Antique Pinball Machine Lives as Clock

A big problem with restoring old arcade or pinball machines is finding original parts to get them running again. That’s part of the fun, though; when something finally works after weeks or months of effort. On the other hand, sometimes the only hope for old parts that will never be in a pinball machine again is for [Randy] to come across them. One of those parts he had lying around was a backglass for an old machine, and decided to turn it into a unique word clock.

The original pinball machine was built in 1956, and despite its age the backglass had almost no signs of wear or damage. There are 43 lights on this particular machine which is more than enough for 12 hours, minutes (by the 10s), seconds, and a few extras. An ATtiny85 serves as the controller and drives a fleet of Neopixels hidden in the display. There are also three buttons which control the brightness and allow the time to be set.

Be sure to check out the video below of this one-of-a-kind clock in action. A lot more went into this build as well including framing the glass, giving it a coat of paint and polish, and programming the clock into the microcontroller. Old backglasses from pinball machines seem to be relatively popular to repurpose into more conventional clocks, too, even clocks of an atomic nature.

10 thoughts on “Antique Pinball Machine Lives as Clock

  1. Its hard to understand how to read the time. Maybe soundscapes with the lights as visual feedbacks, or other indicators for more immediate feedback where the scale is actually 1-7, etc.

    1. 12 hours are the targets plus the buoy and tugboat,
      10’s minutes traverse the light house,
      minutes are the 100,000’s scores,
      and seconds rotate through the flags and title.
      The lighthouse top is blue for am, red for pm.
      (somewhat easier than a BCD clock!)

  2. Pandy, I absolutely love this project. I had the idea for an animated pinball glass a few years ago myself, but I’ve been completely unable to aquire a pinball glass for other than astronomical prices. Great idea, great execution. I love how you made the efford to simulate afterglow of incandesccent light bulbs with the leds.

  3. Pandy, I absolutely love this project. I had the idea for an animated pinball glass a few years ago myself, but I’ve been completely unable to aquire a pinball glass for other than astronomical prices. Great idea, great execution. I love how you made the efford to simulate afterglow of incandesccent light bulbs with the leds.

    1. Yes, repro backglasses start around $250, making for an expensive clock!
      Thanks for noticing “glow” effect — I added a 4-bit alpha channel to FastLED for fade-in and out. FastLED also supports color temp tweaking to help mimic those old bulbs.

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