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Space War button disassembly and cleaning

The control panel on a Vectorbeam Space War is a strange and complex construction. There are no joysticks or typical round arcade buttons, only rows of square buttons. Old school, IBM typewriter style buttons. As you can see, 30+ years of crud starts to make the buttons look like fuzzy teeth. Everything needed a good cleaning. So after removing the cp plexi, the instruction plexi and the light fixture, I was able to remove the buttons. There are four separate “banks” of button assemblies, each on its own pcb and connected to the wiring harness. The selection buttons are numbered 0 to 9 while the remaining buttons are just plain white without any text. Maybe not bright white, more like a faded captains chair white.

After carefully removing the tiny nuts from the bottom of the pcb, you can carefully remove the button assembly, revealing an odd looking glass tube with some leads. This is called a reed switch. When the button moves up and down it passes a small magnet over the tube which effectively opens and closes the switch. I’m told they are very durable and should last a long time with proper care.

The buttons that were numbered came as larger assemblies with a shared housing. The others had individual housings. I took them all off the pcbs and disassembled each one. Each individual button consisted of 9 small parts, amazing how much effort went into making these things! I used a little oxy clean in a small bucket of warm water and let the parts soak. After about 20 minutes I started taking them out one by one and cleaning each bit with an old toothbrush. Lots of work, but after a good rinse you can see a huge difference. The buttons still have a bit of aging or yellowing, but they look 100% better.

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