Restored – Midway (1982) Tron Arcade

In my little town growing up, there was an old brick building just under the rail road track bridge.  It had probably served as a dozen things in the past 100+ years, but I always remembered it being an old service garage.   One day, in likely 1982, it was converted into coin-op arcade.  I couldn’t believe it.   Thinking back, even then, I recall it being in a little sketchy of a location for kids, and not really the safest place to ride your bike… but things were different in the 80’s anyway.    I remember this place well.  It had a little hand-made bike rack out front large enough for maybe 3 bikes.  The concrete stairs up to the glass doors were old and crooked.  There were many rooms connected together and the floor was uneven.  The weight of the 50 plus arcade games probably didn’t help that old building much.     In the back, right in front of the counter with the attendant for coins, was the Tron machine.   It was likely their prized machine and it was obviously very different from all the others in the room.    This arcade was probably in operation for only a year or two before it mysteriously closed up.    That was the last time I had even seen this game, until now.

Now that I have restored many pinball and video machines of the era, can I truly appreciate how different this game really was.   Generally, when a machine is designed to go along with a movie, it suffers greatly due to the overhead of licensing and timing.   Of course, this game didn’t get everything that was desired and thus left out the Discs of Tron 5th game. However, there are many items so significant in this machine that it is worth noting.

First and foremost is the cabinet design.   It’s odd diamond shape cabinet was certainly not loved by operators because you cannot get a hand truck on the back very well.   It also had odd shaped wood access panels that I believe probably broke often.   So I imagine it was carted from the side and man-handled through narrow door frames.  However the shape goes very well with the theme and allows the monitor and enclosure to be very dark and roomy.

The control panel and surrounding plastics were very well designed.   Curved clear acrylic panels with fluorescent graphics were mounted above and below the control panel along with ultra-violet lighting to result in a very futuristic look.   The monitor bezel was designed to have a three dimension look and feel and an MCU graphic was mounted behind it to make you feel like you were actually inside the movie.   All of this extra plastic and tooling had to add to the game cost significantly.

Lastly, the circuit design was also very much ahead of anything of the time.   The power supply board also housed a battery backup circuit so that game scores would be saved.  This was a pretty complicated design back in the day.   It also served as a separate analog power supply for the audio circuit – which had 2 separate channels for simulated stereo sound to reduce audio feedback.

The game board itself was so complicated, that it required 3 separate, double sided PC boards and ribbon cables connecting both ends.  Needless to say, finding a working TRON board set is hard to do.     This game in general can be very expensive to build – easily twice as much than a comparable Ms. Pacman or Galaga machine from the same company released the year before.

 

Restoration

This machine was a trade in for a pinball machine that we had sold earlier in the month.  I took this trade in because I had been looking for a Tron machine for quite some time.   Of course, I was informed that the machine mostly worked and that it already had new side graphics (so that was a plus).

In actuality, the game boards were a complete loss.  They had burned traces and so much rework that they could not be salvaged.  I was pretty disappointed.  However the side graphics were applied pretty well and the cabinet was in excellent shape.

This machine went on to get the following treatment:

  • New acrylic control panel surfaces (top and bottom)
  • New control panel and spinner graphics
  • New joystick
  • Rebuilt coin door and all metal hardware
  • New monitor
  • Like new Tron PCB set
  • New power supply adapter board (made to replace the old board with newer battery backup technology)
  • New switching power supply
  • All Lighting replaced by color controlled LED.   This allowed us to program the color of the MPU, marquee and acrylic pieces.  When set to slow fade mode makes you feel like you are actually inside the game.   It’s very cool.


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