Centuri Aztarac: Finding THE Holy Arcade Grail…

Let me start by saying that this is the most amazingly poignant tale I’ve come across in arcade collecting circles. I’ve written before about incredible rare arcade “finds” that have happened over the years, including the yarn about the Sundance cabinet found in a long-abandoned building, and of course the epic Fun Ship raid.

But this story tops even those.

With a factory in Hialeah, Florida, Centuri produced arcade machines during the arcade Golden Age from 1980 until its eventual closure in 1985. Formed following the takeover of Allied Leisure by the former President of Taito America, it was responsible for some of the more memorable 80s arcade titles ever produced. These included Gyruss, Rip Off, Time Pilot, Hyper Sports, Track & Field and of course Phoenix. Most were licensed from Japanese developers, notably Konami.


In addition to these licensed products, four games were developed and produced in-house. The last of these was 1983’s Aztarac, developed by Tim Stryker. Being its only color vector release, the game was seen as a brave voyage into a new era of arcade games, looking to mimic the direction of the darlings of the arcade industry, Atari, who were releasing a raft of color vector titles at around the same time. For an arcade manufacturing minnow like Centuri, it seemed to be the obvious way to go.


Tim joined Centuri after moving to Florida from Connecticut, following the lacklustre response to the games he’d written to date via his company Mach 2 Software. Keen to develop more of its own titles and grab a foothold in what appeared to be a burgeoning vector arcade market, Centuri gave Tim a free hand to explore what this new technology could do. The result was the impressive Aztarac:


The game puts the player in control of a tank with a turret that operates independently, allowing movement to be made in one direction and shots to be made in another. The player has to protect several Space outposts from a never ending attack from enemy ships. It’s a take on Space Duel and Asteroids I guess. This isn’t a game that I’ve ever played, but the game play videos that are out there look pretty cool:

The cabinet looks glorious. Its most noticeable feature is the unique fishbowl bezel design, which intensifies the visuals generated by the hi resolution Wells Gardner 6401 color vector monitor – state of the art tech at the time.



Screenshots and logos from centuri.net.

But despite the stunning visuals (for the time at least), the game was not a commercial success at all. There are various estimates of the number of Aztaracs actually built – many put the figure at 500, but based on Centuri’s 1983 annual report, it seems that perhaps less than 200 is a more likely figure. Either way, this cabinet is now considered to be very very rare, with almost no known examples in the hands of collectors.

Disheartened by the reaction to his game, Tim parted company with Centuri and video game development forever shortly thereafter. After working as a consultant to large companies in the Florida area, he set up his own company Galacticomm Inc, and wrote assembler routines for IBM based computers, culminating in the release of MajorBBS – which pre-dated the internet as we know it today by allowing up to 32 users to “dial up” and access a single piece of software. His Bulletin Board Software was a huge hit and went on to become the backbone for many online communities. Tim had found success at last.

Tim date unknown
Tim Stryker sometime in the 90’s. Credit: Jerry Stryker

Tim was quite the visionary. He began development of what he called the “Superdemocracy” movement, and released several books outlining his bold ideas. His aim was to give US citizens the ability to vote and participate in the political process within Cyberspace. This ultimately, in Tim’s view would eliminate the need for Congress – putting power into the hands of people through the use of computers (uncanny right?)

Sadly, some ten years later, things would end in tragedy after moving to Utah with his wife and children. After a bout of severe depression which Tim was known to suffer from, on 6th August 1996, he drove deep into the hills of Colorado, stepped out of his car, raised a shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger. He was just 41.

