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Room 34

Help! My Asteroids cocktail table is not displaying video

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I have an Asteroids cocktail table that I've owned for about 10 years. It has been sitting upstairs in my house unused for the past several months. The last time I fired it up, though, it was working perfectly.

 

Unfortunately now I have a problem. I just turned it on, for the first time in months, and there's no video. It's definitely turning on (I can hear it) and when I open the cabinet while it's powered up, I see a solid red light on each board, and an orange glow coming from the bottom of the CRT. (Is that a vacuum tube? I have no idea.) But nothing ever comes up on the screen.

 

My problem is, I don't know if the CRT is just dying/dead (in which case, I think it's pretty much a lost cause), or if there's a simple part like a vacuum tube or fuse that needs to be replaced. Or maybe it's something with one of the boards, but I don't think that's the case.

 

I created a video demonstrating what I've described above, in case actually seeing it in action helps anyone diagnose the problem.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGol128neWY

 

Basically, I am just hoping someone who knows more about how these things work can give me an idea of whether this is something I can easily resolve myself, whether it needs a pro repair, or whether it's just a lost cause.

 

(I am old enough to know that it takes a while for this kind of display to warm up. But even after it was left on for several minutes, there was nothing on the screen.)

 

Thanks!

Edited by Room 34

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First thing, when you start a game can you hear the game or is everything silent?

 

Second, has the monitor ever been recapped?

 

If yes to my second question, I'd suspect the inline HV diode has failed (first thing I'd suspect).

If you hold your arm up to the connected monitor when powered up you should feel static electricity when you hold your arm hairs up by the picture screen. If not, you probably don't have high voltage in the CRT. I have seen the HV transistors fail too, but it is not as common.

 

If no, time to put a cap kit in the monitor and hope the capacitors get the high voltage working right again. Please make sure you discharge the CRT to ground using a 1M ohm resistor inline to prevent damage to the HV Diode, if it is still good.

Remember to pull every single fuse and inspect carefully (as they sometimes break at one end or the other and are hard to see by a cursory inspection).

 

I am no expert on this machine, but this should help a little. Good luck.

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I'm afraid much of what you said is beyond my understanding of electronics (and is one of the reasons why owning an arcade cabinet is not for the faint of heart). I can replace a fuse, but that's about the extent of my abilities.

 

One thing that may be relevant though, suggesting the problem may not be with the CRT: it's impossible to start a game. I neglected to mention this in the video, but I had pressed the 1-player start button, and nothing happened… I expected to at least get game sounds, indicating the game was playing, but I didn't. Could it be that there's a loose connection on one of the cables, or a chip that's come loose? Since it hasn't been moved or jostled much, I didn't expect anything to have come loose inside, but I suppose it's possible. But then again, I expected that the purpose of the two red lights I saw inside was to indicate the boards were functioning normally.

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I'm not sure about the red lights, I think they are power indicators. I will give you the advice the local pinball and arcade pinball shop has always told me. With the unit powered down and unplugged, check EVERY connector on the board and going to the CRT. Make sure they are connected. Sometimes carefully unplugging them and plugging them back in helps as well. I would concentrate on your monitor ones first, then check the rest. These old games can be fussy about sitting and sometimes you might have to do 'the wiggle' with the board connectors to get contact again. Just be patient and careful, because some of these have been attached for ages and believe me, they can make you beg and sweat to unplug the first time. Some might have locking tabs you have to squeeze to unplug, so don't just yank.

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Update: After a couple of weeks away from it, I decided to give the Asteroids machine another look tonight. Some interesting developments:

 

1. I inspected all of the fuses. I missed this before, but one of them was blown. So I went to Radio Shack tonight and got a replacement.

 

2. After replacing the fuse, the display still didn't work. But then as I continued inspecting, I noticed there were some latches that could be released to lift up the table top. (Yeah… I'm not an expert on these things. I had never noticed that.) So just for the heck of it I opened it up, and I discovered an instruction sheet for putting the unit in self-test mode.

 

3. In self-test mode, the screen came on immediately! I took a photo of the test screen so I could remember the codes that came up. Basically there was a row of 0's (which I assumed was good), and on the left, "2 FF" and "3 FF". Haven't deciphered that yet.

 

4. I Googled (not sure why I didn't try this before) and found some good troubleshooting sites, including: http://arcarc.xmission.com/Tech/Asteroid%20Tech/asteroidsrepair.html Which gave some good suggestions for what to do in my situation (both player buttons flashing quickly, with no video).

 

That's all I'm going to be able to accomplish tonight, but I am now more confident that this thing is not dead and that I will be able to get it working.

 

Here's a photo I took of the self test mode screen.

 

0b00a43a6cb211e180c9123138016265_7.jpg

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Hmm… another update. I found a PDF of the original owner's manual: http://www.arcade-museum.com/manuals-videogames/A/Asteroids.pdf

 

Page 6 talks about the "3 FF" and "2 FF" in the upper left. Looks like they are indicators of failing ROMs/PROMs, and since they're showing FF that looks like total failure.

 

:/

 

I may be in over my head on this. Looks like some ROMs need to be replaced. Soldering may be involved. (Did I mention I am dangerous with a soldering iron?)

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The way both chips failed on all bits sounds like a chip enable or output enable problem. It could be something else in the circiut like a dual flip flop that controls the enables.

Both chips could of failed at the same time, but one logic chip faiing is much more likely.

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Thanks. That's helpful to know.

 

Something else to consider: the machine WAS working fine for me previously. I have owned it for 10 years, and while it has mostly been sitting unused, and it did have an issue a few years back where the video collapsed down to a bright point in the center of the screen, it has otherwise worked fine. The last time I fired it up, several months ago, there were no problems.

 

 

I am thinking the most likely scenario is that a chip has come loose. Hopefully that isn't going to require me soldering. (Again… you have no idea how incompetent I am with a soldering iron.)

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IT WORKS! (No soldering required.)

 

The key was deciphering the "3 FF" and "2 FF" codes. Page 6 of the owner's manual indicated that they corresponded to chips F2 and L2 on the board.

 

I pulled those two chips out and re-set them in their sockets, and now it works perfectly.

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