5.2.13

How to Build a Pinball Machine

BY JEFF ROBERTSON

Around Thanksgiving 2012, I was visiting my parents, and my dad and I were looking for a game to download on the Wii game archive that we would both enjoy. Dad does not like games that involve coordinated movements, dodging enemies or jumping. I do not enjoy games that are terrible. This limited our options.

We came across a 1985 Nintendo game "Pinball", and we played. Dad talked about how much he liked pinball, and so of course the next day I told my mom she should get my dad a pinball machine for Christmas.

With a few Craigslist searches, I found pinball machines are prohibitively expensive. That's when I stumbled across this post: http://imgur.com/a/tAId9

Some guy built himself a virtual pinball machine. After more looking, I found that lots of people build their own machines - there's an entire community around it. http://www.vpforums.org/

Since I met the requirements of liking pinball and having seen a hammer before, I set about building a pinball machine.

A pictorial retrospective:

  1. Buy a cheap, refurbished computer with two monitors. Put a good video card in it.
    Pinball Machine
  2. Spend hours and hours at vpforums.org trying to figure out how to make the pinball emulator work
    Pinball Machine
  3. Build a frame
    Pinball Machine
  4. Realize you aren’t great at making things square
    Pinball Machine
  5. Call in reinforcements
    Pinball Machine
  6. Continue with it slightly not square because you don’t have time to start over
    Pinball Machine
  7. Make sure stuff fits (that’s important)
    Pinball Machine
  8. Sand, prime and paint
    Pinball Machine
    Pinball Machine
    Pinball Machine
  9. Realize you forgot about adding legs. Add legs.
    Pinball Machine
  10. Drill button holes and put some Plexiglas over the monitors
    Pinball Machine
  11. Stick the computer inside
    Pinball Machine
  12. Get a Teensy and wire some arcade-style buttons to it
    Pinball Machine
    Pinball Machine
  13. Make sure the buttons work
    Pinball Machine
  14. Decide at the 11th hour to build a tilt sensor. Have no supplies to do so and just use cardboard and spare wire.
    Pinball Machine
  15. Duct tape that ugly, terrible idea in your otherwise nice-looking case
    Pinball Machine
  16. Find someone artistic enough to make things look good
    Pinball Machine
  17. Put a few finishing touches on the edges
    Pinball Machine
  18. Test it for a while
    Pinball Machine
  19. Hide it in the garage and surprise Dad at Christmas
    Pinball Machine
Jeff Robertson
written by JEFF ROBERTSON

Jeff Robertson is a digital marketer and an online development expert with experience stretching back to dial-up. He is partner and Chief Technology Officer at Carbon8, where he helps bridge the gap between the technical and marketing worlds, as well as oversees technical infrastructure.

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