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Things to do with a Coleco tabletop when it's dead


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#1 Jess Ragan OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 24, 2007 4:58 AM

I've got two old Coleco tabletops in my house that don't work. You know, the little LCD systems that look like arcade cabinets. I did some research on sites like MiniArcade.com and discovered that there really isn't anything I could do to repair the tabletops past cleaning the contacts... once that corrosion creeps up into the system's circuitry, it's game over for good!

So I was thinking... since the games themselves are toast but the plastic shells are in good condition, why can't I turn them into truly arcade-quality systems by slipping new technology into those shells? The Game Boy Advance was my first choice for a cheap, self-contained game system, but there are just a few problems with using one for this project. First, it's got a horizontally oriented screen, while the Coleco tabletop has a vertical aspect ratio. Second, it's got too many buttons to be a practical candidate. Finally, there's the issue of the cartridge slot. It would have to be separated from the Game Boy Advance hardware in order to make this project work, and that's a rather dicey affair. It would be much better if the system used some kind of flash memory that could be changed by linking the system to a computer with a USB port.

That leaves one practical option... a handheld computer such as a Palm, Clio, or Jornada. It's got the vertical orientation, it's got the small number of buttons, and the newer models have slots for flash cards... cards which could be permanently kept inside the unit. Only one question remains... which PDA is right for the job? It's got to be cheap, it's got to have a flash card slot, and it's got to support an emulator that runs 8-bit arcade games or at least NES titles. Got any suggestions? I'm leaning toward a Casio Cassiopeia E-125, although I'm not sure if there are any emulators available for it.

#2 Paul Humbug OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 24, 2007 5:49 AM

I've got two old Coleco tabletops in my house that don't work. You know, the little LCD systems that look like arcade cabinets. I did some research on sites like MiniArcade.com and discovered that there really isn't anything I could do to repair the tabletops past cleaning the contacts... once that corrosion creeps up into the system's circuitry, it's game over for good!

So I was thinking... since the games themselves are toast but the plastic shells are in good condition, why can't I turn them into truly arcade-quality systems by slipping new technology into those shells? The Game Boy Advance was my first choice for a cheap, self-contained game system, but there are just a few problems with using one for this project. First, it's got a horizontally oriented screen, while the Coleco tabletop has a vertical aspect ratio. Second, it's got too many buttons to be a practical candidate. Finally, there's the issue of the cartridge slot. It would have to be separated from the Game Boy Advance hardware in order to make this project work, and that's a rather dicey affair. It would be much better if the system used some kind of flash memory that could be changed by linking the system to a computer with a USB port.

That leaves one practical option... a handheld computer such as a Palm, Clio, or Jornada. It's got the vertical orientation, it's got the small number of buttons, and the newer models have slots for flash cards... cards which could be permanently kept inside the unit. Only one question remains... which PDA is right for the job? It's got to be cheap, it's got to have a flash card slot, and it's got to support an emulator that runs 8-bit arcade games or at least NES titles. Got any suggestions? I'm leaning toward a Casio Cassiopeia E-125, although I'm not sure if there are any emulators available for it.



What about sound? Some cheaper Palms and Co. only have these click sounds. The newer multimedia ones are much better but I dont know if it will fit in your budget.

#3 Jess Ragan OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 24, 2007 10:48 PM

That's a good point. Actually, I'm looking for a PDA with both sound AND a color screen. It'd be kind of dull without those two features.

#4 NE146 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 24, 2007 11:00 PM

I've got two old Coleco tabletops in my house that don't work. You know, the little LCD systems that look like arcade cabinets. I


Not to nitpick.. but the Coleco tabletops are not LCD :)

I believe they're VFD's.... or are they LED's? I could never tell with those bitches.. but LCD they definitely aint ;)

#5 Chaos89-dot-com OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 24, 2007 11:43 PM

I've got two old Coleco tabletops in my house that don't work. You know, the little LCD systems that look like arcade cabinets. I


Not to nitpick.. but the Coleco tabletops are not LCD :)

I believe they're VFD's.... or are they LED's? I could never tell with those bitches.. but LCD they definitely aint ;)


You are correct. They are vacuum(spelling?) flourescent(spelling?) displays.