By this time Aztarac like many of its arcade contemporaries, was long-forgotten. In more recent years, interest in the game has grown. Collectors have been aware of the title, but very few examples were turning up. Many consider it to be their “Grail” machine – the one to be hunted down and found. Just a handful of machines are known to exist, and the occasional part has been discovered, like this bezel uncovered in a warehouse in 2014:

Aztarac’s unique bezel

In the summer of 2016, like many arcade collectors, Neil from Miami, Florida was browsing an online “For Sale” website one afternoon, when a listing turned up with this picture:


The description was minimal:

My grandfather’s arcade game.. Needs gaming motherboard.. Collectors edition. Great condition. $975

There was no mention of the word Aztarac, but Neil knew exactly what he was looking at, and called the seller immediately. After being given the green light to come view the machine, Neil jumped in his truck with a friend and arrived only to find another buyer sniffing around the Aztarac. Neil picks up the story:

We get to the location and there was a guy already there. He was low-balling the seller and had the idea to grab the cabinet and turn it into a 60-1. I pulled the guy to one side, and told him this wasn’t going to be his day with this machine, and that he needed to leave it to the pros. I almost slapped him across the street when he mentioned 60-1.

The mind boggles that someone would consider butchering such a rare piece of history to make a quick buck. Installing 60-in-1 PCBs into a classic arcade machine is an easy and cheap way to buy and flip. Whatever – Neil’s “quiet word” with the guy did the trick – he backed off, and Neil was able to buy the machine, load up and drive away with this incredibly rare title on the back of his truck. The Aztarac was literally saved from an uncertain fate.

But here’s where the story gets interesting. Arriving back at his unit, Neil was able to take a closer look at the condition of the cabinet. After a quick clean up, it looked to be complete and in amazing shape:







The identifier plate was intact at the rear of the cabinet:


But there was a problem. The cabinet was locked and there were no keys.

I had a bag of old spare keys and I remembered having another Centuri title, Circus Charlie, with a bad lock. I threw away the lock and kept the keys… I’m glad I did, because the same keys opened the front coin door of the Aztarac.

Inside the Aztarac was literally a Pandora’s box. A goodie bag sat in the base of the cab still sealed from the factory, which contained a sales invoice, a delivery receipt and a New Equipment Condition Report form.

That’s when Neil looked at the coin counter meter. it read “000001”:


And, sitting in the coin bucket was a single coin; a quarter dated 1983.

This 35 year old machine had a single recorded play from a single quarter. But then came the bombshell. Neil opened the bag and examined the delivery receipt:


It was clear that the original recipient of this Aztarac arcade cabinet was none other than the late “Tim Stryker”.

The enormity of what he had found hit Neil. This machine was built by Centuri at its factory and was delivered to and owned by Tim himself – the guy who wrote the game. And what’s more, it had only one play recorded on the coin counter, and the coin that triggered that single digit on the meter was still sitting inside the cabinet after almost 35 years. Not only is this one of the rarest arcade titles in the world, it is THE original Aztarac. Truly a grail find.

What’s missing from the tale is how the cabinet ended up where it did. All we know is that the seller said it belonged to his grandfather. Perhaps Tim sold it when he moved to Utah in 1995?



As for the machine itself: The PCB doesn’t work and the monitor could do with a rebuild, but everything is complete and present, and things are in motion to get it up and running again.

The good news is that the Aztarac is now in the safe hands of a specialist Vector arcade collector in Florida, and word is that the machine should be at this year’s Free Play Florida arcade event and available to play. To have an opportunity to see and play Tim Stryker’s personal Aztarac machine, is one I’m certainly not going to miss.

Neil in front of his amazing arcade find

What an incredible find this was. Not only was a very rare cabinet saved, but an amazing piece of arcade history has been found and recorded.

I would like to thank my buddy Neil for allowing me to share this great tale with you all.

Thanks as always for stopping by the blog – please consider sharing this article using the social media buttons below. See you next week!


In memory of Tim Stryker 1954-1996:


Update, December 2017: You can read the follow up to this article here.

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56 Comments Add yours

  1. Ben76 says:

    Amazing story…

    Liked by 4 people

  2. silpheed says:

    Congratulations on such a great find!

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Brilliant story and amazing find. Stunning!

