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Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

Look out parts, there’s a new tool in town!

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Sometimes the right tool can make all the difference when working on an arcade game restoration project. For me it was a good air compressor to run my shop tools. I have a sand blasting cabinet and painting equipment that both require a stable air supply and while I’ve been getting by with a little 13 gallon portable tank, it was really time for an upgrade. I wanted something with plenty of capacity, and good PSI, which meant an upright compressor. Those big compressors can be pricey, $1k or more, which was more than I could afford to spend. I needed to find a good balance between price and performance. I sold off some projects to generate cash, did my research and then patiently waited for a sale. Thanks to a tip from Troy (takeman), this is what I ended up with.

air compressor

An 80 gallon, single stage air compressor by Industrial Air, from Farm and Fleet. Industrial Air is just a store brand made by a well known major manufacturer, so I was happy. I opened up a store account and got an additional 10% off the sale price and several months interest free. Out the door this was just under $700, a good price. For another $20 I rented a uhaul trailer and took the 450lb monster home.

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The guys at Farm and Fleet used a fork lift to put the compressor in the trailer, how exactly would I get it out? Well, I removed the annoying chains that keep the trailer gate from opening all the way and then I used my trusty plywood ramp. I made this specifically for uhaul trailers and it has made moving games in and out a lot easier. It works for compressors too. Surprisingly I was able to simply slide the whole skid down the ramp to the driveway without too much effort. I then slowly dragged the whole skid into the back room of my garage where it would be permanently mounted.

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With the compressor parked in the garage, it was time to sketch out a rough layout and buy pipe and fittings. People tend to forget that besides the compressor you’ll need lots of black pipe, fittings, filters, regulators, flexible hose, shut off valves, etc. You will easily add a couple hundred bucks of cost on top of the price of the unit itself. Next time I’ll discuss the layout and installation.

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Tough to keep up with projects

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

After almost 10 years of collecting and restoring classic arcade games, I’ve figured out the most important collecting rule to live by. Limit your projects! Why? Typically you can only get to one or two major restoration projects per season in the Midwest, with perhaps another handful of minor fixes during the winter months. Of course there are always exceptions, but family, work, and normal everyday life consumes a lot of time leaving very little for projects. If you’re a new collector, try to avoid the “buy everything I can get my hands on” phase of collecting. You’ll just end up with a garage, basement or even living room full of junk!

Tim B garage

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some nice games in this garage, but wouldn’t it be a little nicer with just one or two project games and lots of space to work on them? Or maybe even a spot to park the car? I think so. Of course you’d have to grab that Major Havoc that was left at the curb, but until that really happens, stop grabbing projects and focus your energy. Restore those games and thin out the project list. Projects always come up, even more now that the arcade market is depressed. I’ve got to run, I have some games to work on! (special thanks to Tim B for the unauthorized use of his garage photo)

Q*bert goes home!

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Thanks to Jason V (meatloaf) for loaning me his Q*bert upright to use during our last Halloween party, it was a big hit. Not only did he drop it off, but he even let me keep it for a little while longer, just to enjoy. Since my Q*bert cabinet is currently in lots of pieces waiting for a restoration effort, it was nice to actually play this unique game.


My kids love the game and it looks great next to Mad Planets, so I’m going to have to get a jump on my project this Spring. (more…)

Willis Enviro-Graphics, or bye bye Wico!

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

“Enviro-Graphics, an exciting new concept for the amusement industry. The Enviro-Graphics kit includes all the decorative treatment, signage, and support material required for your arcade, game room or game location. These products are designed and produced by the premier game art company in America – Willis Industries.” A bold statement from a company that the classic arcade collecting community tends to frown upon. But take a look at the brochure and you might think twice.


I had never heard of Enviro-graphics, or known about artwork packages that operators could use to decorate their arcade. I was too busy finding my next quarter for that new game, or waiting for the 6 tokens for $1 special at Aladdin’s Castle. Who paid attention to the d├ęcor? I vaguely recall the way my local arcade looked back in the day, with a simple neon exterior, lots of games inside and a pseudo space theme. The atmosphere did contribute to the overall memory, though my strongest memory seems to be of dark and smokey spaces, with lots of flashing lights and sounds! Even so, perhaps Willis had a good idea. Token signs, out of order signs, score boards, event schedules, specials, rules…all things the operator needed to communicate with his customers. The random space scene posters remind me more of the black light posters you’d find at Spencer’s gifts in the mall, along side the edible underwear. The brochure states that the posters were directly screened onto 1/8″ thick foam board, which made them more durable and easier to hang, but is also probably why so few (if any) survive today. Once they came off the wall if you couldn’t store them, they got tossed.

