Sunday, 6 December 2009

With a little help from my friends

It's been a busy November. So busy, that I don't think I played a single game of pinball in the previous month.

But finally, this weekend I found some time to get back to my White water. A couple a friends jumped in and together we finished the first part of cleaning. We cleaned bottom playfield and all the basic parts that I left on the machine. Here's how the action looked like:

And a couple of hours later, the result was playfield, all clean and shiny. Here are some pictures:

This concludes the first chapter of the celaning story. I will continue with the ramps, and all the bits that I will be putting back to the machine. I hope that I will be able to find some time to continue before the end of the year, but it looks pretty grim for now.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Cleaning, chapter one - stripping down the playfield

Finally, I got to the job I managed to postpone for months. Although the display still isn't working, I decided that it's time to get my hands dirty and begin with hideous task of cleaning the Whitewaters playfield. And boy did I get my hands dirty. It seems that this one is even dirtier then the Star Trek was.
Here are some pics that I took, so that I'll be able to put the thing back together.

Filthy upper playfield

Filthy stripped bottom playfield

Filthy right side


Filthy ramps

More filthy ramps

Removed filthy upper playfield

Filthy whirlpool lamps


More filth

Even more filth

Filthy secret passage

Filthy removed parts

Entire playfield, filthy

Sunday, 25 October 2009

R.I.P. Pinball ?

On this very day, exactly 10 years ago, Williams abruptly terminated it's pinball division. As it was the only remaining mayor player in the pinball business at the time, this move actually meant that over 90 percent of pinball market suddenly ceased to exist.

Many people declared this day as "The day that pinball died?"

Do I agree with them?
Unfortunately I must say that I do.

Although that new machines still get made by STERN, with every new pinball announced I keep asking myself: "Where's the progress?". Every new machine could as well be built in 1995 and no one could tell a difference. We all know what happened with the technology in the last 10 years an nothing of that reflects in any of the new pinball machines. Here's some stuff that could be well used in new pinball machines, but it's not:
  • LCD displays; the only step forward here in the last 20 years was pinball 2000 platform. Instead of hi res graphics that could work as both, backglass and display , there is a 128x32 4 color dmd.
    Tiny, gsm like displays could even be integrated into playfield itself, instead of archaic lamps.
  • Connectivity; new machines could easily be connected to the internet where global scoreboards could be published.
    Machines could notify operators about earnings or problems with machine via gsm or email.
    Operators could mark machines with location data, that would be published online, so the players could easily found the desired machines.
    Entire online community could be built around machines, where players could communicate with operators or each others.
  • Lasers; just remember with happened to the pc mice in a last couple of years. I'm sure laser motion sensors would be quite useful in pinballs
  • Moore's law; Imagine the cpu/memory capacity could be put in machines these days. What sort of games or self diagnostic tools could be built with that.
  • New materials; I'm not sure about this one, but i bet, that there's tons of new stuff that could be used
So. I guess Now I just have to wait until some STERN guy stumbles upon this blog and convince his boss to invest into Pinball 3000.

Until then I'll just play with with we got, although it's build on 15 years old technology.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

The DMD, Part V

I tested the DMD board today. It was over in i second. I turned the machine on and the R5 resistor exploded.

I'm running seriously low on ideas now.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

I am a honorable player

I beat the grand champion on my Star Trek today. I almost forgot what a great feeling that is :).

I know 8 billion isn't that much, but I will improve it. I promise.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The DMD, Part IV

I was finally able to get back to my White Water this weekend. Of course, my primary goal is still to get the DMD controller back into working state. I just picked up the controller and some tools and took it back here with me

Here's the approach I'm taking now.

On the left, there is a broken White Water's controller and on the right the Star treks, that is all fine and dandy.

I measured the resistance of all the components and all the traces on both boards and try to identify any suspicious components, that might be causing too high negative voltages.

Anyway, the following measured quite different than on the working board: D4, D5 and D7 diodes. Q4, Q5 and Q6 transistors and R3, R4 and R6 resistors. These are the things I'll replace.