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Neil McEwan says:

    Simply amazing. Wow after wow after wow. Thanks for sharing Tony.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. Tony, thank you so much for finding this unit and writing about it. I am Tim’s oldest sister (by 8 years), and the first arcade game I ever tried to play was at his house in Florida in early 1984, almost certainly on this machine. He didn’t require quarters for family members to play, of course. I haven’t ever been a gamer, and the fast action and noise were nerve-rattling for me, but I was so proud of his creativity and ability to turn his ideas into the actual machine.
    He was brilliant, funny, and kind. Losing him was terrible. Your article and photos bring back sweet memories and a smile to my face and heart.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 10 people

  6. Jerry Stryker says:

    I am Tim’s proud, very proud father and am grateful to Tony for this incredible blog. It aroused a flood of memories and caused me to delve into my bulging collection of letters from Tim dating from his high school days. I had hoped to find a letter with specifics about his work at Centuri, but all I found was this bit from one of his typically long and detailed letters, dated May 17, 1982 “: …I’ll be starting work shortly as a video game designer. Don’t feel too bad about it. As I think I told you, I’ve really been trying hard to get a job as a computer architect, but to no avail….So what I say is: fine, if all of these dingbats in their three-piece suits don’t want the services of a hard-working fellow who happens to be capable of designing them the best god damned microprocessor there ever was, then, fine, they won’t have them. Meanwhile I’ll see if I can’t scare up some interest in some other field. Video games might seem like going to the opposite extreme, but it’s big business, and I know of few other areas in which one’s ability to produce is so severely tested or so readily apparent when present. I’ve come to the realization that nobody is ready to believe that you’re worth a half crap unless and until they see, first hand, that it’s the case. Designing a few hit video games can perhaps result in the conveyance of that first-hand knowledge to a sizeable fraction of the engineering population. Then watch out! (if I sound angry, it’s because I am.)”

    Liked by 11 people

  7. Jon says:

    What an awesome find and story… all the research I ever did on Centuri I never fully understood why Aztarac was the holy grail, as there were a couple of games made by them that are even rarer and I doubt most of you will have never have seen ( I have some amazing press photos of them). I think the background story about Tim was one of the reasons why this game became such a rarity where the others have no story behind them… Great Find, Great Article.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Jules says:

    Never heard of Aztarac, but a great article!

    Loving the arcade game resurgence (esp. here in chicago)

    Liked by 4 people

  9. The Lawn-Cutting Crew says:

    What an awesome story and a great writeup! It’s also a very nice tribute to the developer.

    Imagine finding something like that! I’m glad it’s in the hands of someone who will truly appreciate it.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. noonespecial says:

    great story, but bad destiny for Tim…

    Liked by 3 people

  11. ddivalove says:

    Great job sir

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Liu Min says:

    True! An amazing story!


  13. Congratulations…thank you for this amazing story. My son read it and found it incredibly informative.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Sarah says:

    Touching story! Well written.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Holy shit! Finding a game like that and that too owned by its developer! HOLY GRAIL indeed 🙂


  16. noonespecial says:

    you ´re right: Holy grail! So, keep the miraculous powers, and stay true to yourself…lucky boy!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Ben's Lab says:

    Those old games are really something aren’t they? I found one of those old tabletop games last week..Man it was fun!


  18. behavior917 says:

    What a find! Thank you for taking the time and saving these old classics! Seeing these big old boxes called Arcades, brings back so many special childhood memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. skeevev62 says:

    cool story, what a rare find. Interesting to know the back story on the game but sad about what happened to the developer of the game I played a lot of arcade games but don’t remember that one probably never made it up here

    Liked by 1 person

  20. noonespecial says:

    same opinion! Cool and at the same time sad story.
    I’ve never played a lot of video games … from self-protection …; ). If I remember the “Atari” “tennis” that I liked to play with my grandfather, I can well imagine that in such “defense games” was a sensational innovation, that you can move simultaneously in one direction , And can shoot in a different direction. The ability to achieve its goal has a different dimension.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Great post, really enjoyable read.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. This is awesome!! I’m a young female teen so most people would assume that I know nothing about old school gaming, but I am a HUGE fan of old arcade games. You are SO lucky to have found this!! I would have cried my eyes out

    Liked by 1 person

  23. ksanders06 says:

    This is so interesting


  24. Paul Cola says:

    Just added this page to the write up I did on Tim many years ago on gamedesignersremembered.com. This article was so inspiring. Thank you for preserving a piece of history… and part of Tim’s legacy.

