Sunday, July 26, 2009

CSI Boise

Been in this hobby going on 17 years now and I must say, this has been one of my most rewarding and fulfilling years for collecting since I brought home a Space Invaders back in 1993. Since Mother’s Day of this year I have had quite a streak of finding and restoring games while also working on the game room to get it ready for all of these new acquisitions. I was ready to put the brakes on any new games until I had all of my current projects finished. I then heard about a dead Star Castle just down the road from me (everything in Boise is just down the road if you haven’t figured that out by now ) and I had to have a peek. Once again, me and the R2 unit rolled out to investigate.

It was another unseasonably warm day in Boise as we arrived on the scene and took notes of the surroundings. The garage door was open and the victim was sitting in the left rear corner of the garage. We were instantly greeted by a woman identifying herself only as Judy as we strolled up the driveway. A few other collectables were strewn here and there throughout the garage including a Gottlieb pinball and an organ from the 1800’s. I took a statement from the lady. She insisted that the kids were just playing the game one day and it died. There was no evidence of foul play so I took her at her word. “Approximately how long ago was that Ma’am? “ I asked. “About ten years” she replied. The spiderwebs inside the game seem to substantiate that claim. The trail was cold by now and we would be on our own to determine what killed this machine. I asked if it would be ok to plug in the game and she obliged. The only sign of life was a flash of the LED on the motherboard when I powered on the game. No picture on the screen, no sound from the speakers. For all intended purposes this game was D.O.A. Time to draw a chalk outline around this one and slap on a toe-tag.

While I was conducting my investigation, Judy told me about how her father had traded for this game many years ago for his grandkids to play. Between hearing her story, and seeing that little flash of light, I knew what I had to do. “But wait just a second Dave. This is a Cinematronics vector, don’t let your emotions get the best of you. They can be hard to find parts for and you really don’t know that much about them...”, I could hear my inner voice telling me. My inner voice was right. I had to keep my senses about me and not get in over my head. I offered her $50.00 figuring at that price I couldn’t get hurt too bad if I couldn’t get it working. She accepted. I looked in my wallet and realized that I only had $47.00 after stopping for coffee and donuts on the way there. I offered the $47.00 and a sincere promise to do everything within my power to get to the bottom of what stopped this Star Castle dead in its tracks and bring this game some justice. I think the promise meant more to her than the money and with that, R2 and I loaded up the game and headed for home.

The first thing I did was reset the circuit breakers (I had forgotten this game uses breakers instead of fuses) and turned the game on. I could here the monitor crackle and start to come alive and then after about 3 seconds the breaker blew. I decided to go online and do a little detective work. Using the Cinematronic vector repair guide, I was quickly able to determine that the X side of the monitor was the guilty party. I took the monitor out and starting metering away looking for clues. Eventually I was able to determine that the cause of death was due to a shorted heat sink transistor that looked like it took another transistor out with it. I replaced all the heat sink transistors with the upgrades recommended in the guide, making sure not to mix up the NPN and PNP transistors. I powered up the game and now had a working monitor. The game played fine with the exception of sound, or I should say lack of it. First I looked for any obvious clues and found nothing. Not a single sign of trauma anywhere. I jumpered the volume knob to make sure it wasn’t bad and it wasn’t. Metered the speaker and it was showing 1.8 ohms on an 8ohm speaker. This was not good. Using the Star Castle sound board guide on, I was able to determine that there were blown transistors on the sound board. I replaced those and put in a new speaker and now Star Castle was putting out some beautiful music. I replaced the marquee lamp and starter and this game was now completely back from the dead. I repainted the metal brackets around the control panel and marquee, installed new white buttons, gave it a little cleaning and another vector is now ready for duty. This game proved to be a bit of a challenge. Whenever I ran out of clues to keep me going, I would lean on the promise I had made to a nice lady who wanted nothing more than to know that her father’s game would get my best attempt at a second chance. I recently contacted Judy and let her know that this case has been solved and the Star Castle is now in my game room.

Exhibit A: Star Castle in gameroom.

Despite evidence of some cigarette burns, the game still looks nice:
After dusting for fingerprints,all I did to the coin door area was clean it:
Partners in crime:

Case closed.

No comments: