That was my first computer, and that's how I learned to program. However, that was not the first computer I started to tinker with. When a parent in the 80's goes shopping at Kmart, Target, JCPenny or similar, we would head right for the electronics selection. Why? There was usually an Atari 2600 and Intellivision on demo, as well as some of the first home computers to test drive. What stood out to me was the sleek steel case of a TI99/4A. I think I was obsessed with playing Tombstone City on that computer at the local Kmart. If they made a DeLorean into a computer, it was the TI99/4A. Same look.

Anyways, I recall playing Tombstone City in my local Kmart one day and some Dad with family in tow came in to buy their first computer. They didn't know anything about a computer so he wanted the worker to demo the unit. Of course that resulted in me getting kicked of the computer. Needless to say, I wasn't to happy about that, but it etched a memory into mind. A year later the C64 came out and soon afterwards I owned one. Knowing it was a superior computer, I never looked back at the TI...until now. Maybe I just wanted to own a piece of history, maybe I wanted to play Tombstone City again. Either way here is my new pickup complete in box, a TI99/4A and yes, I have Tombstone City.

The computer had a picture of it hooked up and running which was one of the reasons I bought it. When I unboxed it, I hooked up the RF modulator to my LCD and was introduced to a staticky, grainy picture. Thinking it was my LCD, I tried a second monitor. Same thing, static and snow. Channel 3 or 4 were both the same. I looked at the for sale picture and realized the picture was not very "clear", but the computer was working. Thinking my new/old computer already has a problem part, I started to look at what it would cost to replace the RF modulator. Then I stumble across documentation that showed the TI has composite out just like the Commodore, same pinout as a matter of fact. I took my Commodore RCA cable and plug it into the TI99/4A. Perfect picture now on my LCD! It astounds me that the computers back then had the better signal quality built into them for their day, and manufacturers had to "dumb down" the signal to be compatible with most TV sets of the day. TI99/4A, you are one for the ages!

Arcade collector groups and forums always discuss the pros and cons of freeplay versus quarters or tokens. Yes, I agree that it is a satisfying feeling of dropping a quarter in a game, hearing the metal "clunk", then your game tune start to play. However, I have a very large arcade and I entertain large groups of people. Keeping that many quarters or tokens freely available as well as opening games and collecting quarters from all 42 games after every event is not something I aspire to do. Because of that, I have all my games on some sort of freeplay. A majority of games have freeplay built into the software. A handful of them have a freeplay credit button to push. The oldest games I have don't have freeplay built into the software. Why not? Manufacturers built these games to earn money, not put on freeplay in someone's basement arcade 30 years later. As such, a few of my games have freeplay kits installed. This is typically a ROM or add-on board that maintains the existing code but adds both a freeplay and a hi-score option. Yes, most older games lose their hi-score when the game is turned off. Why? Again, to earn money so you would come in the next day, drop a quarter and put your initials on the leaderboard.

Unfortunately Galaga and Mario Bros didn't have a freeplay option or kit. I had resolved to wiring up Player button #2 to coin up the game. I understood how to start a game, but with new visitors there was always confusion and they couldn't figure it out. Along comes Christmas (Dec. 2014). Yes, my older kids bought me a freeplay kit for Mario Bros. for Christmas. How cool is that? Along with that I also installed a freeplay kit for Galaga. As you can see below these are just little add-on ROM boards. Now I have 2 more of my vintage games up-to-par with the rest of the collection on the same freeplay/hi-score playing field. Believe it or not, visitors always come in and play a game over and over trying to hit that hi-score. You can see in the images below that the screens will also say Freeplay on them as well as go through the advertisment/demo mode. This is what the Vintage Vault Arcade is all about. Rock On!

Where else would one spend New Years Eve 2014? Down in the Vintage Vault Arcade of course! This kid friendly affair was the perfect playground for adults and kids. The kids got all hopped up on the candy machines and ran the arcade. They literally ran through it... many times. Parents got to eat, drink, play and sing.

Recently I finished reprogramming my Video Jukebox software for HD videos, upgraded the Jukebox server, and installed a larger LCD. Along with the festivities, parents got to listen to and karaoke to 2100+ music videos stocked in the Video Jukebox. Good times, and no one had to drive home!

*** It was almost as if the arcade watched the kids for us! For us 80's kids, you know EXACTLY what I am talking about. Before the days when Chuck E. Cheese stamped a kids and parents hands, OUR parents would drop us off at the arcade for an hour or two with a pocket full of quarters by ourselves... BY ourselves with other strange kids and adults. We were like a pig in mud. Basically the arcade attendant became the babysitter for that time, although they could care less what we did or if we left. I'm sure there were some strange adults back then but nothing like it is today. Seriously those were some great memories being unsupervised in an 80's arcade. What did we do when we ran out of cash? Check the floors and coin returns of every arcade machine. Trust me, you always found another quarter somewhere.

Happy New Year and may the new year bring in all your collecting hopes and dreams.

My arcade is not just about the video games. I also have a slate pool table, a coin operated bumper pool table and a jukebox. Last year I picked up a mid-level consumer grade air hockey table. It was played, it was used and it was liked. However, it just wasn't a commercial table. The blower was under-powered, the light-weight pucks constantly flew off the table, and when the kids jumped up against it (and they did) the table would wiggle back and forth. Quite frankly, I was afraid they were going to cause the legs to snap off.

