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williamc

Just bought an Astrocade... any tips for console and box care?

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I finally took the plunge and purchased a new Astrocade to replace my old one, which stopped working after I had it in storage for a long time.  The new one is complete in box -- it even still has its original shipping box.  Not cheap but I feel I got a decent deal.

 

This was working when I purchased it, but I haven't tried firing it up yet.  Knowing how fragile these machines are, I want to do whatever I can to avoid damaging it.  I know about how it overheats easily, so keep it in a ventilated area (not on carpet, etc.) but I wonder if there are other precautions I should take first.  This guide recommends removing the RF shield, advice I've heard elsewhere too.  Do any Astrocade owners here recommend it?  Should I open and clean out the unit?  Any other safety tips I should know about... like maybe plugging it directly into a wall outlet rather than a power strip, etc.?  I'm not handy enough with electronics to recap it or install heatsinks or a new power supply, but if that's a necessity maybe I could get it done.

 

Also, do you know of any appropriately-sized box protectors that would fit the Astrocade console box (or even the outside shipping box)?  I checked this thread but didn't see anything.

 

 

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After 20 years of collecting these systems (near 40 if you count the first Computer System model I had as a teen) I can honestly say if it ain't broke, don't fix. 

 

By that I mean if its working 100% out of the box, leave it alone.  Don't remove the RF shield, don't mess around opening it up and don't replace anything (capacitors, etc.) and don't glue on any heat sinks (which I guess goes hand in hand with removing the RF shield). 

 

If you really, really feel the need to open it up and clean it out, just be really, really careful.  

 

I've got spares so if I messed something up (and believe me, I have) I had parts to swap.  The guys that can fix these things are few and far between. 

 

I don't use a surge protector (although I probably should) but I do unplug the adapter when I'm done playing.  And yes, the "keep off the rug" warning for the Astrocade is real - you will most likely block the bottom air vents preventing any air circulation leading to some cooked chips.  I usually put mine on a box when I play it, to keep it off the ground. 

 

As far as the Astrocade box goes - I just keep the ones that have them in their shipping boxes.  My shipping boxes were actually shipped to someone at one time or another so they're already got some wear and tear, so I'm not worried about them in the least. 

 

Hope that helps in some way and good luck with your system. 

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I recall gluing VCS carts to the bottom of my Astrocade BITD. It worked for quite some time even when playing on shag carpet.

 

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I think I am in the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" category.  However, if you are not satisfied with that, there are some folks on the boards who will help with modifications.  There is a very common capacitor replacement that is said to prolong the life of the thing and of course 1 of the custom chips in particular (Data) benefits greatly from heat dissipation.  Contact member @Allen Schweitzer, but you need to be prepared to remove the motherboard yourself to make shipping easier.

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I remove my RF shields, but there are plenty out there that still have theirs and are working today.  Recently, I'm finding the C10 capacitor failing on a few units.  If it ain't broke, you sure don't have to fix it.  I've not found where over-heating has ruined a data chip on any of the broken unit's I have purchased (YET).  I know they are out there. 

When I recap a unit, the voltages and sometimes the uf's on the caps I use are higher than factory spec's.  Michael Matte, in an article on ballyalley.com, recommends using a surge protector, leaving your unit switched on, and using the surge protector to turn it on...if I'm not mistaken.  He also recommends using a 35V 100uf cap for C10 to slow the hit when the unit is powered on.  The service manual calls for a 16V cap here, and I was using 25V caps, but since his recommendation, I will now only use 35V caps when I do this for a customer. 

I have swapped the RAM's out on some boards (usually for customers) to 4164's.  By doing this, you can eliminate the 12 volt (or 15 volt) circuit from the board, and the -5V is limited to the RF only.  This reduces power draw, and should generate less heat, and prolong the life of your wall wart.  Again, there are many units out there still going after 40+ years.

DO unplug the power adapter when not in use!

I'm not recommending this particular model, but one of these under your Bally sure couldn't hurt!

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Laptop-Cooling-Pad-12-17-Cooler-Pad-Chill-Mat-4-Quiet-Fans-LED-Light-FREE-SHIP/173896890981?hash=item287d0ffa65:g:m8oAAOSw-pBcb3i4

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I removed the RF shield on mine and basically only ever run it with a laptop cooler under it, and it’s been going strong. Adding heat sinks to the custom ICs is pretty easy and certainly doesn’t hurt, either - I would certainly wear a grounding strap if you do anything inside the machine though.

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If you're going to add a heatsink to any of the custom IC's, I would only add it to the data chip.  If you ever need to pull them, you won't be able to tell which is which if you get them mixed up, and the data chip is the one the really puts off the heat. 

Console5 builds the best heat sink:  https://console5.com/store/dip40-heatsink-glue-on-thermal-epoxy-on-style-dip-40.html

I install those on every data chip that doesn't have an aluminum pad on it.  Every unit I sell gets that heat sink if there is nothing on the data chip.  They can send me an atomic fireball for the plug, if they see fit. 
They also sell a recap kit, but theirs uses radial caps for some of their replacements.  I only use axial's.  They are more expensive, but for me, it's a matter of convenience, and getting it right the first time.  I had that kit on e-bay, because someone wanted to buy one from me, but as soon as I posted it they fell off the face of the earth.  So I took the ad down, because I don't want to be the guy that sells recap kits.  :)

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After three Bally systems that ceased working after removing their RF shielding...I'm firmly in the "leave it alone" camp.

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Thanks a lot for all the suggestions.  I think I'll take the advice to "leave it alone", but will at least go for a laptop cooling pad first.

 

I still would like to find a console box protector. Not so much for the outer shipping carton, but I'll probably put the console box somewhere in my game room where it will be visible.  I do this with most of my hardware boxes because I love being able to see the artwork and carton design.  Most of my other boxes are just out in the open but an Astrocade box is rare enough I'd like to have the extra protection from dust, etc.  If I find a suitable one I'll post about it.

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