Vacation Notice (8/2/22)

Note that we will be away for vacation beginning Wednesday August 3rd through Thursday, August 11th, 2022. The website will remain open for online ordering during this time with orders shipped and emails returned when we return on Friday August 12th, 2022.  Thanks for your continued support, understanding and patience! 


Articles & Guides

09 June, 2012

Joust: A Restoration Story

Those of you have seen our website have probably noticed that we frequently mention the restoration end of the games that we have for sale. Some people have asked us exactly what restoration of an arcade game entails. Although we have described our restoration process in the “About our Games” area of our site we thought it would be a good idea to walk you through an actual restoration project.

The Project Game
Most of the games we obtain have been sitting unused for many years and have accumulated a lot of dirt and grime as well as some wear from their time in service at an arcade. This particular game, Joust (made by Williams in 1982) was found in the back of warehouse that was partially exposed to the elements and, as you can see from the pictures was not in the best condition. We figure the game was sitting for at least five years before we found it.


The game’s control panel was covered with so much dirt you could hardly see the text and artwork on the control panel. The game’s coin door bolts were rusted and the game had significant paint loss and wear below the coin doors. The monitor glass was so dirty it was hard to see the monitor behind it and, as you can see below, the monitor itself had a heavy coating of dirt. Needless to say the game was not working.


The Restoration
The first thing we do when restoring a game in this condition is too strip the game down to just the cabinet. As you can see we remove almost every part to the game: the control panel, the monitor, the marquee, the monitor glass (or “bezel”) and the coin doors.


After the game is stripped of its major parts we work on restoring the cosmetics of the cabinet. The sides are cleaned and the inside of the cabinet is vacuumed. We also replace the “leg levelers” on the bottom of the game. Most games have some minor scratches and wear marks that we do not touch up, unless they are very noticeable. In this case the paint wear around coin door areas was awful and needed to be repaired.


Rather than repaint the black area of the cabinet we used black vinyl contact paper to restore the worn area. The vinyl paper is a very close match to the original black and when finished makes the game look fantastic. 

After the vinyl was applied, we replaced the “t-molding” on the game. This is the plastic molding that runs on the front of the game, as shown below.

The next step in the restoration process is to clean up the parts we removed from the game. We took apart the two coin doors to repaint them. 


After a light sanding to the doors and bolts they were repainted. The monitor glass and marquee were also thoroughly cleaned as well as the control panel. As you can see below, it’s amazing what a good cleaning to a dingy control panel will do. We also cleaned the contact switches on the joystick and buttons of the control panel.


Next we service the monitor. In this case the monitor was filthy and was hosed down before we did any technical work. After a cleaning we removed the monitor circuit board and replaced all suspect components. The most common failing in these monitors are components called capacitors, which tend to “dry out” over a period of years. We replaced all the capacitors in monitor. In this case we also replace a part known as the high voltage transformer with a brand new one. (In this model monitor the transformer is known to fail after a number of years.)

With our serviced monitor complete we began piecing the game back together and focused on the getting the game working again. The monitor is put back in the cabinet so we can test the game. NOTE: Since writing this article we have since starting installing brand new monitors in all of our games (unless noted otherwise). We find that this provides the most trouble-free operation for new game owners. For some games we offer the original monitors, refurbished, with the option to upgrade to a new monitor.

After cleaning the transformer unit in the game we power the game up to diagnose the problem. A common failing on these Williams’ games is the power supply unit, which we found to be at least one cause of our problems. In this case, we are able to upgrade the power supply with a newer, more reliable power supply.

After replacing the power supply the game came up, but with a ram error, leading to the dashed lines shown in the picture below. After replacing the bad ram chip the game appears to be working fine, although we still needed to test the joystick and buttons on the control panel.


With the game appearing on the screen, we reinstalled the coin doors and control panel to play test the game. The marquee was also put back on the game (after repairing the florescent light behind the marquee). The controls were then tested to ensure that they are working properly (they are in this case) and the monitor glass was put back on the game. We also put new locks on the coin doors. 


After the parts are put back in place the game is virtually complete. The only steps left are to set the game to free play and leave the game on for a couple of days to ensure that it continues to work properly.

