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Allentown Pinfest
Posted on 05/02/2016

Back from Allentown Pinfest.  It was my first time ever attending Allentown and first time showing any of what I've been up to in-person at a venue.  Exhausting lead-up to the show scrambling to prepare some things, which was amplified a bit by the hurry-up-and-wait on Thursday with leaving for Allentown early and finding out we would need to wait another 4hrs or so to get into the flea market area because a seminar was going on in that building.  I didn't really know what to expect on Friday being set up in the flea market area, but had quite a bit of interest & about a 4-5 hour solid marathon of talking to person after person which was great to see.  Much better than sitting there without anyone really taking a look, but definitely exhausting!  I'm glad people were so excited in what they were seeing because it helped keep me going too! =)

It was great meeting so many people.. lots of big names in the hobby that I didn't even realize until mid-way through or the end of a conversation which was a neat surprise in itself.  Lots of people took cards, many people said they saw the website or bought something from me in the past.  It was a neat experience for sure that I was somewhat on-the-fence about even doing, because I hadn't had much of a chance of getting inventory prepared due to a busy few months leading up to the show.  I'm glad I went though.  I got to show some things in-person to everyone from people just starting out in the hobby and wanting to learn solid state pinball machines.. to people that design and create circuit boards themselves.  Despite not bringing much inventory with me, I had some of the testing tools out to show people what I was offering on the website.  Lots of people took business cards & it was neat hearing all the comments, good feedback and many times excitement from people in what they were seeing.

Thanks to everyone that stopped by and said hi, talked shop or in many cases about other neat things they were working on.  Sorry if I missed talking to you or you couldn't catch me with a free moment.. much of it was a blur for me and I'm not quite used to a marathon of talking like that, but it was truly awesome seeing and hearing all of the interest.  Met many passionate people in the hobby, like-minded people, DIY'ers, people just starting out.  All the positive comments, excitement and feedback from people was rewarding in itself!

2nd PCB Order of 2016 Made!
Posted on 03/18/2016

It's been about 2 months in the making, but I finally wrapped up a 2nd PCB order for 2016.  Projects that made the cut are the PIGGYDEUX (Gottlieb Sys80B Piggyback Alternative) and Bally/Stern 6-digit and 7-digit Conversion Display PCBs I've been working hard on the last few months.  Also some more 5101 NVRAM Adapters with a slight design change that should hopefully make assembly a bit easier. There's also another small piece of diagnostic equipment for Williams WPC I haven't mentioned yet. With any luck, most or all of these boards will be good to sell!  I need the funds to continue creating some neat things.. as the last few PCB orders I've done haven't stirred up the sales I had expected (I'm looking at you, Bally SDB Testers!).  I'd like to continue creating some neat things, but won't be able to for long without finding a few items that draw more interest, more sales & provide the necessary funds for development costs and board orders.  Here's hoping this latest PCB order pans out!

Down The Rabbit Hole, And Back Again?
Posted on 03/09/2016

Lots of new projects underway!  I already had a handful of new projects I was working on toward the end of last year, but while working on wrapping up a 2nd PCB order that I expected to get sent off early February.. some new ideas came about for some even more interesting projects.  I've been thinking of it as "falling down the rabbit hole" in Alice In Wonderland -- and sometimes falling into something new and unknown isn't a bad thing at all.  It can be exciting, actually.

One of the new ideas is what I'm calling Retrofit LED Displays for Classic Bally/Stern machines to convert an old out-gassed 6-digit or 7-digit display into an LED display.  I wanted to do something with full replacement LED displays for Bally/Stern at some point, as far back as 2011, but due to much higher PCB costs back then I wrote off the project.  There was no way I'd be able to get it right the first time and prototyping would have cost a small fortune.  So I shrunk the design down & created the Bally/Stern Bench LED Display from those efforts.  Still.. over the years, I kept coming back to a full-blown replacement LED display design.  I'd done multiple designs in CAD, but just never pulled the trigger on ordering boards.. there always seemed to be something that could be tweaked & I still wasn't sure just how much I had to worry about being "low power" because I'd never done any actual load testing before and after adding led displays -- and no one else had put that information out there either.

So LED displays for those machines have continued to be an item on my list of possible projects & I keep coming back to the designs because I really want to create my own set, even if just for my own use.  In addition, there was also a separate project for finding an easier way to convert an old out-gassed display board to LED by utilizing the component board.

