Star Wars Trilogy Arcade caught in my tractor beam

So a few weeks back I saw a Star Wars Trilogy Arcade game on eBay. Now this is one of my favorite arcades, and one of my favorite Star Wars games. I’m a huge Star Wars geek, and this was just so much fun to play when I was younger, and even now. Last time I played it locally was at an arcade down by the shore, and after that I managed to find it in an arcade in Las Vegas. However since the game is from 1998 it’s harder to find these days, especially as arcades are being down-sized etc.

A New Hope

So I ended up bidding, and I actually won! The damage was around $370, however shipping wasn’t an option and I had to pick this beast up. Long story short and over 200 miles later I pickup the arcade with my girlfriend’s parents van and drive it home. I finally get it home and I find that it’s 1 inch too large to fit in the doorway for the room I wanted to place it in. Thankfully I was able to take off the joystick area and it fit through the door with the help of my friend pushing.

Now it’s beat up, I didn’t mention that before. But this thing’s in rough shape. The wood is damaged, the monitor is showing funky colors, etc, this thing literally fell off a truck, and it survived! I didn’t get a chance to test it that night, but the next day I did. Plugging in all the odd connectors and wires to each other. I carefully re-connected everything from the very few photos I took of the insides… (Tip: ALWAYS take a million photos of the inside of an electronics component before you start disconnecting wires, you’ll think you will remember. But after a while it all looks the same!). I plugged the power cord into a power strip, so I can have easy access to the on/off switch in case the machine decided to catch on fire. So I flip the switch, and I hear an increasingly loud whirling noise. I panic and shut the system off. Well it turns out there was a cable in front of the fan, so as the fan got faster it made a horrible noise. Whoops! I fix that, and turn it on again – Ta-Dah! It works!

The screen has some burn-in and some colors are washed out/displayed oddly, but the arcade works. She actually works! 😀 I was very excited at this point. I played around a bit and was very happy to get it working.

The Arcade Strikes Back

Over the next few days I’d tinker with it more. I installed it’s subwoofer and as of last night I’ve soldered new ‘Test’ and ‘Service’ buttons to the cabinet. The issue was that these buttons were broken. So now they worked again. Now here comes what I regret, in the Endor level I could never aim toward the far right of the screen. I assumed the joystick just needed to be calibrated. I saw an option in the service menu, so I went ahead and set it up the best I could. Well, for whatever reason this screwed everything up! 🙁

The joystick will now only move vertically, and not horizontally, it’s also all the way to the left. No matter how many times I re-try, or re-read the instructions I have the same result. One odd thing is, under ‘Game assignments’ if I set the cabinet from U/R (Upright) to Dx (Deluxe, Bench) the controls work, but a bit differently, obviously needing of some calibration. So I have a feeling there is something that’s being shorted out, or just not working. The service menu shows the joystick moving correctly, but the game does not. Also I can no longer access the ‘Input’ menu on the Service screen, it will flash for a second and exit. Something is wrong and I have to figure it out…
Update! So the issue was the joystick. I took apart the joystick area and examined the ‘volume knob’ (the knob that sits on the joystick and moves when the joystick is moved left to right, etc) This knob wasn’t sitting right. It turned too far so the movement of the joystick wasn’t making a good connection. So I removed the knob via the four screws… there was an odd bolt in the way so it was hard to remove the knob’s faceplate. Once removed I re-set the position of the knob and screwed everything into place. I used a lot of duct-tape fearing that glue may not be a good idea. Weeks later and it’s still playing fine. I do notice now that the volume knob must have shifted every so slightly. As the cross-hair on the screen no longer will go to the far left side. Thankfully no enemies are on the far left side, they are often on the far right side. Either way I may have to open it up again when I have time. But it’s working at least. 🙂

Things to fix:

Joystick – this is my top priority! (Edit: I got this working! 😀 I needed to adjust the ‘volume’ knob on the joystick to sit properly!)

Monitor – colors are all weird, degaussing didn’t help much.

Wood cabinet – some cracked wood, need to bolt / screw brackets in to help support it.

