Atari Centipede Restoration 1

Well here we are, back on the hamster wheel of arcade restorations. This time round, I came across a game I’ve never really played before – Centipede. Released in 1981, it quickly became one of Atari’s mainstay arcade titles, and is widely regarded as one of the classics of the Golden Era.

It was released in three form factors – in upright form, cabaret form and a cocktail version. The appeal to me of the cabaret, is it would match the Tempest cabaret that I’d already restored (see previous blogs), and space is at a premium in my gamesroom – so anything I can do to maximise the space I have is a good thing. I bought this from a guy in Norfolk over here in the UK. This involved a four hour drive there and back in order to collect the machine.

You’ve got to make sacrifices for this hobby, and the journey home was no exception:

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The cab fit in the car. But only just. I could barely change gear, and had to sit at an angle in order to drive. But we made it home safely.

I was very pleased with my purchase – the cab was in great condition considering its age. Apart from being absolutely filthy, everything was there, and was working!

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The control panel was in OK shape – pretty dirty, and a few cigarette burns as you can see, but nothing a good strip down and clean up wouldn’t fix:

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Placing your cigarette on the control panel of arcade games was pretty standard practice back in the day. Some operators tried to combat this by screwing ashtrays onto the front of their machines. As a restorer, it’s a toss up as what’s worse – filling in bolt holes from ashtrays, or dealing with cigarette burns.

Centipede uses a trackball. In this case it’s the smaller standard Atari 2.5″ trackball unit. These tend to wear out over time, and this one was no exception – it was noisy and very unresponsive. For the cost of parts and shipping, it’s just as well to order a new replacement unit and just drop it in to replace the old one. A bit of online searching found a source in Chicago, and an order was placed with expedited shipping. Should be here in a few days.

Looks like a few bits of wood need replacing, and the cardboard bezel that surrounds the monitor was falling apart. Nothing too taxing here:

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Round the back, everything is correct and present, but nothing had been touched for 30 years. It’s pretty grimy in there.

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Being a European machine, this Centipede was built at Atari’s manufacturing plant at Tipperary in Ireland – one of many Atari classic arcade cabinets built there during the early 80’s, to be distributed all over the European market. Here’s the identifier plate confirming this:

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For all intents and purposes it is identical to the cabaret cabinets you will have found in the USA. The only difference I’ve noted, is the bezel artwork isn’t quite as colourful as the US version.

So that’s what we had to work with. Overall, a good solid cab in pretty decent shape.

Do keep an eye out for part 2!

Tony

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