Saturday, 15 November 2014

Another Insane Hardware Project - Bally Squawk & Talk Sound Board Redesign - Gordon's Alive

So i've been working on some other sound board recreations alongside the gottlieb sound board that i've been talking about in my other thread.

This is project is to recreate the well known and loved Bally S&T Sound board found in many of Bally's greatest hits from the 80s. The idea is similar to my other hardware projects and is to redesign the board using modern components,and improve and simplify where possible

Here is my first pass at the redesign. I am hoping to get some protos made up and test over christmas. Register your interest with me now :)

I'm not sure on pricing structures yet as I need to identify the likely costs of all the chips and parts, but am aiming for around the £140 mark.

I have some nice ideas on the amp side to, but will get the boards working correctly first. There'll be an option to wire in your own external amp to instead of using the onboard setup to if you fancy more speakers or more volume! Stay tuned.

As normal, visit my full website over at or contact me directly at to say hi

Sunday, 2 November 2014

RFM Saucer Update

I have made some updates to the software (v0.5.0) for the controller board as per the feedback received so far. The saucers now cycle in opposite directions to each other.

» YouTube video

I have also added an option using dip switch 1 to enable or disable colour cycle lamp effects when all other lamps are off. This mean you can have total darkness on hypo beam mode or not. 100% user customable. The dip switches are read as the board boots up and operate for that power up time accordingly.

Regarding the pcbs boards, the order for the first batch is now with the manufacturer and i hope to receive the blanks back in a few weeks so assembly can start. The saucer plastics are still on there way so will update again when i receive them.

Here's a few pics of the prototype boards being assembled and installed into my game.

Here's a quick update video with the boards installed in the game.

As normal, visit my full website over at or contact me directly at to order if you fancy adding this to your game.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Shaker Motor Boards go into the wild!

I recently finished a project I was helping some pinheads out with for a new controller board for pinball shakers. The board allows control within modern Stern games with built in software control and also older games where there was no original control.

There is both intensity and sustain adjustment built in to get the perfect shake in your pinball game!

High Voltage at UK Pinball Party

20 Years ago i built a pinball game for part of an A-level art & Design project. I dug it out of storage recently and took it along to the UK pinball Party ( 

The game was based on the Bally Hit Future Spa from 1979 and was all original playfield, cabinet and back glass creations while keeping the original rules and board set.

Was a fun weekend getting it back together and playing it again after such a long time. It was also nice to get such great comments from fellow pinheads. 20 years really went by fast!

See here for some more pics of it when first built.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Colourising Indiana Jones DMD Graphics

So I thought it was time to add colour to the DMD graphics section of my Indiana Jones software rewrite. Colourising DMD dot data has become a new standard for updating of games, with many titles being given the colour treatment. There are a few different ways to do it, but the outcome is the same. I am using the  P-ROC method which was invented by my Friend Eric from Cactus Canyon Continued Fame. He has been helping me out adding the colour data to the raw dot frames. Massive thanks to him. He is a genius! 

Here's a few examples of how it's progressing,

Let me know what you think. Adding the colour really beings the animations to life and also shows off the great talents of the original Williams artist who created the animations and frames in the first place.

Friday, 8 August 2014

80s Pinball Sound Board Revolution

Hi Pinball Fans, Modders and Hackers,

How are you today?

So i've been looking at creating another new board for system 80B games. This time i'm looking at creating a new sound board which will work across the 80B games. It will be compatible with MA-766 and MA-866 series boards and variations thereof.

Been drawing up some schematics before getting some protos made to mess/test with. Looked over loads of schematics from various games and completed the first run of my schematic which will allow the board to work in games meant for the 766 and all revs of the 866 board. There are dip switches to enabled/disable certain sections which are specific to the different board revisions. The main difference is to do with the speech generation circuit. The speech generation for games using the first rev of the 866 board like robo-war and tx sector certainly is an interesting design and some of the games using the 766 board where there was a dedicated speech chip, didn't even use it! Robo-war managed to create that transformers like voice with lots of low pass filtering.

As before with the cpu board i will be looking at improving the design and including similar updates, such as:

- Decent ground anchors
- Test point pads for common signals and voltages
- Leds for common signals and voltages
- Reduced component count
- Plate through design, socketed ics
- Kit option

Also, after looking at a good few system 3 manuals i believe this board will work here to so the full range of games able to benefit will be much higher than originally thought. Again it looks like gottlieb carried on using the 866 board for effects and updated the aux sound driver to improve the speech generation circuit again. Music gen was split across the 2 just like in later 80b games.

I'm interested to hear what people think, who would be interested in buying this board and whether a kickstarter type approach may be a good way to run this project?

I also have an idea for an Ardunio based project where nodders and hackers could use this board to add cool 80s sound effects and music to their projects :) Obviously they would need to buy a set of roms officially from Gottlieb (or their copyright owners)

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

In Game testing of RFM RGB Super Mod

So things are progressing nicely with the rfm super mod. I worked on getting the proto assembly off the bench and into my game last week and here's a quick video of the interaction of it with the games boot up and then attract mode

Notice how the pattern sequence changes to a fixed colour once its in attract. The mod takes various switch inputs from the game and then analyses them to know what the game is doing. A 'smart' mod.

The heart of the mod controller is an arduino and custom software framework. I plan to release the software framework as open source so that other like minded people can improve the patterns, control of the system and take their saucers in new directions

Monday, 28 July 2014

Indiana Jones Software Rewrite

About 3 and half years ago, I started my first pinball software rewrite. It was for my favourite game of all time -  Williams Indiana Jones. I have been using the P-ROC hardware and pyprocgame framework.