Marque:- I have some of the pieces, but this needs replacing, I put the light for it somewhere… now where was it?

Garmin GPS Repair (Archive)

Note: This article was transferred from my original blog.

So my first GPS is a little black and white unit, tiny but, useful. A Street Pilot i2. I got it for just under $200 on Walmart’s online store during a Black Friday sale. It worked for many years and was very useful, guiding me home or from here to there even when I was lost.

Unfortunately it eventually died. Well, kinda. I lent the GPS to a friend and the unit fell from their dashboard with the DC car charger plugged into the fragile mini-USB port on the GPS. The mini-USB port is what you find on most digital cameras, it’s tiny and pretty fragile – especially if thrown around. So after the GPS took it’s tumble the only way to use the device was to plug in two AA sized batteries. This wasn’t so ideal since the batteries would be eaten up quickly and the GPS would then die.

Without a car charger long trips with the GPS were impossible. Thankfully by this time I had already purchased a Garmin Nuvi 200, which has a built-in rechargeable battery and a healthy  and spry USB port.

So while sitting at my desk yesterday, procrastinating about other, more important things I should be doing. I started to look at my once-working GPS, I was quite fond of it so I started to wonder if I could get it to work again. Previously I had opened up the GPS and noticed some of the pins on the mini-USB were not exactly touching the main circuit board, which would of course cause the unit not to charge or connect to the computer.

My soldering skills are okay, but even so, the tiny connector would be a big pain to try and fix and I’d probably end up splashing solder across all the 5 tiny pins, ruining any hope of getting it to work. So I thought of an alternative. The battery terminal that holds two AA batteries has a black and red wire. Conveniently Garmin has each wire labeled Positive (+) and Negative (-). So I thought of a standard USB cable, which also has red and black wires!

So I grabbed an old USB cable that broke off of a USB mouse years ago, I hung onto the cable for just this occasion. I wrapped the red and black cables around their appropriate counterparts on the battery bay, making sure the metal made a good enough contact to test if my idea would work. I plugged in the USB port using a generic USB AC adapter, I didn’t want to plug it into a computer – fearing that if I shorted something out it would damage the USB port of the computer… this has happened before in the past. So needless to say I was wary… but, I plugged it in… and it worked!!

The next step was figuring out how to make a detachable port and cable setup, so I can plug in the USB adapter to power it when needed, but still use the batteries if I wanted to. So I looked around in my bin of spare cables and found an original XBox controller extension cord. Since the XBox controller cable is basically a modified USB cable it would be perfect, besides, I’d only need to use two of the connections of a USB cable for the power. I wasn’t worrying about data at this point.

The cable I used is a cheap Xbox cable, you can find one used at any EB Games or GameStop store for $0.99 to $1.99. So I wasn’t too sad to splice up the cable and use it as I pleased. I soldered it to the battery terminals and ran the cable to the right side of the GPS, instead of making a fancy slot for the cable to come out of I just shoved the end of the soldering iron into the side of the plastic case of the GPS, melting a hole for cable to come out of. Yes, very “professional” I know, but it was better then hacking away at the plastic with a pair of scissors. So now the female plug of the XBox controller extension cable is now coming out of the GPS, next I soldered the other end of the cable to a standard USB A type connector.

Now all I needed to do was plug the standard USB A connector into the car charger adapter, I got it off for 97 cents! How can you beat that? it’s a generic USB charging adapter for the car. Next it was off to my car to test if everything worked out. I plugged in the USB cable, plugged the adapter into the cigarette outlet on the car and turned the key in the ignition to accessory. I pressed the power button on the GPS unit. The GPS beeped happily, turning on from a power source other then two batteries for the first time in years! It works great, and the power cable doesn’t interfere with the battery bay, meaning I can still use AA batteries if I had to. However I wouldn’t want to use both at the same time, that would probably damage something… or at least cause something to blow up and spark.

Anyway this was a successful and I hope this post may be helpful in the future to anyone who has a similar problem… yes that’s a bit far-fetched but you never know! 🙂