One of the downsides of working with arcade games is that securing parts for restoration can sometimes be a challenge. Since they don’t always make replacement components for 30 year old games, you learn early on to save everything even if something breaks. When it comes to gathering supplies for restorations, sometimes it helps to look at your local yard sales for good deals. Here’s a copy of our shopping list for things that we’re always looking for and a little bit of rationale for why we want these products. Feel free to chime in with your own suggestions in the comments
1.) Old CRTs – There was a time where they called it the boob tube, but now everything is LCD. Since you can’t even give these old paperweights away, it makes for easy pickings for arcade enthusiasts. Specifically, we need 19″ and 25″ tubes. By stripping down the old CRT we’re able to harvest neck adapters, Yoke connectors, even resistors if Radio Shack goes out of business. Specifically though we’re after the tubes. About 50% of the time we can take one that was used as a TV and swap it for one that has terrible Ms. Pacman burn from years of service.
2.) Extension cords – These come in handy for a couple of reasons. It seems like you can never have too many with so many arcade games sitting around, but even if the extension cord is damaged, you can still save money. One of the most common problems we see when we buy broken games are power cords that are missing their ground pin. If an extension cord is damaged on one end, but not the plug end, you can clip it and install it in your game and like presto you now have an orange power cable 😉 If the whole cord looks fried, you can still strip out the 16 gauge wire and use it to hook up the lights, switches and other power components in your game. Between crazy copper prices and cabinets that are over 5 feet tall on the inside, it doesn’t take long to blow through $25 worth of wire just hooking a game up.
3.) Cordless Phones – Before there were cell phones we had these crazy things called landlines that plugged into the wall. Eventually they made cordless versions, so you could walk around inside. The phones themselves don’t really matter as much as the battery that they hold inside. Specifically you’re looking for one that holds 3.6v. In order to save auditing and high score information, a lot of arcade PCBs were made to hold 3.6v batteries. Since these have a tendency to leak acid onto the boards, it’s a good idea to change them out for something safer. Cordless phones offer a great solution to this problem if you can score them cheap.
4.) Florescent Lamps – At about $20 bucks a pop, florescent lamps can be expensive to buy new. There are lots of cabinets that contain lighting and can be a great source for lighting up your marquees. You’re looking for things that are less than 24″ in length or else you run into size problems.
5.) Computer Speakers – Modern computer speakers are pretty cheap new, so you can get real discounts on them at a garage sale. It’s not the speaker itself that we’re after, but the models that require power and have amplifiers in them. If you take the speakers apart you can use those amps to power the sound in games like Contra or Gauntlet where the signal needs a boost before it hits the speakers.
6.) Surge Protectors – This is another common item that everybody seems to have and that you can never have too many of them. Don’t play around with the chance of lightning or a solar flare sending a massive power surge through old game boards. Better to stop that problem before it hits the game by always using surge protection.
7.) LED Night Lights – This is another inexpensive item that is easy to overlook. A lot of the cocktail games have small bulbs that light up the control panels and about half the uprights seem to have coin doors that need microlamps. Since the originals can be hard to find and have a tendency to get pretty hot anyway, it’s nice to be able to replace them with modern 12 volt LEDs when we can find them. Night lights aren’t always a perfect fit, but you’d be surprised at how effective they can at helping to keep your coin doors lit up and glowing. It’s a subtle touch, but one that adds a lot to a games appearance.