I guess I'm going shopping tomorrow. Naturally I will report about the results.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

The DMD, Part III

The DMD controller failed again yesterday. This time it went with a bang and scared the hell out of a friend playing the machine.

At first it seemed that only the fuse failed, but after replacing it, the display looked really really weird. No letters, no graphics, just some sort of huge blob in the middle. I measured the voltages (Again) and the two negative voltages were waaaaaay of the normal readings. They read -152/-130.

What am I going to do about this one? I don't know yet. I'll see in a couple of weeks, when I'm back with my Whitewater.

It seems that if things continue to evolve in this manner I'll have to start a new blog and dedicate it to DMD controller exclusively. :)

Friday, 21 August 2009

Broken switches

Now that the DMD works again I checked out the whole bunch of broken switches that the self diagnostics reported.

Result: All of them actually work.

I guess my dad was playing and hit very little switches in a whole lot of games :).
Must I add that he is not a very good pinball player.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

The DMD, Part II

I came back home today and naturally the first thing to do was to fire my whitewater.

To my surprise, here's what I found:
Now that's something that puts my soldering skills to trial. I started dealing with this issue immediately, so the first thing i did was to measure the voltages again. The two negative voltages were perfect this time (-118 and -106). The wrong one was +62 which read only 24 volts. Here's what pinrepair has to say about too low +62 voltage:

"The +62 volts is not +62 volts.
On WPC-S and earlier games, the positive DC voltage trace that comes from a very small bridge rectifier BR1 is physically routed underneath resistor R9 (1.8k 5 watt resistor). Because of the heat generated by this 5 watt resistor, and the current drawn from the bridge rectifier, this circuit board trace can become burnt and break underneath resistor R9. Because the trace physically runs under this resistor, the broken trace can be hard to see.

And here's what my controller looked like:

Apparently this is exactly what happened to my board. I consulted the enclosed board schematics and here's the solution I came up with:

The DMD lightened up and I was really thrilled until I noticed that some sparks are flying around the board. It' seemed as that the cable I soldered on to the resistor was to close to the heat sink. I quickly turned the machine off. The board worked, so no other components were burned. I just had to replace the missing trace in some other way.

My second attempt looks like this:

And here's the result:

No sparks this time. I guess it's playing time again and let's see what the testing will bring.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Fun, fun, fun

After quick-fixing the both faulty switches I decided that it is not the time to begin with the other repairs or even cleaning yet.
I just didn't feel like it, so I ended up playing, playing, playing and then playing some more.
Man, this pinball is fun. Even though it is horribly dirty, the switches are all wrong and some ramps are not quite as they are supposed to be, it is so much fun it's almost criminal. This gotta be some of the best layed out playfields ever.
I can't remember ever having this much fun with the Hurricane. Thank goodness I got it back.

Friday, 14 August 2009


Let me start with a picture.

Here it is. My white water.
Finally I'm back with it and I have some time on my hands to examine it closely. Naturally, the first thing to do is to install the DMD controller and check what the self diagnostics have to say.
Here's what came up:
* Check switch 57 - Canyon main
* Check switch 73 - Hot foot upper
Looks pretty good. It might be in better shape than I anticipated. A closer look showed that a couple of solder joints are broken. Piece of cake.

What about the other stuff? Here's what i found up:

1. Faded right side of the cabinet

I don't know what I'm going to do about this one. Perhaps one day, I'll invest in new decals.

2. Only four working waterfall ramps
I guess replacing the bulbs should do it. The current bulbs are not #194 , but some sort of weird 12V car light bulbs. No wonder they're all broken.

3. Broken (and horribly fixed) disaster drop ramp

Luckily the missing bit was still inside the cabinet. I guess some gluing and installing a ramp protectors will do the job.

4. Broken bigfoot ramp

I' guess I'll have to improvise here a bit.

5. Wrong lock switches, wrong hot foot switches

I'll order the correct ones if I'm able to find them

6. Broken plastics on the boulder garden

I'll order the new ones, if I find a store that sells them separately

7. Bigfoot's head is not spinning
It seems that motor is spinning and that the optos are working. Looks like just the head isn't attached properly.

