Story dated May 22, 2004
Lots of pinball fans have enjoyed using PinMAME products to emulate a real game complete with lights, animations, sounds and the rules.
But now Brad Oldham and Regis Maltais have taken the project off at a tangent and used PinMAME to bring a dead game back to life.
Their PinMAME-HW is a modified version designed to interface with a real pinball game's hardware so all aspects of the game come under control of the software. They have done this so that games that are missing some of the boards or have faulty or unreliable boards can still work.
They used their system to revive a Baby Pac-Man game to prove that the idea works.
Their set-up consists of a PC running the PinMAME-HW software, a (non-working) pinball game, a custom circuit board to connect to the computer's parallel port to drive the lamps and solenoids along with a 43V power supply to power them and a circuit board to connect to the computer's keyboard or USB port to sense all the switches.
The computer program then registers all the switch hits, fires the appropriate solenoids, lights the lamps, keeps the scores and runs the game's rules.
The set-up used by Brad and Regis uses the IPAC circuit board to link the game's switch matrix to the computer. It is designed for arcade video games but is also suited to this application.
The custom circuit board uses multiple 4094 shift & store registers connected to the computer's parallel port feeding bunch of driver transistors to power the lamps and solenoids from the 43V power supply.
Which, as they themselves say, "...is ugly, but works". You can see the IPAC on the right of the picture above. The system is expandable so games that require more lamp or solenoid drivers can be accommodated.
Of course, the standard PinMAME software had to be modified to drive a real game and Brad did this and keeps the -HW version up to date with the original PinMAME software.
Their next step was to try the system on another game - in this case a Silverball Mania.
So far, the general illumination is working and most of the playfield lamps can be controlled.
But is this a practical proposition for home pinball owners? The custom circuit board, although complicated looking is really quite a simple circuit replicated many times. It could be manufactured quite cheaply if there was sufficient demand.
The main drawback has to be the lack of score displays. The PC shows the scores on the screen but it makes most of the backbox redundant. However, it does make things much easier for tournaments since the score is kept by the computer and could be automatically entered into a database of scores rather like the system devised by the Williams' team at Pinball Expo 99.
Brad and Regis have thoughtfully detailed their progress through the project on their web site at:
© Pinball News 2004