    PS: I hope it’s okay I used Tim’s image from your article. I’ve cited you as one of the sources for it. Let me know if you need it updated.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Tony says:

    No problem Paul. Glad you enjoyed the article.


  26. 123mattyd says:

    A great story and tribute to the creator of the machine. Glad his family were able to share in it.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. marvel says:


    Liked by 1 person

  28. Jon Stoodley says:

    Awesome story. Tragic ending for the game designer but one really positive thing’s for sure, he played a fantastic role in classic video games and for that I’m really grateful.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Sasha Sekretov says:

    Amazing story, amazing find, and tragic ending to a more then spectacular human being. Thank you for writing and sharing this story, and thank you to the family for chiming in. Love you and thank you for creating such a masterpiece. R.I.P. Hope I find one of your gems too one day to add to my collection.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I’m here on a mission and if anyone could help me find anything on Galacticomm’s BBS software, vendors or BBS’s running Galacitcomm’s Software. Last but not least Tim Stryker. I’m dedicating a webpage to preserve the history of everything related to Tim’s Stryker’s BBS software. I’ve been non-stop for pass year and a half on archive.org gathering info on every bbs ever in existence using his software. I have a huge collection already. I’ve been sacrificing lots of sleep and time while working 10 hour days including overtime. I don’t know whats compelled me to do this other than I miss the dial-up days of bbsing and the fun it brought. R.I.P Tim Stryker and god bless. E-mail me at Skirmish101@gmail.com


  31. Terry Stryker Merrifield says:

    Cameron, look up Jason Scott’s online resources regarding BBS history — he has a documentary, and a lengthy complilation of BBS software, including for the Major BBS. Maybe you’ll find something to add to what you have already found.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Rich says:

    This is amazing, and even more so that it was Tim’s personal machine with 1 play on it. Incredible. I ran a BBS back in the mid 90’s on Tim’s MajorBBS software, so I recognized his name immediately. I never knew he worked for Centuri before that.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Les Bird says:

    I played that exact machine at Tim’s house. I was hired by Tim in 1990 to join Galacticomm. Relocating to Ft Lauderdale from Jacksonville Florida. My apartment would not be ready for a couple weeks so Tim and his wife Christine invited me to stay at their place until I could move in. As an arcade addict I recall seeing that machine in the basement of his house and asked him about it. He said it was a game he made while he worked at Centuri. Of course I asked him if I could play it and he was thrilled to show it to me. When I went down with him I immediately recognized the game and told him “I’ve played this before”. He was surprised to hear that. I don’t recall where I played it, an arcade or airport, but I definitely remember playing it. He watched me play the game and said “yep, you’ve played it before…”. He was a great guy and crazy smart. I always felt so dumb in his presence. Good times back then. On my website I have copies of The MajorBBS software from my personal library. I’ve always wondered what happened to the machine when he moved to Utah. Glad it ended up in the hands of someone who appreciates it. By the way on the title screen if you spin the knob real fast you’ll see a message pop up “Designed by Tim Stryker”. He showed me that Easter egg when he was showing off his machine.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Richard Justin says:

    I worked with Tim at Centuri back in 1983 on the hardware design. I worked for Steve Zarzecki prototyping, wire wrapping and debugging the hardware. We parted ways when it appeared Centuri was going to pull the plug on our mini heavenly R&D shop. Then, in 1985, I received a call from Steve to work at a startup called DataNet in Miami/Miramar FL. Again, Tim was here designing a unique data collection system – CoLog – that would concentrate the work of 128 DataNet soft programmable terminals into a single data stream that could be ported to an IBM system 3x. At the same time he and Steve were working on Galacticomm. Tim was an amazing guy and truly a genius of the technology world. He was ahead of his time and I have never met an individual like him

    Liked by 1 person

  35. What an incredible story!!

    Liked by 1 person

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