A Word About our Restorations
Well, that’s how we restore our games in a nutshell. As you can see we take great pride in bringing these games back to their original state. In all, we spent over ten hours during the course of a week restoring this Joust. While this is an extreme case, on average we spend about eight hours restoring each game we sell. Before we ship the game out, we will do a "burn-in" test and leave the game on straight for at least two days to ensure that all electronics are working perfectly.

Obviously every restoration varies by the game and its condition. Some games require carpentry work (in some instances a corner of the game may have broken off), while others require additional technical services (some games are missing circuit boards for example). In some games, we are able to purchase and apply professionally reproduced artwork the cabinet sides and control panel. 

Note that we always try to describe the important points of each restoration we do and always provide pictures of the finished product. However please don’t hesitate to ask any questions about are games and their restoration. 

29 February, 2012

Arcade Board Swapping 101

One of the more frequent questions we get asked is can I play “Board X” in my arcade game cabinet? Swapping game circuit boards is one of the easiest ways to play a variety of games in one cabinet. Its ideal for collectors who might not have enough space to fit another arcade game and want to try something different. 

Board swapping typically does not require any modification to your existing game and is usually most feasible on games made after 1986, which include games that use the JAMMA wiring standard (we’ll discuss this in detail later in the article).

There are number of things one must consider when determining if another arcade game board will work in their cabinet. This article is intended to cover the basics of changing the game board in your cabinet to play a different game. Note: while we try to cover all relevant issues in this article, all games vary in some regards. If you’re not comfortable working on your game, board swapping may not be for you. Readers agree not to hold us responsible for any possible damage from swapping boards, etc. 

Note that the disclaimer is done with, if you want to skip some of the technical jargon and background, just go to bottom of this article: “A Quick and Dirty Board Swapping Checklist”.

Let me start off with a quick arcade game refresher. Arcade games are relatively simple machines: they typically consist of a game circuit board, power supply, monitor, input controls (joysticks, buttons, trackball, etc) and a wiring harness that connects everything together. There are other parts to each game, but with these five major components you could play most arcade games. 

Board swapping is simply a means of changing games by installing a different game circuit board in a cabinet and using its existing power supply, monitor and controls to play the game. The key to determining if a board is compatible with your game is to confirm that the board you want to install uses the same components of your game. Let’s examine these components one by one:

Power Supply

In most games made before 1984, power supplies can differ substantially. Some games require unique power requirements. With that being said, all game circuit boards require +5 Volts DC to power the circuit boards, and nearly all use +12 Volts DC to power the sound amplifier and in certain cases -5 Volts DC in the sound generation section of the board as well. In addition certain games require additional voltages such as –12 VDC to power certain chips.

Games made after 1985, generally have the necessary power requirements (+5 VDC, +12 VDC and –5VDC) to play any game board, making this step a breeze. If you’re still interested in what kind of power your game uses you can look up its pinout. The game’s pinout shows you the wiring of your game board, including the power it uses. Links to most game manuals and pinouts can be found at As we’ll discuss later, this is usually not an issue with games made after 1985, since they all share a common pinout.


Monitor Type - For the most part, arcade monitors are relatively uniform. Most arcade games use 19” or 25” raster scan color monitors (much like TVs) to display the game. As a result most game boards use the same type of monitor to display a game. Nearly all games made after 1984 use raster color monitors, making most boards made after 1984 compatible with other monitors. 

The one exception is the resolution of the monitor, the vast majority of game boards from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s use “standard resolution”. However, some games (such as Atari’s Toobin) use a medium resolution monitor. Medium resolution monitors are not compatible with standard resolution monitors.

There are other exceptions that apply to a handful of classic games are those that use vector monitors to display games. Examples of such games include Asteroids, Battlezone, Star Castle, Space Duel and Tempest, among others. In addition, most arcade games made in the 1970s use black and white monitors. It is impossible swap a game board that uses a vector display with one that uses a raster display, or vice versa. The same goes for black and white games. 

Monitor Orientation – One must also consider how the monitor is oriented. In some arcade games (such as Pac-Man), the monitor is oriented vertically (the longest side of the picture tube is up and down). In other cases (such as Street Fighter), the monitor is oriented horizontally (similar to a TV). 