After what seemed like an impossibility, I finally come upon a reasonably price commercial table near Christmas time. Yes, this was my Christmas present. This table is built like a rock (and weighs it too at 500 pounds), has solid metal rails, cool overhead scoring and is black light reactive. The industrial blower and heavy pucks ensure nothing goes air born. The seller delivered the table to me. Then he went above the call of duty and helped me trek the table into the basement arcade by crossing through my wet, soggy yard. He even helped set it up. Rock on!

Now that its in the vault I've installed a freeplay credit button and ordered a new fluorescent puck and mallets. I have 2 holiday parties coming up so this monster is going to get its first work out. If you have the space and the coin, I highly recommend a commercial table. There is just no comparison. Game on!

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and then Thanksgiving again. That's for those of us who have a second family gathering on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I must confess I'm not a big turkey fan, but I am a fan of giving my arcade a good workout.

My wife's family came over this last Saturday for an annual Thanksgiving gathering and as usual many migrated down to the arcade after *linner* (something between lunch and dinner). I'm not quite sure why all family gatherings have to eat around 2 or 3pm, but that seems to be the norm with my relatives. Revolution X is always a group favorite with its 3 player capability. The driving games got a good workout, the air hockey was a must and all the men were up for some Golden Tee Complete.

Unfortunately for me I had 3 games with issues. I run a tight ship of 42 fully functional arcade games and I can't stand even one machine out of order. First off, Sinistar and Robotron lost their freeplay settings. After opening them up and probing the battery packs with a multimeter it appears they were shot. I popped in new batteries in both games, put the games back on freeplay and they were ready to go.

The last issue was that I heard a terrible crackling noise coming from my beloved Crazy Taxi machine. It was popular this Thanksgiving so the crackling noise caught my attention. After listening carefully it appears that the subwoofer under the seat was blown. Well it wasn't going to get fixed on Thanksgiving but that night I ordered a new subwoofer from the internet that was sized to fit. A few days later the new subwoofer was delivered and my Crazy Taxi was up and running with some fully functional seat thumping bass. Of course I played multiple rounds of Crazy Taxi to *make sure it was working properly*. Then again, I think I like its rockin' bass soundtrack.

I sure wish my mom and dad took me to an arcade every Thanksgiving. Looks like all my nieces and nephews get to have my dream come true. Until the next gathering!


This is the saga of a 3 month repair. THREE MONTHS. THREE MONTHS and a paid professional later, who was paid quite well I might add and he never fixed the problem.

The story begins after a large gameday in late July. I noticed the steering wheel's force feedback on my Sega Rally Championship Deluxe was no longer working. Force feedback is when you are driving around a turn, and you feel the force of the turn pulling against you on the steering wheel, giving a level of realism. I had a spare force feedback board which went bad several years back so I had 2 now in need of repair.

Now this is a Sega game from 1995, and you can imagine that you can count the number of old Sega PCB repair specialists in the country on your hand. I contacted several, and found one that said they can fix the problem. I sent my boards in for repair, and waited. What I received was a very large bill, and 2 TOTALLY different boards with the model number crossed out on them. I was told they were the same board design and will work in my game with the ROM and GAL swapped from my old board. I put them in my machine, and wouldn't you know it but THEY DIDN'T WORK.

Not only that, but each board exhibited totally different problems. Well after back and forth emails and countless hours of my wasted time being asked to test different things, I was finally told to ship the boards back to get looked over by the tech. I shipped the boards back and waited. This time the 2 different boards were sent back to me with a note that several parts were swapped out. I put them in. Nothing. They didn't work. At least now they exhibited the same symptoms on each board, but they still didn't work.

Once again I started with the back and forth emails, with being asked to test out all kinds of things on my game again. Finally I was told it must be my game, which works 100% with the exception of the force feedback. That didn't even make sense. In the end, I theorized there must be some different values on the parts between my old boards and these new boards he sent me. I was disgusted that I was out so much money and repair time on my part so I asked the repair guy to just ship my broken boards back and we'll just call it even. Thank God that he did. I received my broken boards back, and within 15 minutes I noticed a part difference between my old boards and these new boards. The new boards had a 2.2ohm 2W ceramic power resistor sitting right at the connectors going to the steering wheel. My old boards had a .1ohm ceramic power resistor in the same spot. I swapped the power resistors from my old boards into the new ones, put them in AND THE GAME IS NOW WORKING with full steering force feedback. Yes, out of the new boards they were first shipped to me with one having a bad transistor, and then shipped to me again with the wrong value power resistors. Basically, the power resistor was choking off the power preventing the force feedback from activating.

Now that I fixed my own boards, I emailed the repair tech with my findings and that I fixed the problem.
I was hoping for some sort of partial refund after all the aggravation and time spent on this for having to repair my own boards in the end. This was the response I got back in an email. "I went over them twice and didn't see those resistors different. I had same idea you had and knew something was off. My eyes are getting pretty bad. I'm glad its working now."

... And with that response, he kept all the money. YEP, ALL OF IT. I'm glad I finally fixed the problem after 3 months of lost money and aggravation. Unfortunately this is now the second time I've been burned by a professional repair tech. The other time was on a very costly monitor repair, which blew the moment I put the repaired chassis in my game. I was told that one wasn't the repair techs fault either. Another story, another time. Time for some Sega Rally drift racing, that'll cheer me up!

It's Saturday night with the Vintage Vault Arcade ~ After Dark. Enjoy the photos!