Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Frankenstein Pinball

The second pinball machine we ever bought was Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.  It's based on the 1994 movie, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, that starred Robert De Niro, Kenneth Branagh, Helena Bonham Carter, John Cleese, and Ian Holm among others.  How I missed this movie back then I can't fathom, but after getting the machine of course we acquired the DVD (the widescreen version, which is evidently somewhat rare).  Not a bad film.  Not a bad pinball machine either.

Anyway, our Frankenstein is a re-import from I think France, as the coin slots list the price in francs.  It smells funny, too, kind of like pipe tobacco.  But it all seems fitting for a Frankenstein-themed pin.  Like Frankenstein, though... it's got some issues now.

First off, there is a row of lights out.  This isn't an uncommon thing to happen to a pinball machine, but it's proving hard to solve in our case.  After failing to track down the problem we brought in a technician, Sarah St. John from Pinball Wizard.  It really feels like bringing your kid to the pediatrician.  You sit there while they do all their work, just wanting answers in the form of something trivial and easily resolved.  Turns out whatever is ailing our light row lies in the brain (it would more typically be a wire somewhere in that row, like old Christmas lights, if a connection is broken somewhere down the line, all lights on that row go out).  For now, the main board has been removed and taken to the workshop over at Pinball Wizard.  Yeah, we removed Frankenstein's brain is what I'm saying.  It's abnormal, trust me.

Frankenstein playfield.  The left Jackpot and Change Scene are two of the lights that are currently out.

Row 2 showing the 6 problem lights on our machine

There is another issue I've taken on as my job to fix though.  There is a little Frankenstein on the playfield (not that little, actually) that will throw pinballs at the backglass during multiball.  It's awesome.  That part works fine, but his head also turns from side to side, surveying the playfield as you play.  Or it used to, anyway.  Now it still turns, but way too far, now he's doing the scene from Exorcist.  So the motor's broken.  Our technician said to just open up the body, take out the motor, and replace it, but that it might be hard to find a replacement because it is an older motor.  I took a picture and went to a local model plane store near my work (how convenient!).  They didn't have that model, an Airtronics 94102 servo motor, but they had a basic motor they sold me for $8.  It looked about right.

Took it home last night and it fit perfectly.  The only thing I am having trouble with is plugging the connector into the circuit board under the playfield.  It looks the same but seems tighter than it should be, and won't plug in all the way without more force than I'm willing to give it.  In the meantime I have ordered that exact model of servo motor online, for $11.  I'm going to try using the actual motor, and see if the connector pins fit better.

Of course, during all of this I can't test anything, since the main board is off at the shop.  But it felt pretty good doing a motor replacement like that, and made me feel like I'm not entirely useless when it comes to maintenance work on our machines.  Because it's important to me to learn this stuff, and not only that, it's important to eventually teach it to our kids.  I'm thinking big-picture here.

Update: The actual motor arrived, and while at first I had a tough time plugging it into the board, I got it in.  Now the only thing that's left is to get back the motherboard in time for Halloween!  Also, the lights were fixed, and the new chip Sarah installed actually had us hearing callouts we never heard before.  She fixed things we didn't even realize were broken.

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