Games that use vertical monitors will play in games with horizontal monitors, HOWEVER the display will be turned sideways and vice versa, making the game virtually impossible play, that is without causing neck injury or soreness :) 

Input Controls

Input controls refer to items such as a joystick, button, trackball or other means used to play a game. If the game board you want to swap uses a trackball and your game has a joystick, then you won’t be able to play it. Similarly, if your game has two buttons and you want to play Street Fighter (which uses six buttons), then you’ll have a hard time playing it.

Most games made from 1985 through the mid 1990s use two joysticks and two or three buttons, making most games compatible with each other. There are exceptions, as some games use more than three buttons, some use different main controls (such as a trackball or spinner). You just want to double check on this before buying a board to swap. 

Wiring Harness (Pinout) 
The wiring harness, or board pinout is probably the single most important factor to consider when changing boards. The pinout of a board is used to map all of the wiring of the components of a game to the circuit board. Most boards have an edge connector pinout, which consists of a series of flat metal pins. This is best understood by looking at a picture:

Each pin has a unique purpose for the game. For instance some pins accept the +5 Volts DC to power the board, others accept the ground connection, while others put the color signals out the monitor. The JAMMA standard pinout is shown below:

JAMMA Pinout

     PARTS          SOLDER
         GRD  1|1 GRD
         GRD  2|2 GRD
         +5V  3|3 +5V
         +5V  4|4 +5V
         -5V  5|5 -5V
        +12V  6|6 +12V
         KEY  7|7 KEY
         RED 12|12 GREEN
        BLUE 13|13 SYNC
     TEST SW 15|15 SLAM SW
      COIN 1 16|16 COIN 2
    1P START 17|17 2P START
       1P UP 18|18 2P UP
     1P DOWN 19|19 2P DOWN
     1P LEFT 20|20 2P LEFT
    1P RIGHT 21|21 2P RIGHT
   1P FIRE 1 22|22 2P FIRE 1
   1P FIRE 2 23|23 2P FIRE 2
   1P FIRE 3 24|24 2P FIRE 3
         GRD 27|27 GRD
         GRD 28|28 GRD

If a game board has the same pinout as another game that swapping boards is just a matter of installing the game board in the existing cabinet, since it uses the same pins. Unfortunately, most classic games (games made before 1985) use unique pinouts and can’t be swapped easily with one another.

Sometime around 1986, the arcade manufacturers decided that using different pinouts for each game was a bit of pain and that if a standard was developed, games could more easily be converted to other games. This standard pinout that was developed is know as JAMMA (which stands for Japanese Arcade Machine Manufacturers Association). With the advent of JAMMA swapping game boards between cabinets became much easier, since the boards used the same pinouts the primary issue to contend with was/is the orientation of the monitor and input controls (see above).

Prior to JAMMA there were a few pinout classes that were used by multiple games, allowing some board swapping to be feasible. I’ve summarized some of the larger pinout classes and their games below (there are many more not listed here). Remember just because these games have compatible pinouts, you’d still need to check the monitor orientation and control setup before being sure you could play one game in another’s game cabinet.

JAMMA – JAMMA is compatible with nearly every video game made after 1986, over 1,000 in all. 

JAMMA+ – JAMMA+ is a catch all for boards that use the JAMMA pinout but require additional inputs (typically control related). JAMMA only supports two joysticks and three buttons, but some games (such as Street Fighter II) require six buttons. The “+” represents inputs for these additional controls. Four player games are another good example. The additional inputs are usually wired uniquely for each game. You can play JAMMA+ boards in JAMMA cabinets, but won’t get the use of all “+” aspects of the game.

Konami Classic – This pinout supports a quite a number (over 60) of Konami’s earlier games, including games such as Amidar, Gyruss, Hyper Sports, Jail Break, Time Pilot, Track and Field and Yie Ar Kung-Fu.

Taito Classic – Taito used the same pinout in a number of its classic games (over 70). Some of the more popular titles to use the pinout include Arkanoid, Elevator Action, Front Line, Jungle Hunt and Jungle King.

Capcom Classic – Includes a number of Capcom games (about 15) released in mid-1980s such as Commando, Ghost and Goblins, Gun Smoke, Section Z, and Trojan

Irem – Supports a handful of games including 10-Yard Fight, Kid Niki, Kung Fu-Master, Lode Runner and Moon Patrol among others.