8. Broken light kickback switch

I also find this one inside the cabinet. I'll try to glue it back

9. Some weak solenoids
Some cleaning should fix this ones.

10. Some rubber rings are missing, the others are in quite a bad shape.
I'll just replace them all

11. Very, very dirty
I'll put it to pieces an clean it thoroughly.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


The first to deal with on my journey of bringing White water back to life was its non working display. We all now that display is a important part of every pinball, but you can't really tell how important, until one is actually gone. Imagine. No self diagnostic, no error reports, no tests, no settings, no score, nothing. Anyway, it was obvious that this is going to be the first issue to address in order to move anywhere.

The symptoms.
The DMD was not completely dead. It showed some life, but only around the edges and even there it was barely lit (again, no picture :(). It seemed that picture was getting through, but there just wasn't enough power to display it.

The diagnostics
Luckily I still had my Star trek at hand (loaded and ready to transport), so naturally, the first thing I tried was plugging the White water's DMD into Star trek. The thing worked and a 180€ that a new display would have cost me was saved. Since the display itself was flawless, there was only one remaining option left. There had to be something wrong with the Dot Matrix controller. After re seating all the cables that come from the controller a couple of times didn't worked I grabbed my multimeter to measure the voltages that come from the controller which gave me some answers. The first two pins read only -75/-63v while it should be at least -115 / -103.
The reason for non working display therefore is: Too low negative voltage produced by the dot matrix controller.
At this point I had to leave for Ljubljana where I live and work, so I just packed the controller and some tools and took the stuff with me. Unfortunately it'll have to pass a couple of weeks before I'll be able to work on White water again, but at least I'll try to get the controller in order till then.

The cure
The problem was solved by rebuilding the enitire high voltage section of the DMD controller.
Here are some pics.

1. The DMD controller

2. The (faulty) high voltage section

3. The shopping list

4. Printout from pinrepair

5. The tools used

6. HV section without components :)

7. Garbage

8. and finally... freshly rebuild HV section

The test
It's a good thing that I recently moved my Star Trek here to Ljubljana, so I was able to test my four hour hard work.
Here's the result, after switching the controllers:
HOORAY! The thing works.

Let me add that this was my first real attempt at PCB soldering, so I'm really really proud about the result.

The thanks I'd be doomed without this site.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

The Beginning

What to say in my first blog?

I guess it would be nice to introduce myself briefly.
Well. I'm 31, I'm a computer engineer from Slovenia and I love Pinball.
I guess I'm a Pinball lover ever since I can remember. My Pinball playing days go way back to early 90's where I spent most of my pocket money playing Funhouse in a local bar.
This passion got me into buying my first pinball machine in 2002. It was a 1992 Williams White Water, that paved the road to my pinball repairing knowledge. I kept it for a couple of years and then a exchanged for a Hurricane. What a mistake it was. After a while, Hurricane turned into a dust shelve and I kinda forgot about playing pinball.
My passion reignited in the end of 2008 when a friend of mine got himself The Addams Family. It remembered me how much fun pinball actually is so I wiped the dust of the Hurricane and started to play again. I also started tracking the Slovenian pinball market and soon I found just the thing for me. It was a pretty beat up 1993 Star trek the next generation at a very decent price. I bought it and it took me almost half a year to rebuild it completely. Unfortunately it didn't occur to me that restoring it would be a nice topic for blog but anyway. I'll try to make it up with this one.

The story that I'll try to cover here begins a couple of weeks ago when me and a friend of mine decided to check out all the bars in our region that used to have pinballs to see if there are any left. About hour or so into the action we entered a bar in Dravograd and stumbled upon a sad scene. Unfortunately I didn't take a picture of it, but there it was. 1992 Williams White Water, all dusty, dirty and broken. After a close examination I realized that it is not just any White water but THE White water, my actual first pinball. I instantly decided that I want it back, no matter what. So I called the guy and I asked him if he wants his Hurricane back. He just said: "Sure, no problem".

A week later White water was back where it belongs. In my basement.

And this is where this blog begins. I'll do my best to cover all the aspects of getting a pinball that was very poorly taken care for back into top playing condition.

Wish me luck ;).