Eight Ball Deluxe–It’s Alive, Again!
There is something about pinball machines. Despite the fact they have evolved from electro-mechanical monstrosities into the digital era, they are a very physical experience. For all it’s variations, it’s basically you, a ball, and a playfield. How fast can you push the button to make that flipper go at just the right time? How much body english can you give to the machine before it tilts?
No computer can simulate the experience of the real McCoy. Believe me, I bought an Eight Ball Deluxe emulator back in the early 1990s. I’ve also played with things like PinMAME and Visual Pinball. Even that hokey little pinball game that comes in Windows. It’s not the same thing, at all.
For the past several months, I have been trying to get my Eight Ball Deluxe Limited Edition fixed. It was up in my office at the old house and non-functional for the past few years. Since it moved into our living room at the new house, it is much more visible. More people see it and remind us that, yes it’s broken.
A guy that works at a local amusement company has come out a few times to repair my 25+ year old machine. Various electronic bits have been replaced. In the case of one of the main electronic bits–some bits were replaced, but additional problems came up. I decided instead of spending any more parts and labor on fixing the MPU board, I would replace it.
Yesterday, I got my shipment from Bay Area Amusements where I ordered my Ultimate MPU by Alltek Systems. It’s a $200 experience, but it’s a better replacement. It’s a smaller board than the original MPU. It supports a number of Bally/Stern games. It also has better diagnostics than the original MPU.
Replacing the MPU board is much easier than replacing a motherboard in a computer, but it’s similar. Take the old board off the plastic standoffs, put the new board in, hook it up, and turn it on. I didn’t do the testing you’re supposed to do beforehand as I felt my pinball guy did a fairly good job of checking all that stuff the last time he was out.
It worked. Hearing that phrase “Eight Ball Deluxe” and “Chalk Up” was a sound that I longed to hear from my pinball machine. Finally, we have a machine.
Unfortunately, it’s not entirely working. One of the thumper bumpers isn’t working because some component blew on a different board–parts are in and will be installed next time he comes out. One of the solenoids that powers one of the flippers is not energizing fully, which means it hits the ball weaker than it should. There’s also a pop hole where the ball won’t actually pop out because it is not able to kick out the ball with enough force. There are a couple of others to address as well.
I taped over the hole where the ball can’t kick out and the machine is at least playable for the time being. It obviously needs more work, but I think I can finally say we’ve turned the corner. Not to mention that the playfield desperately needs a cleaning, though I ordered some Novus #2 from Bay Area Amusements to rectify that.
I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to play this old machine once again. It will be nice when all the other bits are restored to their former glory, too.