#6 Jess Ragan OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 25, 2007 12:26 AM

Whoops! I meant LED, but VFD works too. It'd probably be wise to draw that distinction before starting a project like this, huh?
(Not that it matters, since the old screen would be one of the first things to go...)

#7 Chaos89-dot-com OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 25, 2007 2:03 AM

Whoops! I meant LED, but VFD works too. It'd probably be wise to draw that distinction before starting a project like this, huh?
(Not that it matters, since the old screen would be one of the first things to go...)


It would be cool if you could find a small lcd monitor that displayed verticle. You could put a commodore 64 dtv(30 games in 1) in it.
That would be too simple to do.
I have done the same thing but used an atari lynx II housing.

#8 Jess Ragan OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 25, 2007 4:15 AM

Well, the best way to go (but also the most expensive!) would be to find a vertically oriented LCD monitor, then connect it to a computer with a tiny form factor. They are out there, but I imagine they cost more than I'm willing to pay for a project like this.

http://www.fingergea..._on_a_stick.php

#9 Paul Humbug OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 25, 2007 11:48 AM

Speaking of an inexpensive Palm to sacrifice which is color and has mp3 playback integrated and hence a real soundchip is the Zire 31.

http://www.brighthan...sp?newsID=10662

They are going on ebay for under 50 bucks usually.

Then again, it suffers from ghosting a little and the resolution of 160 by 160 means C64 emus and stuff dont look good at all, maybe even dont run or games are simply not playable.

If you wanna do the perfect job, it has to be a TFT and the high resolution screens of the newer palms.

Then again, I am having the zire22 with the same screen and there are some arcade versions out there for the palm, esp. Namco, which are fun to play, even on the lower res bearing a lot similarity with the original and play awesome. If you limit yourself for what is available for the lowres palms you still have plenty to choose from.

The mini computer you are reffering to, I cannot imagine it plays sounds neither but I dont know for sure.

Edited by Paul Humbug, Sat Aug 25, 2007 11:57 AM.


#10 Jess Ragan OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Aug 26, 2007 8:46 PM

After some research, I discovered that the so-called computer on a stick just seems to be a distribution of Linux... in other words, it's mostly software and very little hardware. It's doubtful that it could be turned into a full-fledged PC.

#11 PingvinBlueJeans OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Aug 26, 2007 9:04 PM

Things to do with a Coleco tabletop when it's dead

:idea:
puppet show?

#12 Lord Thag OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Aug 27, 2007 4:02 AM

Here's a couple of things. I collect those VFD games, and let me tell you, they are tough, and they can usually be resurrected. Most corrosion (usually battery acid) can be cleaned off with alcohol. You'd be amazed at how many 'dead' units I've picked up off of ebay and then fixed in ten minutes. If that doesn't do it, you can jump-solder over a broken trace. No one makes VFD games anymore, and I think no one ever will again. You should try to save 'em if you can. I actually took one that had a circuit board that was in twenty pieces (no joke) but had a good screen. Lots of super glue and soldering later, and I had a perfectly functional Super Cobra. Maybe I'm just a fanatic.

As to conversions, I would still look at a GBA. You could get a flash-cart and put some emulators on it. Most of them have the option to switch horizontal/vertical orientation, and then you could solder the controller contacts to the buttons on the tabletop. A cheap Pocket PC would work great too, and there are two very nice versions of MAME for the things.

Edited by Lord Thag, Mon Aug 27, 2007 4:03 AM.


#13 Jess Ragan OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Aug 27, 2007 6:18 PM

If I were to do this conversion with a Game Boy Advance, I would probably use an Epoch Astro Command unit as the shell. It makes the most sense because Astro Command is ludicrously cheap (I got two for $5.00 on eBay!) and has the same horizontal aspect ratio as the Game Boy Advance. It's also got that magnifying lens over the screen which would improve visibility. It doesn't have the nostalgia value of a Coleco mini-arcade game, but hey, you can't have it all!

As for the corrosion... let me tell you, it's bad. REALLY bad. I've plunged the battery terminals into CLR, hydrogen peroxide, and isopropyl alcohol, and it's only taken part of the rust from the terminals. Some of them are in really lousy shape, like they were buried under a mountain of dirt and left there to fossilize for a hundred years. Hydrogen peroxide seems to work the best... I left the terminals soaking in it overnight and the next morning, there was a cloudy orange soup where the clear liquid once was. So it definitely has an effect, but will it be enough?

I'm assuming you'd have to use a multimeter to discover where the broken traces on each game are, correct? Where would those traces normally be? That way, I'd know the first place to start. I guess it would be a safe bet to say that they'd be close to the battery terminals.

#14 alx OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:37 AM

That leaves one practical option... a handheld computer such as a Palm, Clio, or Jornada. It's got the vertical orientation, it's got the small number of buttons, and the newer models have slots for flash cards... cards which could be permanently kept inside the unit. Only one question remains... which PDA is right for the job? It's got to be cheap, it's got to have a flash card slot, and it's got to support an emulator that runs 8-bit arcade games or at least NES titles. Got any suggestions? I'm leaning toward a Casio Cassiopeia E-125, although I'm not sure if there are any emulators available for it.


This is a great idea! I want to make a pocket PC/tabletop too!

I've got an old HP iPAQ 2210 currently collecting dust that I could use for such a project. Last time I used it, it played beautifully all sorts of emulators (mameCE, atari, NES, etc.). I'd like to find a nice but not too expensive table top and find a way to get the iPAQ inside.

However, the iPAQ controls would need to be hooked to "arcade style" controls. I've got an old gravis pad with a small stick that can be screwed in the middle of the d-pad. Perfect for a mini joystick! Does anyone know if I can simply solder the connectors of the iPaq d-pad directly to the gravis d-pad switches ? (same process for the buttons). Or would it be more complex than that?

Thanks

#15 Lord Thag OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Aug 29, 2007 9:45 PM

If I were to do this conversion with a Game Boy Advance, I would probably use an Epoch Astro Command unit as the shell. It makes the most sense because Astro Command is ludicrously cheap (I got two for $5.00 on eBay!) and has the same horizontal aspect ratio as the Game Boy Advance. It's also got that magnifying lens over the screen which would improve visibility. It doesn't have the nostalgia value of a Coleco mini-arcade game, but hey, you can't have it all!

As for the corrosion... let me tell you, it's bad. REALLY bad. I've plunged the battery terminals into CLR, hydrogen peroxide, and isopropyl alcohol, and it's only taken part of the rust from the terminals. Some of them are in really lousy shape, like they were buried under a mountain of dirt and left there to fossilize for a hundred years. Hydrogen peroxide seems to work the best... I left the terminals soaking in it overnight and the next morning, there was a cloudy orange soup where the clear liquid once was. So it definitely has an effect, but will it be enough?

I'm assuming you'd have to use a multimeter to discover where the broken traces on each game are, correct? Where would those traces normally be? That way, I'd know the first place to start. I guess it would be a safe bet to say that they'd be close to the battery terminals.


Well, chances are you may just have bad terminals. If that's the case, any piece of metal soldered to the point on the main board that the current one connects to will work. You can often cannabalize stuff from old tape decks, toys etc. 80%, the games don't work because the juice from the battery isn't getting to the board. You can also take the contacts out and scub them with steel wool. That helps a lot sometimes.

As to broken traces, yes, a multimeter helps. A lot of times you can just tell by there being a crack on one of the traces. Simply use a razor plade to peel back the green coating on the trace, and solder a strand of copper wire (often an actual tiny strand will work, and you don't need the whole wire) over the break. It's not too bad, actually.

Seriously, out of the 40+ of these things I own, NONE of them was permanently damaged (save one). It was always the contacts / battery conncection. PM me if you want some more help.

#16 Jess Ragan OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 30, 2007 2:39 AM

I may have to take you up on that offer! I've been using this page as a guide, and it's been helpful, although not enough to actually fix the two systems.

http://www.handheldm...pair/index.html

The Ms. Pac-Man unit has been especially troublesome, as it's got a film over the circuit board that's starting to wrinkle and peel. There are parts of the film that are brown, suggesting broken traces, but I've scraped away those areas and there seems to be shiny metal underneath them. I don't know WHAT'S going on, but if it's the CPU that's borked, I'm totally screwed.

