with relay C, which is the "TARGET SPECIAL RELAY".  So normally the FS disc is advanced by 10 points being score, but when the special is lit, it is advanced by 100 points.  It is subtle rule variations like that which make Top Score extra endearing.  They really didn't need to add that subtle rule, but they did!

Next down we have the C relay, which has the somewhat odd inclusion of having 2 of the lights being described here.  All of the other lights are always in the upper-right section of the schematics for the Gottlieb ones I've seen, so this is a special case.
We can see the conservative-to-liberal adjustment on the right:
Either 1 in 4, as dictated by the FS relay (this is definitely the hardest since it's almost impossible to shoot the rollover on purpose during the game)
Middle is the A relay, which is the alternation of the spinner.  (the right bonus lanes also toggle with this one)
Or liberal:  always on.
When the criteria is met, the rollover light is on.   When the rollover button is depressed, the C relay activates and switches itself to stay activated.  When activated it also toggles the light from the rollover to the Special insert.

The line just below that sends the signal that a replay has been won, so upping the credits and hitting the knocker.  It requires C to be activated, but also F AND G to be set!

Yes, the "500 point relay" and the "500 and bonus relay" serve a special dual purpose.
you guys are awwwwwesome
If you look at the schematic at the top of this post, find "RIGHT TOP TARGET" at the bottom left, and notice the branch off of the switch, thus setting G and (if C is active) F at the same time.
The system uses this anomaly as the trigger for saying HEY, THE SPECIAL WAS HIT!  (in the final/4th schematic of this post)

The C relay is latched at the end by Motor 1C, which is a resting state.  That means if we do anything to move the motor, the C relay will unlatch and the special light will no longer be lit.  That means any 500 point hit, or an add bonus (which is technically 500 + add bonus,) or either of the holes.
That's extra difficult.  And that's why I also really want a 10k score awarded if you do it, since it's rad AND big challenge.

The 5 "advance" lights in the bowling lane are reset to the 5th position by the ball reset circuit.  This is cool for the player as it means one hit to the spinner and a bonus is awarded right away.
BUT, that also means if you hit the special rollover during your plunge (which would be 95% of the times you hit it,) a single hit to the spinner will also crank the motor awarding your bonus ball and turn off the special target light.

All in all, this game is filled with excellent examples of rules engineered to give it an extra depth you'd never expect in a 40 year old machine.

Oh but what does that mean for me?   Since the Special is awarding properly, that means THE GAME PLAYS PERFECTLY!  All rules are being applied.  Nothing is flaking out.  Woot.
The only other things I'd want to do to this game at this point is replace the corroded light sockets that give a dim glow, and look in to having the backglass restored.   Everything else seems to be humming along perfectly.

After this I should write up a detailed rules sheet for this game.

I wanted to add one note about the Special.  It can sometimes be gained via CHAOS.
If you send a strong ball up through the spinner and start racking up 500+bonus via there, hit the "light special" target, in the same small time frame hit a 500 point target, you will hear that KNOCK and get a replay.
So much has to be happening all at once that the timing of the gears fails just in this one specific way, allowing F and G to be on at the same moment, and that's the condition for the special!   It has happened to me twice so far I think.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Top Score progress!

Major progress today!

First up I readjusted the left outlane switch (again) and it seems to be fairly reliable now.
Yesterday's final-ball bonus switch adjustment seems to have stuck as well, so yay for that.

But today's big work was on the KS "advance unit" relay.  It is a small stepper unit packed tightly in to the under-playfield relay bank.

here it is removed from it's bracing.  You can see how it has wires leading to a playfield plug.  Those control the under-playfield lights.  This alternates the lights in the right bagatelle lane, as well the 5 "advance" lights beneath the spinner.

side shot.  There are 2 blag cogs, one that alternates on off (side lane lights that alternate) and one with 5 steps (awards bonus on the 5th)

This shot shows the white gear that marks each advancement, as well the 2 big switch stacks.
In advancing the relay manually I noticed that in some places there was a bit of friction between the cog and the white plastic tooth (on the left) that gets pulled down by the relay mechanism.  This would pull the cog forward a bit as the relay depressed, meaning the white tooth wouldn't clear the next spot on the cog, meaning the unit wouldn't step.
I wasn't sure how to tighten things in there to prevent the cog from getting pulled down a bit, so instead resolved to clean the black gunk from between the gears.  I used a q-tip and rubbing alcohol, but that was too blunt for this tiny thing, and ended up using a dental pick to scrape what I could out of there.

