As hinted at in the last post, I’m now the owner of a vintage 1978 Gottlieb “Charlie’s Angels” pinball machine. It’s one of the very earliest solid state (that’s “electronic” to the non-techies among you) pinball machines made. In about 1977, pinball companies started switching their electromagnetic machines (the ones with the big scoring reels) over to electronic machines. Some of these early machines, like my other pinball machine – the 1978 Gottlieb “Dragon”, came in both EM and SS versions.
Electronics just weren’t what they are today in 1978 – many of these early designs suffer from some serious design problems and some very fragile parts. The early Gottlieb machines were no exceptions. Many machines are long dead due to catastrophic failures of the CPU board, the driver board, or the power supply. They also put a NiCD battery on the CPU board that had a lifespan of about 10 years. 27 years later, many of these batteries have exploded leaking acid all over the CPU boards. Most boards that sustained acid damage were destroyed with no prayer of repair.
On top of all that, many machines spent dozens of years in bars, bowling alleys, laundromats, storage warehouses, or even barns. That level of neglect causes any number of ills – rotten cabinets, corrosion, warping, flaking of the glass, and so forth. Finally, many a well-intentioned owner applied their own ‘fixes’ to try to keep a machine alive.
My “Charlie’s Angels” machine is typical of many of those old machines – its first 27 years haven’t been kind. When I bought it, it suffered from a variety of ailments including:
Acid damage on the main CPU board (minor, but repaired)
Connectors hacked off with wires soldered directly to the CPU board
A really dicey power supply, probably contributing to some flakiness of the game
Dim 6-segment displays – some so bad you can only read them in the dark!
A really dirty playfield, covered in black gunk
broken or missing playfield parts, such as some lanes, the pop bumper lights and skirts
scratched glass and cabinet
mismatched head and body – a head from a different game was transplanted at some point
Over half the light bulbs were missing or burned out
Some bonehead oiled the pop bumpers, causing the aforementioned “black gunk”
I guess that’s why the machine only cost me $100!
I’ve actually been looking for another early Gottlieb System 1 game for a couple of years. With my knowledge of Gottlieb repair and some good spare parts leftover from restoring my “Dragon”, I figured I could take a pretty junky machine and give it new life. With that in mind, here are the pluses:
First and foremost – it does work!
The backglass is in good shape
Most parts are original
The playfield is unwarped and in decent – but dirty – shape
I know how to fix power supplies, dim displays and other mechanical problems
That’s the quick (or not so quick) intro to my latest arcade project – my next installment will update where it’s at today (Hint: the news is *very* good). I’ll be sure to include pictures, too.