Restored – Atari (1978) Football XO

Many of you my age (ahem) may remember this ominous bar-table size stand up arcade in the corner of the arcade.  The one everyone crowded around as they watched 2 people frantically spinning over-sized trackballs in opposite directions.

This machine was something totally different.  Black and white monitor.  Simple design.  Head to head action football using X’s and O’s like that of how a college football coach would draw up a play.

This is Atari Football – reborn and just as glorious as ever.


The Donor Machine

The donor machine was actually in reasonable physical condition, given the number of years on the clock and knowing how much of a beating these machines took on a daily basis.

The odd part of this machine was that it was equipped with joysticks in place of where the trackballs would reside.  Originally, I just scoffed at the retrofit thinking it was probably the best a route operator could do in order to get the machine back out making money.  But after disassembling the machine, I realized it was no retrofit at all.

Upon flipping open the hood, I saw that this machine had custom PCBs to convert the digital 8-way joystick signals to differential pulsed voltage outputs via multiple astable multivibrator circuits.   Ok, I was showing off there because I actually knew what it was as soon as I saw it (back from when I designed one in my Electrical Engineering lab).  What this means is that, for some reason which I can only imagine is because of lawsuits due customer injury), that Atari had actually changed their design in the latter portion of the manufacturing of this machine to use joysticks.  The circuits, connectors, and joysticks were all period specific items and all factory made.  I have never seen that before, nor have I read about it in any of the forums that cover the restoration of this machine.  Great!  We had a unique discovery!

So, while that is interesting and all, we’re were not going to keep it that way.  This machine needed to be converted back to the way people remembered it…  with those huge trackballs.     After finally sourcing all the components to rebuild the trackballs in new condition, I realized why they went to joysticks.  The balls themselves are almost 5 lbs each (larger and heavier than Bocce balls to give you a reference).   Now I remember the injuries people suffered on this machine (busted fingers, welts on their palms, huge blisters from pinches between the ball and housing.  AWESOME!

Other items:

  • The monitor powered up but was pretty sad and had an unstable and horrible picture.
  • The cardboard bezel for the monitor (in the shape of a stadium) was deteriorated and had liquid damage from years of drinks spilled into the machine
  • The control panels were rusted
  • coin door was there but not appealing
  • glass was chipped and scratched
  • cabinet (wood grain) was damaged and the graphics were poor.


This machine went under the full restoration process, and in the end retains 100% of the investment.  Not only that, you will not find another Atari Football in this condition regarding the price.

  • Black and White Wells Gardner raster monitor fully rebuilt and calibrated.
  • Coin door rebuilt and restored
  • Control panels were stripped, sanded down and refinished.  New control panel overlays were sourced.  Football play controls were repaired and circuit board repaired.
  • Entire rebuild of both 4.5″ trackball assemblies – new balls, bearings, rollers.  Rebuild optics and cages
  • Game PCB and RF cage rebuilt
  • Entire cabinet and optional pedestal sanded down and restored in black with new molding and graphics.
  • New glass
  • New pedestal adjustble feet
  • Power supply and cabling updated
  • Football stadium bezel custom designed.  This is a Castle Classic Arcade original and cannot be purchased anywhere! We redesigned the stadium with a more modern look and custom made for the new owner (which will be blurred out for privacy).



Trackball / Control Panels





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