Restoring A 45 Year Old Video Game

When we say vintage video game, some of you may think of the likes of Lemmings, Mario or maybe even Donkey Kong but the game that [Vintage Apparatus] restored is slightly older and much more minimalist, using an LED matrix and some 7-segment displays rather than this newfangled color CRT thing.

The front and back covers, buttons and screws of the game on the workbench.
The game is disassembled before cleaning.

[Vintage Apparatus] starts by removing the battery and cover from the 1977 Mattel electronics (American) football game, which uses rather uncommon 2mm triangular screws. To his and our surprise, the circuit board and its beautiful array of LEDs seem to be in excellent condition, so he moves on to cleaning the case itself.

The case, on the other hand, is a bit dirty on the outside, so [Vintage Apparatus] takes out the buttons and starts cleaning with the back cover a Q-tip. After a bit of scrubbing and some extra care to avoid removing any stickers, he moves on to the considerably dirtier and somewhat scratched front case. After some wrestling with the creases and speaker grill of the front cover, the outside of the front case looks nice and clean. Finally, he puts back the buttons and circuit board in the front cover before adding closing it all up with the back cover and screwing it back together.

The game, which immediately comes to life and was actually made by the Mattel calculator division, is a sort of evasion game where the player is a bright dot that can move forward, up or down. The player avoids the dimmer dots, the “tacklers”, in order to run as far as possible as fast as possible. When one of the tacklers tackles the player, the amount of downs is increased and the fifth down means game over. After either scoring or getting downed one too many times, the field is flipped and it’s now player 2’s turn.

Video after the break.

28 thoughts on “Restoring A 45 Year Old Video Game

    1. I remember the baseball version of the same idea had more engaging game play. I remember getting one of each as hand-me-downs somewhere circa 1985 from a friend of my mother whose kids had outgrown it.

    2. I remember having the football game and 2 other games along the same lines. One was Battlestar Galactica-themed with (i believe) 3 columns of LEDs. “Cylon Raiders” were leds stepping “down” the column and you controlled an “interceptor” which stepped “up” and had a switch that let you move it from column to column. The goal was to intercept the raiders before they made it to the bottom. The other one was a racing game that was pretty much the inverse: your “car” moved up the screen and you tried to avoid the other “cars” as they moved down.

      I was 9-10 and it was during the Carter administration… Not a lot else going on.

  1. “When we say vintage video game, some of you may think of the likes of Lemmings, Mario or maybe even Donkey Kong ”

    No, these are “telegames” (games on TV), as opposed to “computer games” (games on home computers or PCs).

    The generic term for both is “video games”, I believe.

    In this case, the matching term would be “electronic games”.
    A sub category is “LCD games” (game&watch and similar) or “calculator games”.

    Anyway, enough nitpicking. I wasn’t dead serious. Also, interesting article! Thanks! 😃

    1. Searching wikipedia for “telegames” takes me to a page on a company with that name, without even a disambiguation page. Wiktionary has no entry for that definition. I have no idea if it’s a regionalism or just a “you” thing, but I can’t find any reference to this specific usage.

    1. It’s a restoration project, I think. And +40 year old technology is fascinating to many readers, I suppose. Especially the younger ones. So it’s okay, I think. Also, it’s quite hard to find/write unique stories one after another. I often wondered how HaD manages to get new input every day. I wouldn’t have all the energy to get through all this constantly.

      1. Have to agree on this one. Yes, the technology/vintage aspect is interesting to those of us who played that back in the day, but CLEANING an old game isn’t really in the wheelhouse of what most of us expect on Hackaday.

  2. I have one of these that I found for a few hundred yen in Akihabara a few years back.
    One day I’ll turn it into a replica of the inter-dimensional tracker used at the start of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 just for fun.

  3. I remember this game well, even as a smallr kid once the novelty wore off it was some blinking LEDs and wasn’t much fun. A bit later came LCD based games with racecars or something- same idea you had to avoid something. They were sold by Radio Shack and I memorized basically the whole thing. Ah to be a small child with near-infinite ability for memorization.
    Around the same age I found dad’s jewelers screwdriver set and started taking apart anything with a caseback, poking around then reassembling it. For the young’ns, that is because you could take things apart if they broke, you see. Like in this article. Good times.

      1. When I was about 7 years old, in the ’60s, my grandparents gave me a broken alarm clock to take apart. I really surprised them by getting it back together again. And it worked when it was put back together, which surprised everyone. I know now that the clock only needed to be cleaned an lubricated, but it impressed my parents and grandparents at the time.

  4. Oh yeah! I don’t have any personal connection to any video game… but it would be a blast to play this one again with my brothers. We’d have to get a really lousy Ford LTD station wagon to play it in.

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