Fascination: Can I Help?

This is the story of game play restoration of Playland Not At The Beach’s Fascination Tables.

While checking on the Playland Museum’s Website, I noticed that their Fascination Page had a message saying their Tables were down.

Sorry.  Not today.

Sorry. Not today.

Now, since I’m an old time tech with a long history of servicing Pinball Machines, Video Games, Juke Boxes, Vending Machines, Telephone Systems, you name it, I emailed PNatB to volunteer my services.  I just KNEW I’d easily be able to get their electromechanical toys working!  Mind you, I had NO idea of their “conversion” history; I thought they were still running on the old Relay Logic system.

Friday (01/30/2015), I grabbed Todd and one of my best friends, Paul, who has his own history in getting old stuff working, and visited the Playland Museum.  Once there, we met with two of the techs responsible for most of the maintenance on their collection of Coin-operated games and antiques.  We all went to the Fascination Parlor and the unexpected happened… they handed me four Logic Boards and said, “our machines were converted.”

In my head, I screamed, “AHHHHHHHH!”  I was NOT expecting this!

Defective Fascination Board

Defective Fascination Board

OK, I thought, it won’t be THAT bad, maybe the boards aren’t too proprietary and can be serviced.  It looks simple enough; a few Schmitt Trigger ICs, caps, lots of resistors and transistors… easy peasy!

Then, I flipped one of them over and… Dun, dun, DUUUUUUUN… saw the giant chip on the back of it.

Complex Programmable Logic Device (CPLD)

Complex Programmable Logic Device (CPLD)

What is it?  It’s a Complex Programmable Logic Device or CPLD.

Developed in 1996 (perhaps earlier), CPLDs were designed to perform the same tasks as hundreds of Logic Gates, thus replacing the discrete ICs and Relays found in older equipment and Circuit Boards.  The question now became… did the problems lie in the CPLDs or was there something wrong with the supporting components?  As it turns out, it was both.

None of the tables appeared to be working.  Paul noticed a power supply issue and quickly corrected it, bringing one Lane back to life.  He also discovered a bad solder joint on the sound card which prevented a Game Start command from being sent to the tables.  Once that was fixed, we turned to evaluating the other boards and, after testing, placed an additional one back in service.  The only problem… THAT Board was playing a “Blackout” game.  For now, this would have to do.  Further repairs would need to be done, but where to start?  Documentation.

The Logic Boards on the Fascination Tables were basic enough, but it’s still advantageous to have a schematic and PCB layout, to more easily understand the “hows” and “whys” of board operations.  I fired-up my handy-dandy CAD programs to do these and got to work.

Drawing defective board into CAD

Drawing defective board into CAD

Upon completion, the relationship between the sections and components could more easily be followed.  Unfortunately, all signs pointed to a CPLD failure.

The folks who designed the original Fascination conversion used CPLDs that were made to plug into a socket, however they actually SOLDERED all 84 pins to the Circuit Board.  There was NO way I was going to de-solder all that mess, replace the CPLDs, and solder ALL those TINY pins back again!  A PCB re-design was in order.  Knowing how the components interconnected allowed me to come up with a “new and improved” version of the board.  While I was at it, I also removed components and circuits that were never used.  Once new boards were manufactured, all the other parts could easily be relocated to my new design, saving production costs.  THIS was the original plan of attack for “Saving Fascination.”



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