Sorcerer! You Are Done, Mortal.

It turns out the issue with the outhole kicker solenoid wasn’t due to chips dying, it just looked that way because of the way the symptom manifested, and the way I was diagnosing. I’d been swapping in new 7408 chips, and that would let the solenoid work properly for a couple games, before it would go back to locking on.

Last week I ordered a logic probe to dig further into this problem, and once I had it in hand it took about five minutes to discover that, no, the chip was not dying. What was happening is that one of its input pins was not getting any signal, and as a result the output signal that controls the solenoid was not being provided. Using the probe I checked the trace to that input pin, and found it was showing what it ought to. Pushing on the chip socket would sometimes restore connectivity, too. The problem was just a bad connection, and the intermittent behavior I’d observed was happening because every time I swapped the chip it flexed the area around the socket, occasionally in a way that briefly restored the connection.

Whoever worked on the board last used a one piece socket, and I didn’t really want to yank the entire thing out since it was evident several jumpers were installed underneath it and I didn’t care to deal with that spaghetti unnecessarily. I ended up adding a Kynar wire jumper from input pin 1 on the chip to the next component back from it. Brought the board up on the bench and checked the chip, and its inputs and outputs for the outhole solenoid now looked good.

The lack of audio was super simple too. I found that one of the pins in the connector for the volume adjustment potentiometer had its retaining clip pushed in, allowing it to work its way out of the connector when plugged into something. It wasn’t visible at a glance but I noticed the wire move when I was reinstalling the MPU board after doing the solenoid driver repair. Fixed the loose pin, plugged everything in again, and the soundtrack is back!

Sorcerer! Part 3

I got to play my first game of Sorcerer ever this past Friday. Found an allegedly clean and working System 9 MPU on eBay and snapped it up. The low resolution pictures hid a lot of shoddy repair work that I wouldn’t have described as kindly as the seller did, but after some reflow and fixing a few traces it does mostly work. Still no sound, but the game will play.

The outhole solenoid locked on when I powered the table up at first, and I went to the common culprit, the solenoid drive transistors. They were fine, so I crept up circuit from there and replaced the 7408 IC next in line. It’d already been socketed, which made me a little suspicious. The outhole kicker worked as expected next time I brought the table up, and I got a half dozen games in with no problems, but after another power cycle it was back to locking that solenoid on. So, something seems to be killing the 7408 in that transistor drive circuit. Lame, but I have some idea of what might be going on to do that.

Prior to all that I also finished up the last of the playfield refurbishment. New decals for the targets from Action Pinball look great.

I was also originally going to replace the drop targets but ran into a snag with the early Williams style reproduction from Marco Specialties… I was sorta expecting it, since the part number called for in Sorcerer is different (A-9417), but it’s a little galling how minor the difference is while still making the repro part completely useless in my application.

Original on the left, repro on the right. The repro is mostly identical, but it’s missing the little tab that extends off the bottom of the drop target towards the front, meaning it won’t work in this game since the mechanism to raise the drop targets relies on that tab. Fortunately none of the originals are broken, so I just cleaned them and popped them back in place.

I also rebuilt the three flipper mechanisms with new parts. It looked like the upper flipper assembly had never been rebuilt, while the lower two looked like they might’ve been refreshed at least once.

This picture illustrates why this should always be done, with new parts up top and the old below. The plunger (long metal rod on the left that gets drawn in by the coil) is mushroomed out from making contact with the stop, which can cause it to bind in or damage the coil liner sleeve. The stop itself has been hammered down to a concave shape, which will accelerate wear on the plunger.

Sorcerer! Part 2

So, initial impression… This machine was not loved. This machine was out making someone money.

The thrashed playfield, mismatched rubbers, patched Mylar films around the pop bumpers, and plethora of blown lamps say that money was spent on maintaining this thing only to the degree required to keep quarters flowing into the coin box.

On top of that treatment, it was then stored in a fabulously dusty environment for years. Glass top or not, in a body shop dust is going to get everywhere.

With all that in mind there was really only one path forward. Competely tearing down the playfield elements and building it back up with every last part replaced or thoroughly cleaned.

I spent several hours removing almost everything above the wood on the playfield. I made an effort to meticulously photograph and bag parts in logical groups to keep everything organized, to avoid making myself a basket case by taking it all apart without documentation.

Once the playfield parts were removed I cleaned the entire thing, and then applied several coats of wax to protect the wood and art that remained and provide a smooth surface for play.

Reassembly went far more slowly than take down, as even the effort spent photographing and grouping parts as they were removed was not enough to completely avoid confusion. I also spent way too much time on those little red star posts with a nylon brush, as they have a ton of little spaces that attract wax residue, deposits from sparking switches, and metal dust from electromechanical mechanisms.

Progress so far is good though, with roughly half of the playfield repopulated. I swapped out the pop bumper caps for new transparent parts since I liked the look of them, and the originals are not reproduced so I’d rather not place them back in harms way. Also planning on doing the same for the original opaque upper lane dividers so I can get a consistent look going throughout the machine.

Still have yet to dive into the electronics, aside from testing the scoring displays in another System 9 machine I was working on a while back. Enough of the displays are damaged that a new LED based setup will be coming, and the power supply is another likely candidate for replacement. The System 9 main board itself will be repaired by yours truly when the time comes, as reproductions are non-existent, and working examples can set one back nearly as much as an entire machine would.

See the full gallery below for all of the reference pictures I took as I was disassembling the playfield: