So you want your own arcade machine?  Good for you.

Video Games - The Cheap Easy Way

Get a copy of Microsoft Arcade.  Really.  It's from Microsoft, but based on the original source code from these machines.  Works GREAT.  Interviews with early creators of these machines, too.

Original Arcade is hard to find, but later versions are around.

Video Games - The Really Cheap Geek Way

This section is for Chris Maddi. 

Nintendo doesn't do it for you?  Nobody makes a decent Dig Dug cartridge?

Another great alternative is MAME (multiple arcade machine emulator.)  This is a software tool, FREE, that turns your pentium PC into any arcade machine out there.   There's a catch, though.

MAME emulates the basic circuit boards common to lots of arcade machines.   It doesn't imitate the EPROMS (basically the software) that make these machines run, look pretty, etc.  These are still copyrighted by Atari, Geocom, others.   However, there are plenty of hobbyists out there pulling EPROMS from machines, and posting the contents on the web. 

Here's a good place to learn about them.  But don't expect all the links to work, and do expect dead ends when you try to download ROMs. 

Why aren't there many links here?  Well, posting copyrighted material is risky, so these sites tend to change rapidly.  Best of all is to hit a search engine and type in the name of a favorite game.  But, like bootleg MP3s, these take detective work to find.

If you're really into it, you can build your own MAME cabinet that looks and feels like the arcade machines you want.  Or you can buy one.  A truly Incredible MAME cabinet project fills my head with ideas.  There's gotta be a way to make a decent PC cabinet this way.

Video Games - the Real way

So some fancy, practical machine that'll do whatever you want isn't enough?  Gotta have the real thing?

One way- Get on Ebay, and start looking.  Or teach e-bay to look for your favorite for you.  Remember, they weigh hundreds of pounds, and it'll cost a lot to get them to your house from wherever the seller lives.  And they might not work when you get there.

Or Another Way - get out the yellow pages, and look for companies with names like "Automatic music Inc." that operate machines in arcades etc.   They're local, and you can find out if the things work.  Great tips from the newsgroup on how to do this.

Repair Tips


Older pinball machines, crane games, bowling machines all look like elevator machinery inside.  Wire, switches, NO CHIPS.  The same things are always wrong with them:

  1. Dirty contacts - A brass brush and TV tuner cleaner (available at radio shack) will take care of these.  If you're doing the whole machine, put a gun bore brush in a drill.
  2. Bent switches - there are nifty tools for adjusting these.  Get them from Marco Specialties
  3. Burnt-out motors - Good luck.  This is the most expensive part in a machine, other than the backglass.
  4. Blown solenoids - Marco Specialties again.
  5. (Rarely) broken parts - Marco Specialties or Ebay, or local distributors/junkyards.

If (good luck to you) you're considering restoring the backglass or playfield, turn to this great site.

Need help with a Bally Pinball Machine?  Try this place!

Electronics - video, newer pinball

These are the basic repair tips that Bob M taught me so many years ago.  They cover 99% of electrical problems.

Join and find someone else with the same game.  Good source for advice, and maybe personal help.  Try what's suggested.

Turn it off, unplug it, and make sure the big capacitors (like the one on a TV tube) are discharged.  Ground yourself so you don't spark, then:

Exercise the pots (potentiometers) - turn the knobs.  A lot.   They get corrosion, and crackle or don't work at all.

Unplug/replug the connections a few times - cables between boards.

Wiggle the chips - loose ones have corrosion on the pins.  Smush them in when you're done.

Put it back together and turn it on.  If this doesn't fix it, get professional help.  But it usually will.

You don't need to ship the machine - 300 pounds is a big box.   Find a board repair shop and pull the circuit boards out, and mail these.  2 pounds. 

Parts - has a great assortment of controls, parts.  And a fun website.

PCBs (printed circuit boards) can be traded/replaced at - Sure there may be cheaper places, but I like this guy.


What's Pachinko?  It's a Japanese cross between pinball and slot machines.   You've seen these machines, most likely in garage sales or really, really overpriced in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog.  About 3 feet tall, 1 1/2 feet wide, all mechanical.  In Japan, you go to the counter, buy a tray of balls, and pour them into the tray on the front of the machine.  Then start flipping the lever.  What you're looking for here is that glazed look and zen-space sensation only achieved by fixed-income types standing in front of two slot machines.  Typically they're playing two at once, because if they played three, they wouldn't be able to smoke at the same time.  But I digress.  Anyhow, you launch the balls with your right thumb.   Sorry, lefties.  And they dribble through the machine's array of steel pins, making a noise that's hard to describe.  But if you get five or six going at a time (easy to do with a little practice) you feel like you're in a tin tool shed in a rainstorm.  And when the occasional ball wanders into a target, usually shaped like a flower or a pair of martial artists, the machine will dispense a handful of balls, rolling them over a bell.  So a good player will sound like he's in a tin tool shed full of old alarm clocks.  Maybe that wasn't so hard to find.

Pachinko is noisy, fun, and pretty cheap.  You can find lots of machines on eBay, or buy them from this guy, who was kind enough to provide free instructions for older machines.

Repairs?  These are simple mechanical machines, but they do get dirty and need a very little bit of lubrication.  You can make the light bulbs light up, but it's not necessary.

Recirculators are what you're looking for.  The first machines, Nishijin Super Deluxe, depended on an army of arcade personnel walking around moving balls from the bottom of the machine to the top.  Later machines were designed to eliminate this job, and don't need you to walk around the other side.

More info is available at this growing Pachinko site.