The game is pretty massive and it has been a major undertaking. The idea has always been to recreate the rules and then add on to them in a seamless way. I like the concept that once your done a regular player wouldn't be able to tell the difference between original rules and new ones, or modified mode screens etc unless someone points it out. A good example of this is where i added a 4th jackpot possibility to the main multi-ball mode for the 4th film.

Now you have 4 jackpots to go for instead of the original 3. Pretty cool I reckon.

So when recreating a game its split into 3 main areas that you have to undertake. The DMD animation files, the game sounds/speech and of course the game code. All the dmd animations have to be recreated frame by frame and all the sounds calls extracted and edited. There are 12 modes and 2 multiball rounds along with the path of adventure and idol toys in the game, so it has taken along time to get to this point.

Here's another great feature of rewriting pinball software form the ground up, you can choose to add extra or secret modes tot he game wherever and whatever you fancy. I really like the video mode from Dracula so i'm adding that mode into my indy game as a secret/bonus mode for players to find.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Gottlieb System 80B CPU

Some pics of my rev2 cpu board for system 80b gottlieb games. This project has been ongoing for the last year and is finally coming to fruition. Everything is working lovely now and the final little niggle was worked out yesterday. I've been testing the operation of it for a while now and i think its pretty bullet proof. One has been running in my Gold Wings for around 6 months now.

Rev 2 Board running in my Gold Wings

Lots of improvements on the original design include:

  • Decent ground anchors
  • Test point pads
  • Leds for common signals and voltages
  • Led for LEON test rom
  • Reduced component count
  • Built in reset board option
  • Usage of modern rams for bookkeeping
  • Improved and simplified cpu reset section
  • Plate through design, socketed ics
  • Molex 0.156" header for 5v input

Rev 3 boards will be finalised shortly and sent off to the manufacturer that i use. Turn around is usually within a few weeks. Deciding at the moment whether to add gold plated edge connectors. I am also thinking about adding a 40 pin ribbon cable attachment for linking up to other driver board replacements. 

Rev 2 board on left , Rev 1 board on right
The above pic shows the first prototype board on the right hand side. Things have moved on a lot since then. I always think its good to have a proper prototype board to experiment on though rather than trying to use a strip board in the first instance. With boards like this it just gets too messy and complicated not to.

I have priced the assembled and tested board at £180 plus postage to your country. Roms can be added on for an additional price or you can use your originals.

The list of 80B games is as follows:

  • Amazon Hunt II
  • Amazon Hunt III
  • Arena
  • Bad Girls
  • Big House
  • Bone Busters Inc.
  • Bounty Hunter
  • Chicago Cubs "Triple Play"
  • Diamond Lady
  • Excalibur
  • Genesis
  • Gold Wings
  • Hollywood Heat
  • Hot Shots
  • Monte Carlo
  • Night Moves
  • Raven
  • Robo-War
  • Rock
  • Rock Encore
  • Spring Break
  • Tag-Team Pinball
  • TX-Sector
  • Victory

Friday, 18 July 2014

Revenge From Mars Super Mod in development

So i've been thinking about an RFM super mod for awhile now and it all came together on the bench last night...

The idea is that the rfm saucers will generate full rgb patterns and then tie in to the correct mode colours during each scene. See below for a quick testing video. It will take lamp inputs to 
change the colour patterns for the scenes. (I am simulating that in the vid with wire inputs)

Here is a picture of the pcb that fits into the existing saucers with no modifications needed. 

The kit will contain 2 assembled pcbs for the saucers and a controller board, which is driven from an arduino controller. I am thinking about setting up a github/code source area to release the controller code as open source so that others who buy the system can start to improve and modify the code, add new patterns, take it in new directions etc.

The whole kit will be 'a neat installation affair'. I am passionate about making super mods that look factory. There will be NO crocodile clips, NO loose wires to solder on. It WILL be all professional williams spec connections where it interfaces to the original lamp boards, or driver boards etc. (I am still experimenting with the best place to install the controller board and the cabling designs. More info on that later.)

Regarding the pricing. I am hoping to offer it for under £100 all in. This is not confirmed yet, but i don't want it to be massively expensive. We do live in reality though so i will see how we go. As with my other projects, i think they have been priced affordably.

The cabling coming out from each saucer pcb will be 3 wires. This is a serial design similar to how the AFM mothership led lamps worked and the helmet lamps on BoP. Recent advances in RGB LED technology (driven by LED TV's and advertising sign developments) have enabled simplification of the designs. Note the pcb in the pic has lots of unpopulated parts as i've managed to simplify it somewhat! I think 3 wires is the least number possible. :)

Latest Videos for Custom Whirlwind software game play

Here's some of the latest videos i shot of the whirlwind custom software i've been working on.

Auto Launcher for Whirlwind

So i decided to add an auto launcher to my custom whirlwind code rewrite using a selection of readily available parts. The benefits i think to a pinball game with an autolauncher are immense. You can do so much more and the software can be so much better.

Whirlwind has this nasty habit of letting an opponent steal your locked balls, so with an auto launcher you can stop that. Also with software settings you can enable or disable the control to for the purists about.

Using the stern kicking bracket and arm gives just enough room to allow the ball release mech to still function. Thanks to Scott for showing me his Earthshaker. This made is much easier to position

Marking out the hole positions

Testing the shooter alignment

All done, time to test