Also... anyone know where I can get replacement battery terminals? The ones I've got are damaged beyond repair, and I'm totally not kidding about this. One of the terminals actually crumbles like a rusty macaroon when you try to clean it!

#17 Jess Ragan OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 30, 2007 3:36 AM

However, the iPAQ controls would need to be hooked to "arcade style" controls. I've got an old gravis pad with a small stick that can be screwed in the middle of the d-pad. Perfect for a mini joystick! Does anyone know if I can simply solder the connectors of the iPaq d-pad directly to the gravis d-pad switches ? (same process for the buttons). Or would it be more complex than that?


I've never popped one of these bad boys open, although I do have one I never use. One thing I can tell you is that most video game controllers (and other electronics products) use two wires for each button... a contact wire and a ground wire. When you press a button, a pad joins the two wires together and turns that button on. When you release that button, the pad is lifted and the connection is broken.

So what you need to do is connect the contact and ground wire for each button on the iPAQ to the contact and ground wire for each button on the Coleco tabletop, or the joystick you're using for this mod. Sometimes the pads are interlaced, so you'll have to be careful not to join the contact and ground together when you wire them up.

#18 Lord Thag OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 30, 2007 12:15 PM

HI Jess. If you want replacement terminals, head to a thrift and pick up an old cassette player or radio with the same size batteries. You can usually canabalize the contacts. After all, all they are are spirngs/strips of metal that make contact. You don't need anything fancy.

As to the wrinkling, some of mine are like that, and it hasn't made an issue. I wouldn't mess with anything else until you've tried some new terminals. Seriously, if yours are falling apart, that is probably the issue. ALWAYS fix the terminals first. I can't tell you how many $5 VFD games I got off ebay due to them being 'broken' or 'parts only'. Also, the guys over at the handheld museum forum can be very helpful, especially Rik (who has about 3000 of these things). Nice folks, and a few AA members post there too.

Try replacing the terminals. You might be able to get some actual coleco ones by posting at the museum forum. Otherwise, cannabalize something else. Ms Pac is the rarest of the Coleco handhelds, and a damn fine game to boot.

#19 Murph74 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Sep 2, 2007 12:43 PM

HI Jess. If you want replacement terminals, head to a thrift and pick up an old cassette player or radio with the same size batteries. You can usually canabalize the contacts. After all, all they are are spirngs/strips of metal that make contact. You don't need anything fancy.

As to the wrinkling, some of mine are like that, and it hasn't made an issue. I wouldn't mess with anything else until you've tried some new terminals. Seriously, if yours are falling apart, that is probably the issue. ALWAYS fix the terminals first. I can't tell you how many $5 VFD games I got off ebay due to them being 'broken' or 'parts only'. Also, the guys over at the handheld museum forum can be very helpful, especially Rik (who has about 3000 of these things). Nice folks, and a few AA members post there too.

Try replacing the terminals. You might be able to get some actual coleco ones by posting at the museum forum. Otherwise, cannabalize something else. Ms Pac is the rarest of the Coleco handhelds, and a damn fine game to boot.


Hey Jess-- The Cassiopiea idea will work with a little effort if you decide to go that route. There was a contest some time ago (2003) that someone already did what you're talking about with a Coleco PacMan tabletop in the forums at arcadecontrols.com. I found hte thread, but the pics aren't there so I posted a request for em if anyone still has em. Anyway, 1up was hte guy who made it with a Cassiopiea 100, using mame-x10. Supposedly worked pretty well and fit pretty well even with the power cradle in there.

Good luck, and I'll post a pic here if I can find one.

Murph

#20 Jess Ragan OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Sep 2, 2007 1:40 PM

HI Jess. If you want replacement terminals, head to a thrift and pick up an old cassette player or radio with the same size batteries. You can usually canabalize the contacts. After all, all they are are spirngs/strips of metal that make contact. You don't need anything fancy.

As to the wrinkling, some of mine are like that, and it hasn't made an issue. I wouldn't mess with anything else until you've tried some new terminals. Seriously, if yours are falling apart, that is probably the issue. ALWAYS fix the terminals first. I can't tell you how many $5 VFD games I got off ebay due to them being 'broken' or 'parts only'. Also, the guys over at the handheld museum forum can be very helpful, especially Rik (who has about 3000 of these things). Nice folks, and a few AA members post there too.

