Turn Old Pinball Parts Into A Unique Digital Clock

It’s getting ever harder to build a truly unique digital clock. From electronic displays to the flip-dots and flip-cards, everything seems to have been done to death. But this pinball scoring reel clock manages to keep the unique clock ball in play, as it were.

It’s not entirely clear whom to credit with this build, but the article was written by [Lucky]. Nor do they mention which pinball machine gave up its electromechanical scoring display for the build. Our guess would be a machine from the ’60s, before the era of score inflation that required more than the four digits used. And indeed, the driver for the display is designed so that a scoring unit from any pinball machine from the electromechanical era can be used. An ESP8266 keeps the time with the help of an RTC and drives the coils of the scoring unit through a bunch of MOSFETs. The video below shows that it wouldn’t make a great clock for the nightstand; thankfully, it has a user-configured quiet time to limit the not inconsiderable noise to waking hours. It also flashes the date every half hour, rings solenoid operated chimes, and as a bonus, it can be used to keep score in a pinball game built right into the software.

We like the idea of honoring the old pinball machines with clock builds like this. We’ve seen a word clock built from the back-glass of an old machine, and one that uses a four-player back to display the date and alarm time too.

Thanks to [Emma Lovelace] for the tip.

25 thoughts on “Turn Old Pinball Parts Into A Unique Digital Clock

    1. Here you could find some pinball machines, especially in hipster cafeterias or in truckers bas in the middle of nowhere but there are newer models with LED displays. But I suppose that piece could be found in some flea markets.

  1. I built one of these in the mid 80’s. No microcontroller, it used discreet analog components and decade counters to generate a 1 pulse-per-minute signal from 24VAC 60Hz, and from there everything was done with the wheel units and other 24VAC relays and parts salvaged from the pinball machine. The primary donor was a a Gottlieb “Kings and Queens”.

    In the 80’s when video games took over, I bought old pinball machines super cheap, lovingly refurbished them, and then put them in bars and locations frequented by (then) middle-aged people who still preferred pinball over video games. I owned about 250 machines and made a lot of money. Eventually though, it became harder and harder to find locations to accept them. Many of them I sold to collectors, and many of them not in prime condition got scrapped.

  2. I haven’t built an Elektor project and so had some challenges ordering parts. I am just ordering the non-board stuff hoping for the board project to get funded. Anyway when it came to the fuse F2 I interpreted the entry to mean 320ma so I bought this: https://www.newark.com/nte-electronics/74-5fg315ma-c/blow-characteristic-fast-acting/dp/27T7187 Is that correct? FYI the reels were pretty easy on US ebay–ended up with some nice ones for about $50.

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