I powered it back on and this seems to have done the trick!  Right lane lights were alternating, bonus were scoring on the 5th spin!  Success!

Oh... wait.  The advance lights are all off.  OK, that's a problem.
In the top pic you can see the stepper plate, which alternates around making contact with the heads.  With my chopstick and pressing down on the center metal, the lights would come on, meaning the heads were not making good contact.
I followed the great guide to cleaning stepper units on pinrepair:  cleaned with rubbing alcohol, sanded the contacts with 400-grit sandpaper, then used contact grease.  The only thing I didn't do was disassemble the mechanism first, because it's oh so tiny and delicate.  But in one position I could easily to 70% of it, then step the unit, do the remaining 30.

With that cleaned, it was making contact fine again!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Top Score continued

Back at Top Score tonight since a number of new and old issues have arisen.  I think that a number of them will require a bit more of a deep adjustment than I had given before.

For example, the left outlane bonus switch has been really intermittent, and after fixing it tonight it worked for a bit, then stopped again.  I need it 100%!  The agony of the outlane should at least reward a bonus consistently, no?

The 5th-ball was not scoring my double bonus, but that was an easy one:  The 5th ball relay needed some adjustment.  I cleaned the contacts and adjusted the switches and I think that one should be good to go for a while now.
On ball 5 the bonus light comes on at the left rollover, double bonus light at the bottom, and each bonus is counted as 2000 points.  Aces.

A big new problem is that the spinner is getting stuck at a light.  Usually the middle (of 5).
The spins are awarding 10 points and chiming, but the lights aren't advancing, so at least that narrows down what could be going on.
The spin target triggers the J relay.  J triggers the N relay (10 points), which works fine.  (point of note:  on a 3 ball game, it triggers the M relay for 100 points instead.)
Looking to the 5 "advance" lights in the schematic, they are controlled by the KS relay disc.
Skimming down in the schematics, KS is advanced via Motor 1C+2B and J.  Motor 1C is used in many places, so most likely that is OK.  Tomorrow I should check the J relay contacts because that's most likely what is causing the hangup.  there is some other potential interaction via the I relay and a complex array of other items, so the issue might be deeper.  It should be noticed that after hitting some bonus targets, the spinning would begin advancing the dots again.  A CLUE.
I might have to debug it with the glass off and see if I can recreate specific scenarios.

The KS unit seems like it is supposed to reset the "advance" lights to the 5th position in between each player.  I will have to verify that behaviour is consistent.

I also checked the schematics and realized that the "Special When Lit" should ALSO be awarding 10,000 which would make it super cool, since winning a credit on a home game is pretty ho-hum.  That award is not appearing, so I will have to dive in to that eventually.

Later on I want to talk about the fascinating bonus and FS circuits, and in doing so might also help trace the problem of awarding the 10k special.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

scans of the Gottlieb Top Score manual + schematics

I have scanned in the schematics for Top Score, as well the manual, additional coin mech schematics, and all of the paper ephemera that was included in the envelope.  Including the tattered envelope itself.

The quality of the schematics is OK, just a few blurry parts caused by the yellowing and wavering paper, but it came out pretty well, and all of the other documents are great.

PDF Contents include:
Top Score coin chute circuits
Top Score manual
Top Score operator note
Top Score schematic
misc - caution A-5988
misc - envelope A-14390
misc - important notice B-7921-1
misc - parts catalogue order form B-8371-5
misc - replays 1 A-16141
misc - replays 2 A-14818
misc - replays 3 A-14306
misc - replays 4 A-14820
misc - replays 5 A-14819
misc - replays 6 A-14710
misc - score cards A-16282-2
misc - tilt settings A-9099-1


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Top Score: more bonuses! more power! more fun!

More work done on Top Score!

I almost have all of the "add bonus" lights working.
I discovered there are 3 relays beneath the playfield, and on balls 3, 4 and 5 (or 1, 2 and 3 if set to 3 balls only) they activate, making more targets award a bonus ball.  A very cool progressive feature.
They are persistent, so the relay activated in ball 3 stays on for 4 and 5, and the one on for 4 stays on for ball 5 as well.

The three bonus switches, for balls 3-5, or 1-3 in a 3 ball game.

on ball 5 this lights for extra bonus!

