Interstellar Safari

Took a little step back the timeline from prior projects with this last one. Designed in 1978, Stern Stars is part of the earliest wave of solid state machines, and bears many resemblances to its electromechanical predecessors. Most noticeably, it uses a chime box for its sound effects rather than a speaker.

The example I have landed alongside F-14 Tomcat, both fresh out of very long hibernation.

If the musty odor of long dead cigarettes didn’t give it away, the op tag confirms this machine spent some time on the bar circuit in Anchorage. While this machine survived its stint, the phone number for the Anchorage Amusement and Vending company now points to a physical therapist. Their last address of record is a still standing but one step above derelict warehouse with boxes and equipment piled high in front of the windows, and a high fence festooned with ‘No Trespassing’ signs.

While filthy, strung with rotten rubber, and malfunctioning, the bones of this Stars are quite good.

All that grodiness is probably the only thing that save the playfield from having a groove worn into it by the dragging right flipper, so I can’t complain too much about the mess.

The flipper assemblies needed an almost complete rebuild, the only original parts left now are the frames underneath the playfield. For some reason Stern used aluminum for most of the metal parts on this machine, including the flipper shafts, and one was bent enough to cause the entire mechanism to bind.

I had to modify the bushings I received from Marco, despite them being labeled as appropriate for this machine, because they were too tall for the playfield. A few minutes with a saw fixed that right up though.

The drop targets were another area where the aluminum hardware caused problems. The arms the targets ride on had deformed around the pins that hold the mechanism together, causing them to mushroom out around the pin shafts and in the most extreme cases this would cause them to bind against other parts of the drop target assembly. I straightened everything as best I could and filed down the burrs caused by this wear. Now the mechanisms work, albeit a bit sloppier than from the factory since the holes are wallowed out and some material was lost in the process. The reproduction drop targets from Marco are slightly different in design from the broken originals, but the changes didn’t cause any fitment issues.

The relatively simple layout only took a few hours to relamp and refresh the rubber on, and some light cleaning made short work of the built up grime on the artwork.

All of the playfield plastics cleaned up nicely, looks sharp reassembled and lit up. I’d originally intended to make a quick flip of this machine, but it’s grown on me since I took possession. The simple, colorful layout and straightforward rule set give it a character much like its EM ancestors, and the art is a great example of how a generic theme can pop when illustrated by a talented artist.

Nintendo Power

A few months back I had to pass on a pretty rare NOS Playchoice 10 kit for the Nintendo ‘Red Tent’ style Vs Dualsystem table units. Just recently what I’m pretty sure is the same kit resurfaced, without the common but expensive motherboard. Sniping that auction allowed me to acquire some very rare parts for the very reasonable sum of ~$72.

That grab prompted me to drag one of my storage bins out from the depths of the garage and re-test something I’d set aside for quite a while. It’s a complete single-monitor Playchoice 10 kit for a cabaret cabinet that I acquired something like a decade ago when Arctic Music & Vending in Anchorage closed and had its assets auctioned off.

I’d given it a try fairly recently, but thought it was a dud since I didn’t get any video. This time around I took a closer look at the monitor I was using to test it and realized one of the cables between boards on the chassis was disconnected. I reconnected it and the game came right up. Miiiiiight have felt a little dumb after that discovery.

Went through and tested the cartridges I have, and found them all in fine shape. I came to figure out I have an older production motherboard, which means the Reset button on the control panel doesn’t function with the board set to free play mode. A little research revealed that you can hold the Channel Select and Enter buttons together for a few seconds and it’ll pop you back to the channel menu like the Reset button is supposed to. Not pictured on the menu are two more copies of Punch Out, and The Goonies.

I also took the opportunity to test the Vs system board that came in my Red Tent, since the Playchoice 10 harness is close enough to the Vs one to at least boot a board on. Super Mario Bros came right up and played fine, but I wasn’t quite sure how to get to the other ‘side’ of the board with Dr. Mario.

Unfortunately testing the monitors in the Red Tent didn’t go as well. One of them is blowing a fuse at F701 on power up, and the other seems to be working except for the light show that comes out of the flyback cage when you turn it on and the flyback transformer starts arcing. So, some repairs needed there.

Also still need to dig into the R-Type upright cabinet I’ve got. It’s been sitting in a corner since I got it, supposedly it plays but I haven’t had the time to drag it out and see what’s going on with it.

The Cars of Others – 198x Subaru GL Wagon

There’s a million of these old Subarus still kicking around, and they all seem to be that particular shade of blue. Ski racks are a pretty common addition… The snowmachine rack is less commonplace. Don’t think I’d want to be driving behind this fine piece of frontier engineering under any circumstances.