Try replacing the terminals. You might be able to get some actual coleco ones by posting at the museum forum. Otherwise, cannabalize something else. Ms Pac is the rarest of the Coleco handhelds, and a damn fine game to boot.


Hmm, thanks for the advice! I may wind up ordering a battery terminal online, just for testing purposes. I didn't really want to tear apart the Ms. Pac-Man machine, since it is pretty rare and I've never had a chance to play it... there isn't even a simulator available for it yet! The Donkey Kong machine, on the other hand, is a bit more expendable. I've heard that these are hard to come by as well, although I've seen a few here and there. More importantly, the game just isn't that good... Nintendo's own Donkey Kong handhelds blow it away!

I'll check out the Handheld Museum forums when I get a chance. Thanks again for all the help! And Murph, thanks for your assistance as well. If you do ever find those pictures, be sure to post 'em here! I'd love to see how that project turned out!

#21 Lord Thag OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Sep 2, 2007 2:07 PM

If worst comes to worst, I *think* I have spare innards for the Ms Pac. One of the auctions I won had a beat-to-hell Coleco pac man that turned out to be a Ms Pac with (of course) battery terminal issues.

Let me know how it goes. Oh, and Donkey Kong does NOT suck. It takes a bit of getting used to, but I've come to like it a lot, mainly due to the stiff challenge. Good stuff!

#22 Jess Ragan OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Sep 2, 2007 2:28 PM

Really? Do you think it compares favorably to the Donkey Kong Game & Watch? Sure the Coleco game is a more faithful adaptation of the arcade game and has color graphics, but the G&W has much better artwork, a more reasonable difficulty level, and a more playful atmosphere that better reflects Shigeru Miyamoto's vision of the series. Of course, that's just my opinion, but I do think it's telling that Coleco asked Nintendo to develop the sequel for them...

#23 Lord Thag OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Sep 2, 2007 6:14 PM

Really? Do you think it compares favorably to the Donkey Kong Game & Watch? Sure the Coleco game is a more faithful adaptation of the arcade game and has color graphics, but the G&W has much better artwork, a more reasonable difficulty level, and a more playful atmosphere that better reflects Shigeru Miyamoto's vision of the series. Of course, that's just my opinion, but I do think it's telling that Coleco asked Nintendo to develop the sequel for them...


Oh, don't get me wrong, the G&W Donkey Kong is excellent. I've owned it since I was a kid. In fact, all of the G&W DK games are outstanding. However, I think it's too easy. Most of the G&W games you can easily max out the score (Donkey Kong 2 is an exception). I like the coleco one because it's very challenging and very fun once you give it a chance, though definately a bit lacking in the art depatment. It may look kind of fugly, but the challenge is very arcade like, and it has two levels. Good stuff.

Have you ever played the Nintendo DKJr tabletop Jess? If you like the handhelds, the tabletop one is done in the exact same art style, only in color (via a very clever use of LCD). Probably the best tabletop game out there. It's really good. Well worth the $60-$80 you'll spend on a loose one.

#24 AtticGamer OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Sep 4, 2007 10:42 AM

Keep one and put a GP2X/UMPC/GBASP inside the other.

Edited by Atari_kid, Tue Sep 4, 2007 12:36 PM.


#25 Jess Ragan OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Sep 7, 2007 9:13 PM

I played the simulation of the Donkey Kong Jr. game. You're right... the graphics are very reminiscent of Nintendo's Game & Watches, but with color! I almost got one of these things on eBay, but the guy would only take international money orders, so that kind of stuck a potato in the tailpipe of that plan.

As for the Ms. Pac-Man and Donkey Kong tabletops, they're deadsville. I took some sheet metal from an Atari 5200's RF shielding and fashioned it into crude battery terminals, then connected them to the circuit boards of both games. Nothin'. I've done practically everything I can to get these machines functioning and they simply refuse to work!

So yeah, it's full speed ahead for the case mods! I'm bidding on a Cassiopeia E-100 online... if I win it, it's going right in the Ms. Pac-Man case.




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