Sega Classic – Sega used a common pinout with games such as Congo Bongo, Zaxxon, Future Spy and Super Zaxxon.

A Quick and Dirty Board Swapping Checklist

Enough of the detailed information, here’s what you really need to know when determining if board swapping will work for you:

  1. Board Pinout (Wiring) – Most important factor. The game board must use the same “pinout” as the game your installing it into. Most games after 1986 use a common pinout referred to as “JAMMA”.
  2. Monitor Type – The game must use the same type of monitor (most are color raster monitors, so this is usually not an issue).
  3. Monitor Orientation – The game’s monitor display must correspond to your game (horizontal or vertical). This is very important otherwise your game may come up sideways.
  4. Controls (joysticks and buttons) – The game must be compatible with your game’s controls. If your game has one button and the game board uses three, then you won’t be able to play it properly.
  5. Power Supply – Usually not an issue with most games made after 1985.

We’ll I think I’ve covered the major points regarding board swapping. Remember, the keys to board swapping is to make sure that your game’s system (wiring, monitor, controls, power supply) is compatible with the board your swapping with. A cabinet with JAMMA wiring is generally the best option for swapping boards as many JAMMA boards exist and adapters can be made to play some of the older classic boards in a JAMMA cabinet. We carry a wide selection of game boards as well as JAMMA adapters for some classic games. Visit our parts section for more details.

The Bluth Collection

Growing up in a fairly remote part of Upstate New York, I didn’t get the opportunity to visit many arcades. I was mostly limited to playing games on the Atari 2600. That’s not to say that I didn’t keep up with the popular games. On the contrary, on those occasions that I did make it to the arcades, I had a Pac Man pattern memorized and ready to test out.

One of my most vivid arcade memories is waiting in line to play Dragon’s Lair. There was one game at the arcade I frequented, and they had mounted a television on top of the game so that people waiting in line could watch. I can remember stepping up to the game, dropping in my two quarters … and promptly dying! 

What a blast!

Several years later, during college, I would go over to a friend’s place and play Dragon’s Lair owned by the homeowner. He was a technophile who really loved owning such an interesting game. Even then, the not-quite-outdated, the game hadn’t lost its charm. I thought it was a little strange that this game was in a person’s living room. (I don’t really think it’s all that strange anymore.)

When I began collecting games, I knew that eventually I would add a Dragon’s Lair to my collection. But as it turns out, the first full size game that I purchased was a converted Space Ace 1991 that was originally a Dragon’s Lair II machine. I completely restored that game, and documented the restoration on the web site I was pretty lucky to find one of the approximately 1,000 Space Ace 1991 kits that were made. 

Being that Dragon's Lair II was one of the first restoration projects that I did, I went through great lengths to restore the game to almost perfect condition. This included purchasing hard to find "New Old Stock" (NOS) side art to replace the worn side art on the cabinet and going to great lengths to find original yellow "Sword" backlit buttons.

About a year and a half after restoring the Dragon’s Lair II game, I found an original Dragon’s Lair complete with side art. I bought this Dragon's Lair off of a private collector who lived in West Virginia (special thanks to my younger brother who made the trip to pick it up). 

The final Don Bluth game that I own was originally a Dragon’s Lair. By this time we had already formed and we were purchasing games by the dozen. We were extremely lucky and found a Dragon’s Lair tucked away in the back of a warehouse. I have nearly completed the conversion process by installing the Space Ace ROMs, laser disc, and marquee. I am still searching for a good condition control panel to make my collection complete. (And as of 9/20/2001, I have found and installed a NOS control panel overlay. It is almost complete, as now I have to install the Annunicator board.)

My Collection:

  • Dragon’s Lair
  • Space Ace (converted)
  • Dragon’s Lair II
  • Space Ace 1991 conversion kit

Technically, I don’t own the dedicated 1984 Space Ace. Maybe some day I’ll come across that machine and add it to my collection. But until then, I am pretty happy to own all three machines and conversion kit. 


31 January, 2012

Introduction to Arcade Machines

Sooner or later you'll want to learn more about your arcade game. Either you'll get curious about how it works, want to make fine tune and adjustment, or you maybe you're trying your hand at fixing your first game. This article will give you some very basic information about an arcade game. It's meant for the first timer/hobbyist who has never worked on a coin-operated game before but is interested in getting more familiar with their game.

