Hacklet 101 – Pinball projects

There’s something about pinball that draws in hackers, makers, and engineers. Maybe it’s the flashing lights, the sounds, the complex mechanical movements. Could it be the subtle tactics required to master the game? Whatever the reason, everyone loves pinball, and more than a few hackers have dedicated their time and money toward building, restoring, and hacking pinball machines. This week’s Hacklet is all about the best pinball projects on Hackaday.io!

trekpinWe start with [zittware] and Star Trek: The Mirror Universe Pinball. [Zittware] worked with [clay], [fc2sw], and [steve] to create this awesome project. They took a 1978 Bally Star Trek pinball machine, and rebuilt an evil mirror universe version. The electronics include nixie tubes and a bulletproof power supply based upon an ATX computer setup. New play field elements and hardware were created on a CNC. Evil graphics were created with the help of Photoshop. The game is completely playable, and was a crowd favorite in the Hackaday Sci-Fi contest. The electronics and cabinet work are all open source. Unfortunately those pesky copyright laws prevent the team from sharing the artwork.

riiingpinNext up is [Erland Lewin] with RINNIG Pinball Simulator. Some hackers have the space for a few real pinball machines. For the rest of us, there is virtual pinball. [Erland Lewin] built this mini virtual pinball machine from plywood, some real pinball hardware, and a lot of ingenuity. The play field is a 24″ dell computer monitor, while the back glass is a 20″ monitor. A final 15″ monitor takes the place of the Dot Matrix Display (DMD) often found on pinball machines. The whole system is driven by an Intel i3 computer. [Erland] is going to try to use the on-board graphics. If he runs into trouble, he can always switch to a discrete graphics card. The machine has turned out great, and his sons love playing classic pinball machines on their own “kid sized” table.

pinboxIf virtual pinball is still a bit large for you, [Loyal J] has you covered with Pinbox Jr. Desktop computer virtual pinball has been a thing since the days of Windows XP. Somehow tapping keyboard keys isn’t quite the same as hitting real flipper buttons. Pinbox Jr. is a prototype pinball controller built inside a cardboard box. A Teensy 3.1 translates the buttons to USB keyboard inputs. Two large arcade buttons act as the flippers while two smaller buttons are available for game options and other functions.  [Loyal J] even added a triple axis accelerometer so pinbox responds to rough play with a tilt! All this project needs is a solenoid to replicate that real pinball feel.

optimusAt the top of the virtual pinball mountain stands [Randy Walker] with Optimus-Pin. Optimus is a full-sized virtual pinball cabinet. It’s a 3 screen affair, much like RINNIG Pinball up top. [Randy] took things to the next level with an absolutely gorgeous custom cabinet. The Transformers inspired artwork was created on commission by commercial artist [Javier Reyes]. Optimus really recreates the feel of playing pinball with 8 solenoids placed in strategic positions around the cabinet. Even the whirring of play-field motors is replicated by a hidden Volkswagen wiper motor. Optimus also comes with a complete light show including RGB LED strips, strobes, and a shaker to rattle the entire cabinet.

If you want to see more pinball projects check out our brand new pinball projects list! If I missed your project, don’t be shy! Just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

14 thoughts on “Hacklet 101 – Pinball projects

  1. When I was a kid, the local pool hall had a pinball machine in a back room that paid off like a slot, highly illegal of course, and it maxed out at ten bucks, but still a significant sum for many in the early Sixties. I hadn’t thought about it for years.

  2. not really a hack IMHO just putting a monitor horizontal instead of vertical and saying it is now a pinball machine, which it is not. Virtual pinball is a video game the same way virtual pool, gran turismo, Forza, virtual goat are all video games, there is no real hack here sorry guys. what next on HAD turn yourself into a goat by putting on a furry goat costume and playing virtual goat for 9 hours straight hack……….

    1. I think these were posted more for the physical build than the technological aspect of it. Sure a virtual table is more of a maker project than a strict hack, but some of us (myself included!) already have more knowledge of the EE and software aspects than the fabrication process.

    2. This is pinball that is played like pinball. It’s in a pinball style enclosure with pinball controls. It may not be as difficult or cool as creating a table and controls to allow one to play virtual pool as though it is real pool, but it’s still not as basic as you describe. Hackaday moved away from strictly featuring hacks a long time ago. They now (and have for a while now) show people’s personal projects, historical articles, instructional articles, and more. They also run pretty cool contests where you can get free stuff.

    1. David’s Midnight Magic is a blatant rip off of a Williams machine, “Fire Power”!

      And is freaking great!!!

      DMM is one of the main reasons I keep an Apple II europlus!!!
      (also StarBlazer and Choplifter)

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