Vector arcade test bench – pt 1

I’ve not long been the owner of a classic Atari Asteroids arcade machine and, like all things old, it needs proper maintenance. I’ve taken it upon myself to learn the machine inside out starting with the PCB and how to manage its upkeep.

 

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Asteroids 1979

 

The awesome thing about classic Atari games is that they are amazingly well documented and nearly every part is replaceable if it fails. The challenge comes in finding out what has failed. After a week I lost the ‘thump-thump-thump’ heartbeat that sounds throughout play. I checked the schematics, read a few posts on UKVac and then located the IC that commonly fails. A quick eBay purchase of the (now socketed) IC followed by some rusty soldering resulted in the sound coming back again. A couple of months later though the machine has developed another fault and is constantly resetting (watch-dogging as it’s known in arcade repair land). So what next?

I was fortunate enough to come across a sale of classic arcade parts and now I have everything I need to make a vector test bench.

Stage 1: prep the power supply

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Atari vector power brick

Early Atari vector games required a series of different AC and DC voltages so Atari created a beefy power supply which is now fondly known as a vector power brick. They’re usually pretty rusty, have a number of blown fuses and one dilapidated large capacitor (known as a Big Blue). My brick has had all the rust removed, been primed and sprayed, had all 3 x 3A and 3 x 7A fuses replaced and the Big Blue swapped for a modern replacement. I took the time to replace all the spade connectors, fitted a cherry door switch and replaced the dated power cable. A quick follow along with a YouTube tutorial and I was happy the voltages were correct.

Part 2 should show me testing the AR2 (Audio Regulator) PCB which further controls and maintains the vital voltages to run the main game PCB. Now if only I could find another good YouTube tutorial

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Introduction

I’ll be using this blog to keep track of all my projects as there’s just far too many to keep in my head. Expect to see arcade, consoles and programming stuff turning up if and when I think about it. Hopefully keeping track of them all will encourage me to actually finish a few more.

So, no fanfare… just projects to follow.