The Basics: Three Parts of a Game
Whenever I'm explaining an arcade game to a person, I like to describe the basic components of a game. Most, but not all games1, have just these three basic parts. They are:

  • Power Supply: Powers the game and monitor. Usually located on the base of the game, and in some older games may be comprised of a few components.
  • Monitor: Display for the game. Common sizes for classic arcade games are 19" monitors for upright games, and 13" for mini and cocktail games.
  • PCB or Board: "Computer" component of the game. May be as simple as one board, or may contain a series of boards. Can be located in many places, but typically the PCB is on the side or back of the game. Varies greatly by game.

While these are the three basic components of a game, there is really a fourth component: the connectors. Many times this is overlooked, but it definitely worth mentioning. The Power Supply, Monitor, and PCB are all connected by this connector or Wiring Harness. For the purposes of this discussion, we'll count the joysticks and buttons as part of the connectors. If you think about it, this is pretty accurate: they connect us, the game player, to the game. A large part of troubleshooting arcade games is finding out which component is causing the problem and then either replacing or repairing it. One of the first things to check when looking at a game that isn't functioning properly is the connectors. Make sure everything is connected up properly before suspecting any of the three basic components.

Power Supply
The purpose of the power supply (PS) is pretty simple: it supplies voltage to the game and monitor so that they run properly. Typically, a power supply will provide +5V, -5V, and 12V to the game (Direct Current), as well as a ground line and +/- AC (Alternating Current). If your game requires those voltages, you're in pretty good shape as a switching power supply is a "modern" power supply that is easy to replace. Prior to the switching power supply, games came with custom power supplies. Sometimes they would supply odd voltages such as +25V, +30V, and even -12V. In some cases this means that a game can not be upgraded to a switching power supply. Instead the original linear power supply will need to be repaired.

Generally speaking, the +5V is what will be used to power the logic on the main PCB. The other voltages, if used, drive power to sound PCBs and amplifiers. 

You'll probably hear the term "linear power supply" as well as "switching power supply." These are basically the methods by which the AC from your house is converted into DC for your game. Linear power supplies are the older, propriatary power supplies that vary greatly from game to game. Switching power supplies, or "Peter Chou power supply" are newer and pretty standard. 

An example of a Linear Power Supply (Williams)

Taito Linear Power Supply

Switching Power Supply

We could write many, many articles dedicated to monitors alone. But given that this is just an introduction to arcade games, we're only going to cover the basics here. 

There are a few different types of monitors:

  • Raster Scan: The type of monitor that is much like your T.V. Raster scan monitors are used in games like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Street Fighter, and the like. They project images on the screen by using an electron beam to scan across the screen from left-to-right, top-to-bottom. Raster Scan monitors are generally available in normal and medium resolution. Nearly all games are normal resolution.
  • Vector: This type of monitor is used in games like Tempest, Star Wars, Battlezone, and Asteroids. Instead of scanning down the entire screen, the electron beam is used to draw lines. These monitors operate more like an oscilloscope than a T.V. 

The most common work that a hobbyist will do to a monitor is a cap-kit. This is simply replacing all of the electrolytic capacitors that are used in a monitor. Over time, capacitors wear out as the material used in the cap evaporates. Do not attempt to do a cap-kit unless you are thoroughly familiar with discharing a monitor (not covered in this article). A cap-kit usually improves the sharpness and contrast of a monitor, but usually2 does not fix a broken monitor. 

The monitor is probably the most unreliable of the components of an arcade game. If your game is "playing blind" (that is, you can hear everything, but you can't see anything on the screen), then you know that your power supply and PCB are working. You have something wrong with the monitor or connection to the monitor. Monitor trouble-shooting is very specific to the monitor that you are working on. However, with the appropriate monitor documention and a multimeter, most monitors can be repaired. 

Tapper, a Raster monitor game  Asteroids, a vector monitor game

With the exception of vector games, arcade games were not released with a specific monitor. So, if you find that your monitor needs to be replaced, you don't have to search for the exact monitor for your replacement. In many cases you can replace it with a generic monitor, new or used. 