Ball 5's relay wasn't responding but I seemed to have gotten it working with some minor adjustment.  The light for it still doesn't work (I think the socket is just too corroded, as I replaced the bulb,) but now it does add the bonus ball when it is supposed to.
I adjusted the screws in all of those switch-stacks and they seemed to have taken kindly to that extra care.

It is especially nice to have the inlane and bottom and mid-right standups all lighting properly, advertising their juicy bonuses.

I had ALMOST rolled the score over!  and it would have happened, too, if the bonus mechanism hadn't stopped working.  Devastating, I know, but I will fix it and earn my 100,000 point rollover fair and  square.  Things getting gummed are the way of life for EMs.
In a whiff of good design, the switch in the bonus section is easily accessible from behind.

peek-a-boo, I see you, bonus switch!
That switch let's the machine know bonus balls are loaded to be counted.  That solenoid is the one that smacks each down during the bonus count-up.

The left outlane switch was also being flaky again, so I will have to readjust that one.   A bit more severely this time.

The next part to dive in to will be the quirky "light special" rollover  star target at the top, which lights the "special" on the upper right standup.  I was thinking it might be good to modify this somehow, since how is a "special" interesting when the game is on free-play?
But I didn't notice something before:  I think hitting special also lights the "double bonus value" light down by the flippers.  That is exciting!

Some time next week I am going to start scanning in the Top Score schematics and manual.  I want to give it a proper treatment, like I did for Royal Flush.
I cannot wait to start showing off some of the neat schematic features this game has going on!
The FS relay is utilized in the special lighting, which is also an adjustable feature that allows for somewhat random-or-not ability in lighting it.  It's a pretty darn cool feature from a technical standpoint, and from an operator standpoint.

Right now the lights surrounding this Special business are a bit flaky, sometimes fading in and out, and all of this points to an FS relay that will need to be disassembled and cleaned.  This is a busy week, so I will most likely not tackle that until I get the scanner and get that task done.

This game is pulling together quite nicely!  I want to have it playing 100% by the time it leaves my basement.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Introducing... Top Score!

There is much to be said about how amazing the local pinball community is.   There is so much positivity amongst a disparate group of people who really just want to share their joy of pinball with others whom reciprocate it in the same way.
I have had people bend over backwards to help me get to where I am in this past year.  Oh wait, has it been just a year?  YES.
It has been about a year since I have owned a pinball machine, and I've been through MANY!   Royal Flush, Break Shot, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Street Fighter 2, The Flintstones, and now... Top Score!

Back to the benevolence:  A somewhat-local guy I had been talking to had decided to sell his Top Score, and before he posted it offered me toborrow it for a month or two!   I jumped at the opportunity.  And while there were some major logistical details via him being an hour away and my schedule with a toddler being tight, we finally made it happen and Top Score is here.  So let's get in to it!

First, let me reiterate my love for 1970s Gottlieb EMs.  Are all EMs this easy to move in to my place?
A few quick cables pop off and the head comes off.
Take the lockdown bar and glass off.
A few more cables and the playfield slides out easy peasy.
All separated, it was a cinch to get down my stairs.  Normally, with the glass on and playfield still in there, I am of no use in the task of getting a machine downstairs.  Yes, that is even with the head off.  I need outside help.  But with the Gottliebs and their playfields out, I can assist!  It is oh so much easier than EVERYTHING ELSE.


So let's take a look at the rules of Top Score.  First thing to say is it has a LOT going on and that is something I am really searching for in EMs.  I have a dream of always having an EM in the lineup, and want to find the most satisfying of them.

Top Score has a "backbox animation" where balls are kicked up.  These are your bonus, each one is worth 1000.  Drain, and they are counted down by a kicker, 1000 points each.  Tilt, you lose that bonus.
But fill it with all 10 balls?  You can't build a higher bonus.  There is a saucer on the playfield to hit that counts them out mid-ball, so if you want to roll the score on this machine, you will need to use that shot strategically.

 the bottom left is the bonus count animation

So here is the playfield:

Main shot is the oh-so satisfying spinner:  10 points/spin, 5 awards 500 points + a bonus.
2nd coolest feature is the upper left mystery hole, awarding 1-3 bonuses.  Random awards are pretty rare on EMs, it seems.
Right bagatelle-inspired lanes always have the opposite lights lit, and are toggled via each spinner spin.
Rollover on the left opens the bottom right gate.
Bottom left stand-up is always lit for a bonus, as is upper right stand-up, and 2 top-lane rollovers.
Then there are features which activate starting on certain balls.
Ball 3, 4, 5:  right bottom and right middle standups award a bonus
Ball 4+5:  inlanes score a bonus
Ball 5:  left rollover scores a bonuns.
the bottom right outlane is bumpered, which makes it a very tactile game.  I very much like that inclusion.

