1986's OutRun a maintenance hassle for arcade operators in 2018

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/07/20/1986s-outrun-a-maintenance-h.html


@beschizza is there a link?

Ah, found it.

I can’t imagine what a full time gig it must be to be a sole tech at a place where all the electronics are 20-30 years old. So much must be out of spec!


This sounds a lot like my job repairing and upgrading radio telescopes. We have electronics from brand-new to 50 years old in various systems, although they tend to be more industrial grade than consumer grade. Curiously, the older it is, the more repairable it tends to be.

When I ask Google for the data sheet for a motor controller and the top hit is our telescope’s website, then I know it’s time to look for a more generic replacement for that item.


One of the big problems with OutRun is the steering gearbox; it’s a really robust piece of hardware in general, but it doesn’t last 30-plus years of getting hammered on in arcades and boiled by CRT heat. Some of the nylon gears (the infamous “Steering Gear B”) strip or crack from age and abuse.

Luckily, a few vendors have started to offer reproduction parts: http://www.multigame.com/outrun.html

Old arcade repair is a really challenging endeavour. Old pinball repair is wizardry.


Those aren’t old pinball games! They all have computers. Real pinballs use stepper relays for the score counters. And they aren’t good steppers either - they’re really cheesy.


Why bother having machines at all if they’re just going to be reproductions? Just give each guest an emulator app and let them stand around playing on their phones.


You evil copyright pirate! How dare you multiply bits you’ve only licensed once in an attempt to retain the functionality you originally paid for.


I feel like the pinball repair guys aren’t posting about their mechanical fixes as much since they’re routine. But a big high-voltage plasma display? That’s always exciting.

Monitors? That’s not old school. Now this is old school https://segaretro.org/Category:Electro-mechanical_arcade_games Now GET OFF MY LAWN!


Of if you don’t care about having arcade experience at all, don’t even leave home:


The problem with that approach is that genuine 4:3 aspect ratio LCDs are simply not available in sizes above 21 inches. So unless you reconfigure the cabinet to cover up half of a 16:9 screen, you’re restricted to a smallish display.

ETA: My brain refused to let this go so I did some research. Original arcade CRTs were generally either 19" or 25" displays.

To drop in a 16:9 display replacement for a 25" CRT, you need a 31" display to get the 15" height that a 25" 4:3 CRT had, and then you’ve got 7" of excess width to cover up, plus whatever bezel the 31" screen has. Most likely it won’t fit in a vintage cabinet (too wide). If you decide to install a 16:9 screen in portrait mode to replace a 25" CRT, you will need a 41" display to get the 20" width of the original, and will have to conceal 21" of excess glass plus bezels in height - call it two feet. Again, it’s going to be a tight squeeze to get that into a vintage cabinet without having something stick out. Also, you’re not going to find a computer monitor big enough for a portrait mode mount, so you’ll be buying a TV panel. And it’s pretty hard to find TVs that are large but not too large - the market seems to have settled into little TVs and huge TVs, with almost nothing in between. Since you will be very sad if you buy a cheap TN TV with crap image quality, finding the right IPS panel will be tricky even if you could fit in into the original cabinet.

In short, if you want a 25" display on your vintage cabinet, you might be better off just using a damned CRT.

For cabinets that originally had 19" screens, a 19" 5:4 LCD will work (with tiny black spaces at the top and bottom of the glass). I don’t think they ever made 19" 4:3 displays (every one I’ve ever seen has been 5:4). Or cut the display hole a little bigger (sacrilege!) and drop in a 4:3 20" LCD. 20" 4:3 monitors cost the world if bought new (they only make them nowadays for medical imaging departments and the like), but good (ie, IPS) used ones are fairly cheap. I have no idea how rare/expensive used 19" IPS displays are these days.


Not opposed to this because I’m an anti-purist, but I thought that’s what the retro experience was all about. Can you relive the past by substituting it completely from the present?

In sum, it’s a problem, unless you solve the problem by obscuring the problem.

I like it.

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On the subject of retro arcades, if you happen to be visiting Mt. Rushmore this summer like I did, for God’s sake do yourself a favor and visit Press Start in downtown Rapid City.

All of the games were operational and in great shape, they only cost a quarter, and there’s even a Dragon’s Lair (there are supposedly only 14 left). I think it was the highlight of my whole trip. The Nepalese restaurant next door is also excellent.


Or if you are dumb enough to run flash. So maybe not.

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Most newer slot machines that used CRTs swapped over to LCD panels some time ago; However, the bulk of those are 19" units. (they are also several hundred each, depending on options.)

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Try the gaming equipment industry (i.e. casinos)- they are still made for that market, but they will cost you a pretty penny. (You can also try looking at Ceronix and Kortek- they are two of the major suppliers for that market.)

Yeah, I was thinking used. The number of people buying a new LCD to put into their arcade cabinet is probably vanishingly small. I already have two nice 19" 5:4 IPS displays for use with computers, so my research has been focused on finding something larger that I can afford - I have no idea how hard it is to get a good used 19" IPS monitor these days.

You can whine about authentic monitors all ya like, if I were running an arcade, I would replace the innards on most of the machines with Raspberry Pis and 4k LCDs and put the original PCBs in a nice glass cases on the wall next to each, with art gallery-style cards.

Probably a better business plan.

Unless you get sued.

Which you might.


If you were running an upgraded MAME cabinet version of OutRun in a public video arcade you’d be facing some of the same issues as these folks.

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I have a coworker that has a side business of fixing and selling pinball machines. He’ll tell us about the monitary side of it, and honestly it seems pretty good.