Pinball Table Gets New Lease of Life With Arduino

Forget all of this video game nonsense: pinball is the real king of gaming. After all, it involves large pieces of metal flying around at high speed. [retronics] agrees: he has resurrected an old Briarwood Aspen pinball table using an Arduino.

pinball-table-repairWhen he bought the table, he found that the electronics had been fried: many of the discrete components on the board had been burnt out. So, rather than replace the individual parts, he gutted the table and replaced the logic board with an Arduino Mega that drives the flippers, display and chimes that make pinball the delightful experience it is. Fortunately, this home pinball table is well documented, so he was able to figure out how to rewire the remaining parts fairly easily, and how to recreate the scoring system in software.

His total cost for the refurb was about $300 and the junker was just $50 to start with. Now for $350 you can probably find a working pinball table. But that’s not really the point here: he did it for the experience of working with electromechanical components like flippers and tilt switches. We would expect nothing less from the dude who previously built an Android oscilloscope from spare parts.

24 thoughts on “Pinball Table Gets New Lease of Life With Arduino

  1. problem: screws wont fit thru perfboard holes
    – solution 1: drill holes that fits the screws
    – solution 2: install screws *outside* of perfboard

    truly fits the definition of ‘hack a day’ ;)

  2. Honest, I’ve tried not to say this but I just don’t have the will power.

    It’s “a new lease on life” not “of”.

    That’s proof that I’ve been reading these blogs too long. (I’ve become one of THEM.)

    1. The correct usage for me is “a new lease of life”, and will remain so until you pry my UK passport from my cold, dead hands. So says Richard, a UK citizen living in the USA.

      1. This gives me a new perspective “on” the Revolutionary war.
        It wasn’t about taxation or tea, it was about illogical common sayings and the right to correct them. ;-)

        (And why would I want to pry your passport out of your cold dead hands, ewwwww.)

  3. What don’t I like about pinball machines? Most of them have one or more things designed to fire the ball right between the flippers, which are spaced just right so that their minimum tip to tip distance is greater than the diameter of the ball.

    If the ball drops from a chute aimed down the middle or bounces off a target angled to fire the ball down the middle and random spin or chaos doesn’t deflect the ball enough and your flipper swing timing isn’t just right to hit the ball if it happens to be off its rigged course, you lose.

    Worse are the drains that go behind the flippers, and all the chutes and bumpers and targets placed to aim the ball into them.

    They are essentially gambling machines that don’t qualify as such because you have no chance of getting any money, or even a prize, back.

    1. Well you have to learn how to bump and rock the machine just enough to avoid those hazards without “tilting” the machine. It’s kind of the whole point of pinball.

    2. I like games that are so hard they seem impossible to win. All games used to be like this, because as you say, they were similar to gambling machines. The Co-Op mentality is “get as many quarters as quickly as possible”. The thrill is in being better than the game creators expected.

        1. Bally 8 ball was my favorite, all mechanical displays and light bulbs – hours of fun back when you got 3 plays for a quarter! Besides, could “Tommy” have been written about a snooker player?

    3. That’s what I used to think until I worked in an arcade. Would watch one guy sit there for hours on the same 2 quarters and leave with several credits on the machine. Pinball is much more than just keeping the ball from draining, there is some skill learned in how to catch and aim with the flippers. Plus as Tom said, bumping the machine while avoiding the tilt. If the game is on a hard floor, dropping a little water on the floor under the legs will let it slide a little easier (some would consider this cheating though).

    4. “They are essentially gambling machines that don’t qualify as such because you have no chance of getting any money, or even a prize, back.”

      You’re doing it wrong. Rack up a bunch of credits and sell them to the next chump for more than you spent.

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