Story dated October 23, 2003

It's the one big issue if you own an older solid state pinball game. Displays.

Once manufacturers started using microprocessors to control the games, they used high voltage gas plasma displays to show scores, ball number and credits remaining.

These displays are prone to failure as are the high voltage circuits required to drive them. But the main problem now - and something that will only get worse in the future - is availability. These games were not designed to still be functioning today, and so these problems fall mainly on the home user, though many games using these displays are still on routes around the world.

So what do you do when manufacturers cease production and you need a new display?

Well, one German company has come up with a solution - PinLED. They have produced LED versions of these displays designed specifically for pinball use.

But can LEDs ever look like the original displays?

The answer is "absolutely yes". Possibly even better because they will keep looking bright and crisp throughout their life.

PinLED have made nine different models to replace the displays in Williams system 11, WPC and Data East games, so they come in 7-digit and 16 digit varieties, with single or dual line versions available too.

But the big deal about these displays is because they are surface mount LEDs they run from a 5V supply and don't need the high voltages. So even if your high voltage supply has failed you can still just plug in these LED replacements and you're up and running as there is a 5V supply in the original cable.

PinLED suggest you disconnect the high voltage supply to avoid the possibility of shocks or fire but you can leave it working if you want. Either way, it is not needed with these displays.

Not only do they look fantastic, they also support all the scrolling, dimming, flashing and fading of the originals. The company believes that anyone with modest technical abilities should be able to fit one in ten minutes.

We mentioned the lifetime of the displays. PinLED's Jurgen Jakobi says the company offers a five year warranty but they should last indefinitely.

Most of these displays are available right now, either direct from PinLED or in the North America from Marco Specialities.

That's what's available now, but in the future they will also be producing LED versions of the 128x16 dot matrix displays used in some Data East games and no longer produced.

They have a 128x32 LED display but it is uneconomic when compared to the currently available high voltage versions. Also, it shows a noticeable grid pattern which is being addressed.

But for anyone with a game using 7 or 16 character displays, you now have any excuse for that missing digit or a dim display.


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