May 2, 2004
The blue skies have left Allentown and it looks like they took most of the parking lot vendors with them.
Only four or five turned up for the third and final day of the show, but fewer visitors meant it was easier to buy those common parts. I bought several sets of leg levellers to replace the grubby-looking ones on some of my games and these ones should be easy to adjust without use of a hammer. At 60¢ each, it was tough to find a reason not to.
Inside, things were much busier.
The crowds were markedly down from Saturday and more like those of Friday night which meant there was usually a free game somewhere in each row provided you didn't mind what you played.
There were also two more seminars.
Talking more specifically about Gottlieb System 80 games, Ray pointed out the common failure points. The connectors linking the boards can suffer from oxidation leading to resistance between the board and the cable. This can materialise as ground faults, where points in the circuit that should be grounded start floating above 0V.
This can show up quite dramatically when coils are constantly energised by their driver transistors and begin to smoke. Ray passed round a modified driver board where the earth had all been connected together to avoid this problem.
There is also a modification required on the pop bumper driver boards to prevent similar problems.
Edge connectors can also be cleaned on the board or the plugs replaced. Ray suggested cleaning the board contacts and coating them with TunerLube - a lubricant designed for mechanical TV tuners - to prevent re-oxidisation.
Vacuum tube displays that have become dim or dead can often be revived by blasting the filament for 10 seconds or so with 12V. This is double the regular voltage and the aim is to burn off the coating of impurities on the filament.
Gene related how he bought Tag - the company making Stern's playfields - when they got into financial difficulties. He moved their equipment to his Bloomington base while Stern started using Churchill for their playfields.
IPB will be producing Eight Ball Deluxe playfields in 3-4 months with Funhouse coming out before that.
Diverging for a moment, Gene talked about a book he has written about legendary pinball artist Dave "mad-dog" Christensen. The book will go to print in two weeks and will be available from IPB and its distributors.
And talking of distributors, when Gene bought the parts division from Williams he inherited 90 distributors worldwide. In practice, some of them have ceased dealing with Williams parts so the true number is now nearer 61 with only about 45 who bother dealing with IPB.
Gene had to honour the Williams distributor system for five years from purchase but there is now only a year left until that commitment ends and Gene hinted at a major shake-up of the way IPB's products will be sold when that time comes. Indeed, the creation of Bearcave who are effectively IPB's in-house distributors and have access to IPB's full stock list.
Gene spoke about how he tried to buy Williams' pinball division and how that deal fell apart and he ended up with the parts business. Such was the disarray at Williams that even now they are finding palettes of parts in warehouses they didn't even know they owned.
He also hinted about doing something with the Pinball 2000 platform, saying he liked the kit idea and it was never given a real chance to succeed. Rob Berk and Mike Pacak are urging Gene to bring his Wizard Blocks game to this year's 20th anniversary Pinball Expo.
Gene also let slip that the new game from Mr Pinball Australia will be called Crocodile Hunter. Wayne Gillard had previously told us that the game would be licensed, so it's a reasonable guess that the game will be themed around Steve Irwin.
This seminar overran so there was just time to pop back to the hall for a few games before the daily door prize draw where once again luck deserted me.
As 4pm approached, many of the games were being packed away for transportation home and the vendors were making the last few deals.
Before we list the games brought to the show, a few closing thoughts from this first time visitor. This is a very individual show. The location is "industrial" and miles from anywhere, so a car or truck is essential. The hall is probably a bit small and some vendors had trouble getting a space in the parking lot on Saturday, so a move to a bigger, nicer venue would help.
The seminars were more informal that those at Expo but that informality occasionally meant some audience members dominated the talks to the detriment of the subject.
But in the end the Pinball Wizards Convention fulfilled its remit of a place to meet, buy, sell and play lots of games and did so in a friendly manner.
Here is a list of games set up to play in the Free Play area. The list was made on Friday before any games were sold and removed.
© Pinball News 2004