The "brains" of the game is the PCB. This part of the game can be as simple as one board, or several boards wired together. For the beginner hobbyist, there isn't a lot that you can do once you've identified the problem as being PCB related. That being said, there are a couple of cases where the board can be fixed rather easily. If you think you have a problem with the board, first try reconnecting the board where the board plugs into the wiring harness. What you're really doing is making sure that the connection to the board is good. If that doesn't fix the problem, then try pressing down gently on chips that are in sockets. Sometimes the connection between the chips3and the board is faulty. In fact our experience has been that it's just as likely (if not more likely) that the sockets have gone bad rather than the problem being the ROMs themselves.

An example of a PCB (Donkey Kong, two board version)

An example of a JAMMA compliant PCB (Silk Worm)

One of the most common PCB related questions is game compatibility. Around 1986-87 a wiring interface standard known as JAMMA (Japanese Amusement Machine Manufacturers Association) was established. Since then, most, but not all games, have adhered to the JAMMA pinout standard. If you have a cabinet with JAMMA wiring, it is usually easy for you to rule in or rule out a board being defective. For more information about board compatability, read Anthony's article PCV Swapping 101.

This article was meant as a primer for understanding arcade games. In the near future I'll write an article that ties together this information with some basic troubleshooting. 

26 September, 2011

Confessions of a Arcade Addict!

Just this last week (late September '01) I celebrated my thirtieth birthday. I spent all week getting my games in perfect working condition for the occasion. Everything was in working order except for a very recent addition to the collection—a Haunted House. Needless to say, we had a great time, and all of our guests seemed to really enjoy the game room. Nothing makes me happier than sharing my collection with friends and arcade enthusiasts.

I can still remember the very first time that I saw an arcade game. I was very lucky, and the event was actually captured on film. I was at a rehearsal dinner for my uncle’s wedding, and in those days you could find arcade games in the strangest of places. I sat down in front of a Pong machine and tried to figure out what exactly you were supposed to do. There was a dial, so obviously you were supposed to move that thing. But wait. It wasn’t moving anything thing on the screen. What was going on here? Oh. I understand. It costs money to play this game. I wonder if I can convince someone to give me a quarter. Maybe if I sit here and look cute, someone will help me out. Well, what did you want? I was only six!

Although my first encounter was brief, it did make an impression on me. When the early eighties rolled around, I became very caught up in the arcade game phenomena. Unfortunately I grew up in a very rural area and wasn’t able to visit arcades very frequently. That didn’t quash my interest; in fact it probably intensified it further! I tried to learn as much about video games as possible, collected the trading cards, and eventually convinced my parents to buy an Atari 2600. This fascination with video games and computer technology eventually influenced my career path.

Many years later, my interest in arcade games was rekindled with MAME. The concept of being able to play the original arcade game, running the original game “code” was very interesting to me. In fact it was so interesting that I decided to build an arcade cabinet to recreate the full-blown arcade game experience. I did some research, learned about arcade game auctions, buying parts, and creating the necessary custom harnesses. I spent about four months creating my cabinet and when it was completed I could not believe how realistic the experience was.

Building my cabinet, however, only excited me more about video arcade games. It wasn’t long before I talked my wife (my dear, understanding wife) into letting me buy a fairly rare 1991 Space Ace. I converted the Space Ace back to its former glory and documented my project on Well, it wasn’t long before I found another “great deal” on a Q*Bert that I just couldn’t pass up. This particular machine appears to have a marquee for the unreleased “Faster, Harder, More Challenging” version of Q*Bert.

Three games quickly turned into six … and six games turned into twelve … and so on. In fact, I was running into some serious space issue. Luckily, I ran into a fellow name Anthony Pietrak. I was about to buy several more games, but I didn’t have any place to put them. As it turns out, Anthony said he could help me out by putting the overflow at his place. Well, we hit it off pretty well and it wasn’t very long before we decided that we might just want to start an arcade restoration company. Over the course of a few road trips, was born.

Since then, we’ve discovered some very interesting finds, and met a lot of interesting people. Anthony and I have both adding some great classics to our game room collection, and we thoroughly enjoy restoring games. (In fact, we spend so much time restoring games, that it can be hard to find time to play them!) I could not imagine that 30 years ago I would still be as fascinated with arcade games today as I was then.