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One thing I noticed is the apparent change in relationship between Willis and Wico around the time this stuff was being produced. If you recall my post about the partnership they shared, apparently it didn’t last or just wasn’t working out. Whatever the reasons, the brochure above is a lot different from the unopened one you see below. Dated September 10, 1982 it has the Wico name and distributor information prominently displayed. A few additional pieces of artwork can also be seen on the back. The almost identical brochure above has all traces of the Wico name removed and “Now operators can buy direct from Willis”. Interesting move and even before the industry crash really took hold. If you can shed any light on this relationship or if you have a Willis Enviro-Graphics poster you’d like to sell, let me know.

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G07 monitor chassis wash

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

This topic has been given a lot of coverage in the various newsgroups and arcade collecting forums. I’ve done lots of research and read all the comments I could find. I’m also lucky enough to have a good friend that knows a great deal about electronics and was kind enough to share the pros and potential cons of bathing them. After talking with him I decided to give it a go.

G07 chassis

I neglected to take a couple of before pictures to show the nasty grime covering these three G07 chassis, but we’ve all seen similar parts. Any arcade pcb’s that have been sitting around in a warehouse for 20 plus years are bound to be covered with crud. Makes it hard to see what you’re working on when trying to do repairs and sometimes a standard cleaning just doesn’t do the trick. So into the dishwasher they go! (more…)

Games at Disney Quest

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

A long time ago I had the opportunity to work on site during the construction of the Orlando FL Disney Quest. I was a product designer at an architectural firm and my company wanted me to head down to the site and make sure the products worked right. While I was there I got to snap a few pics and recently came across this one. They had the start of a nice classic arcade.

disney quest games

I don’t really remember if the games were ever on during that time in the construction, but I doubt I would have had time to play them anyway. It was a short visit and I had a lot to get do.

Arcade Museum in McLean IL ~ worth a trip!

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

I recently made the road trip from Chicago to McLean IL, to meet up with my good friend Jeff at the Arcade Museum. What is the Arcade Museum? Just a little piece of arcade nirvana located right off I55 on your way south to St. Louis. If you don’t find what you’re looking for at the next St. Louis Super Auction, you can at least pop on over to the Arcade Museum and get your fill of classic gaming at its best.


John Yates, the avid collector responsible for the museum, has created a cozy little place to play a bunch of true classics. When we arrived there were a handful of customers playing games and a few volunteers working hard moving new games into place and keeping the ones on the floor working 100%. (more…)

Pat spotted in the parking lot, Pat 9000 that is…

Monday, January 4th, 2010

If you’re into arcade game repair, or have been in the hobby for awhile, you’re probably familiar with the Programmable Atari Test Station, or PAT-9000. This elusive piece of test equipment was sold by Atari to operators and would assist them in troubleshooting and repairing both raster and vector Atari circuit boards. It wasn’t a cheap item back in the 80’s and if you can find one now it would likely cost a small fortune. Oddly enough, I spotted these two gentleman moving one into the back of a Volvo.


This unit was purchased by a Chicago local and while it had been badly hacked by the former owner, Bill K was able to repair it and get it 95% of the way to full working operation. Imagine that, repairing the repair equipment. The proud new owner will be making the final adjustments and repairs which includes building a housing for a vector and raster monitor to complete the package. A pretty amazing find and a great piece of history.


Willis Berzerk cpo

Monday, December 28th, 2009

This one is among my favorite Willis overlay’s and while I admit it’s not as amazing as the stainless steel original, at least there was an attempt to make it blend with the theme and artwork of the game.

Lots of robots pulled from the side art and colors from the bezel. Not a bad replacement and perhaps better than the dark factory replacement cpo that was offered direct from Stern. This Willis Berzerk control panel overlay is in great shape and produced with their typical quality production. I will happily add it to the archive.

Looking for a stainless steel reproduction for your Berzerk upright? Pre-order yours now! Likely the last time I will revisit this project, so if you need one, let me know.

The Wico Willis partnership

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

If you know anything about classic arcade games, the name Wico should be familiar. They’re the famous makers of the Wico 4 and 8 way leaf switch joysticks, a “must have” for many classic restorations. While they were standard equipment on many of our beloved classics, finding complete NOS Wico joysticks gets harder and harder every day. Those knock off replacements just don’t stack up to the originals. So what does Willis have to do with it? I’ll tell you. (more…)