Despite it being a loaner, I just couldn't resist the urge to work on it!  I love the process of methodically sorting out the issues and seeing if I can help them.

First up, a quick cleaning with a magic eraser, 99% alcohol, novus 2, and novus 1.

Then the big issue was that the left flipper would stay up after some shots.
Took the flipper apart, filed down the mushrooming on the rod and the coil stop, as well cleaned the sleeves.
 Problem solved!

Left outlane was only intermittently awarding bonus.  I took a look at the switch and found gunk on the contacts.  I filed them down and regapped the switch and now it rewards reliably.

Many of the light sockets are a touch loose and have oxidization/corrosion on the bottom.  I might need to replace a few.  I replaced a number of bulbs, but many are just dim and only get bright when in a perfect position.

Other things:
Like most EMs, speed is a factor.  I jacked up the risers to the highest angle I could.  And 3 coats of wax sure helped!
There was a railing depressed on the left outlane.  I pulled it up with needle nosed pliers, but with enough hits it will most likely recede again.  I should fill it in at some point to secure it in place.
On ball 5 the left rollover should light for a bonus.  It is not lit nor awarding bonus, making me question if that relay needs adjustment.  I will look at that another time.

So I think that is all there is to do with the machine.  It plays super well  now.

Let's take some time to check  this amazing rebuild and repainted cabinet:

the only real issue with this game is how pooched the backglass is.
the back folds out in a very cool manner, but it also exposes the state of the back artwork:

Oh and here is a quick look inside the cabinet.  Everything was in order there, except for a quick removal of duct tape from the tilt bob.  ;)

yes yes yes, I took it out.  I adjusted it to be less sensitive, but did verified the tilt worked and didn't fry the game or anything quirky like that.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Lots of stuff going on!
I picked up a Dolly Parton backglass from a great in Montreal for a good price.  It had some paint flaking, so I set out to learn how to repair and protect it!
I went straight to Clay's amazing guide and it was full of all the info I needed.

After an initial coat of Triple Thick, I had to deal with the paint that was already delaminating, as well re-attach small pieces that had fallen off in transit.
The cling wrap method is used to help seal in the loose bits.  Lay on the triple thick, cover in cling wrap, let dry for a long time.  When successful, the plastic wrap should peel off easily.
Most if it did for me, but I had trouble spots, and some spots seem to have been made worse.

So here is attempt #2, wherein I added books to press down on the loose areas.

In the end most of it came off OK, and the parts that didn't I just trimmed with scissors.  It doesn't really matter if the back has a bit of old plastic wrap on it, all that matters  is that the paint won't delaminate further.

This is heading to a friend's house.  We will be acquiring an even better condition one for ourselves soon.

The one on the right was very useful for extra attention to the problem areas.  It required an acrylic brush for application

So yeah, Dolly backglass on the way!  That's all part of a trade.  Sad to say, my Xenon playfield is GONE!  Off to live again in a Xenon machine, replacing a horribly beaten playfield.  I coveted it greatly for my wall, but there is no better place for a playfield than in bringing a machine back to life.

Oh Xenon playfield, you will be missed.  Your empty space on the wall is...  OH WAIT, WHAT IS THAT?
What IS THAT in front of where the Xenon playfield was?  Why it looks like a TOP SCORE!
Yes, that is right, an EM has returned to the back room!  
This is just a loan from a friend, but oh is it super fun.  Expect to hear much about it soon.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

quality amateur restoration photos

These are all links from Brad's Home On The Web where he has random personal photo sets, but also lots of great shots of restoration projects he has done.  He describes himself as non-professional, which means a lot of his work is a lot more approachable for the rest of us that are learning.
I've linked to a handful of his great examples, and each seems to have 100+ pics of the process.

The restoration of a 1979 Williams Flash Pinball machine
Paragon Playfield Restoration
My 1978 Bally Lost World Pinball Machine
Firepower pinball playfield swap
1977 Bally Black Jack Pinball Repair

And then if you want to get a bit more INTENSE, there's always Ed Cheung...
Space Shuttle restore (4 parts)
Bride of Pinbot
and all of his other pin projects