I picked this cabinet up a few weeks back (you can read about that adventure here). Upright Centipedes are lovely looking machines; the artwork is arguably the most iconic of Atari’s efforts from the early eighties. Over 45,000 of these units were built, making it one of the great commercial successes of the company’s early 80s coin-op division.
So the plan has always been to give it a light restore and to move it onto another collector at some point, as I already own the cabaret version of the game. I rescued this Centipede from a container in the middle of nowhere, and I guess you could say that the condition of the cabinet reflects that. What we are starting with is a bit of a mess:
Well maybe I’m being harsh looking again at that picture. Everything is there. It is full of cobwebs and dead insects, a light smattering of bird shit adorns its top and control panel, and the bottom edges are pretty rough. But compared to some arcade machines I’ve come across, things could be a whole lot worse. It is complete, but the PCB isn’t working – I have sourced a replacement ready to drop in (the original PCB looks to have had previous repairs done to it, and the cost of a new one is about the same to get someone to start work on repairing the old one). Without knowing exactly the problem, the repair bill could get expensive. So in this case, the best option is to drop in a known working board.
So where to start? Call me daft, but it’s often psychologically a good idea to begin with something simple that’s going to give you immediate results – that way you keep your motivation. In this case, I thought the bezel, marquee and control panel would be first up for the restoration treatment. As you can see, they aren’t pretty:
Nasty in fact. Rubber gloves ahoy and let’s get them off the cab. Remove the retaining screws and pull everything out. First up, the bezel. Here we go:
Got the shower hose out, some washing up liquid, a scrubbing brush and a cloth:
Pro tip: it’s a good idea to do this in the bath to maintain domestic harmony with your loved one – dirty, soapy splashes up kitchen tiles and across the floor don’t go down well. I learned the hard way.
The marquee followed the same process. Next the control panel. Once stripped of its hardware, I got that in the bath too:
Gave it a good covering in detergent, got that agitated around with a scrubbing brush, and left it for 10 minutes:
A quick hose down later and we have a like-new panel:
Pretty dramatic results! I got lucky – no cigarette burns are evident which is very unusual. This panel has come up literally like new. Thankfully, the surface crap was superficial, mostly made up of bird shit, dust and 35 years of gamer sweat and grime. Yuk. The weather was good, so I was able to leave things to dry in the garden:
Looking much better. That’s the coin bucket out to dry too which also had a soak in the bath. I’m pleased to report there was £2.80 in old ten pence pieces in there – the latest date on the coins was 1986 which is pretty cool.
So what about the control panel hardware I removed earlier? Let’s take a look inside that trakball:
Oh. That would explain why the ball wouldn’t move. The rollers have rusted solid. This is fixable, but I’m debating whether for $50 or so, I shouldn’t just order a drop in new replacement from the USA. Makes life easier and is less painful than trying to ease those rollers and bearings in oil. Hmmm. Decisions. Anyway, for now everything can go in the sink:
Yep – just drop everything in, including the wiring loom. Add some biological washing powder and hot water, then leave to soak for a half hour. Rinse off and hey presto:
Nice and shiny again. We’ll come back to the trakball in Part 2.
The monitor was next. Sadly, it is suffering from vertical collapse. What this means is the picture shows a straight line across the centre of the screen. It’s a common fault on a monitor of this age, and shouldn’t be too difficult to fix, as it’s usually one of a couple of things. With a bit of luck, replacing a couple of transistors will sort it out:
So before we start any repairs, let’s get it cleaned up. This process tends to horrify most restorers, as it involves dousing a high voltage CRT unit with soap and water. But the results are spectacular, and if you are careful, no lasting damage will come of it. Of course you should discharge the monitor fully first, and only do this on a day the sun is shining! Here’s our starting point:
That’s 35 years of arcade dust and grime. Spray some detergent over everything:
Agitate the suds with a soft paintbrush and leave for 10 minutes. Then rinse with a hose:
Then leave to dry for a full two days in the sun. Your monitor will be like new. That worked out fine – the monitor is back in the house, and still working (albeit with the fault) waiting for when I get some time to crack open the soldering iron.
Well that’s a good start – about 3 hours work so far. In part 2, I’ll let you know what I’ve decided to do with the trackball, plus I’ll be tackling the inside of the cab, including the loom, and we’ll take a look at the state of the wood and hopefully make a start on some repairs to that bottom edge.
If restorations are your thing, do take a look at the Restoration Archive via the link at the top of the page, where you can view my previous arcade machine restorations.
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Thanks for reading this far – see you next week.