Fast forward to 2016 and I decided it was time to start working on the LED displays.  In preparation, I did some load-testing to figure out once-and-for-all just what kind of typical load one of these machines had on its 5v regulator.  Then I could see what additional load was being added by led displays and see just how much of a concern it is to design with lowest possible power consumption.  This was a project of its own, setting up various tests with both a switching regulator and linear regulator and attempting to get some decent data, but it helped me to get of things & feel more comfortable about creating led displays since I'd have some way to gauge the additional load they were putting on a machine.

So I already had a CAD design for led displays I had worked on even toward the end of 2015.. nearly ready to go for a prototype, when I look over my project list & see "figure out a nicer way to convert an old Bally/Stern component board to LED" that has been there *for years*.  I have seen a handful of people question if it was possible, then look into it and write it off because no one had come up with an easy way to do the conversion.  So.. I figured, lets revisit it again and maybe once-and-for-all figure out if there's a way to do the conversion.  And better yet, check the additional load a design like that might put on the 5v regulator (now that I had some way to test that).

So.. down the rabbit hole, but with an exciting new project to possibly have a less expensive way to put LED displays in a machine by figuring out a way to streamline conversion of old out-gassed display boards into something new.  And it's been a LONG couple of weeks designing, testing, tweaking.. both the electronics & then the pcb layout itself, but if what I've come up with works out -- an exciting new kit should come out of it!  For me, this particular project is more exciting than many of the other things I've developed because it's something I can put in a machine that completely changes the look of it.  I've been wanting to put Blue LED Displays in my Stern Black Beauty Shuffle Alley for a few years now, and just to be able to get that out of this project would be rewarding.

Lots Of Stuff Back In Stock!
Posted on 01/30/2016

PCB order from a few weeks ago came in, so a lot of things are now back-in-stock and there's even a few new items popping up! The Stern MPU-200 NVRAM Adapter boards are once again available as bare boards or kits -- and there's some new sale pricing there too & quantity discounts as well. So definitely check them out if you have any Stern MPU-200 based games. The WPC Dedicated Switch Tester is once again available as a kit. I've added some bare/board kit pricing on the eprom adapters. There's also some quantity discounts on pinball wire harnesses. There's a new 3rd-party logic chip tester (mostly 74XX series) too. Some other sales and products not mentioned, so definitely take a look around!

Another Molex Order Needed
Posted on 01/23/2016

Geez, I'm beginning to think I should just buy stock in Molex. I'm on the verge of having to make another order for Molex parts, after I already made one toward the end of December for near $500 in various connectors, pins, board-to-board connectors. I've said it before, but it's amazing how quickly a little amount of parts add up. I'm really hoping that sales pick up a bit once I get a few new products out there so I can start getting some of these parts orders paid for. Anyway, I'm looking at another $300 order in parts because I need board-to-board connectors for the BallyStern Solenoid Output Tester and a few other designs. I could cut it down to about $200 probably, but enough of this stuff goes OOS everywhere for a while -- like they only produce it certain times of the year or when there's enough distributors back-ordering that they can justify a run of 100,000 units of a part. So although I'll probably sit on 100x or 200x of various connectors for a bit I don't want to chance having a Molex part hold up selling something. So I'm trying to split the difference and order "enough" so I'm not running out in a few months, but still keep it somewhat "sane" to not have it take years to pay off. I already have a few big boxes with Molex parts -- much of which I could probably have for 5-10 years because of the niche products I'm using them in. I actually hate thinking about how many thousands of dollars are probably wrapped up in those parts. Ideally I can sell enough of each product to offset material and design costs, and then it doesn't matter so much.. but that doesn't always happen very quick =P Well, here's hoping on this next round of parts!

First 2016 PCB Order In!
Posted on 01/19/2016

Been working some over the last week or so to get the first PCB order together. It should have gone relatively fast as some of the boards are just re-orders, but I had a few tweaks to just about everything & then wanted to get one of the newer designs mentioned on the Pinitech Lab thrown into the mix. So although it's not incredibly popular (per the waitlist), the Bally/Stern Solenoid Output Tester made the order. I've also ordered more MPU-200 Adapters and WPC Dedicated Switch Tester Boards since I ran out of bare boards for kits, so they have been unavailable except as assembled boards (which I'm low on anyway). Included some more of the Bally/Stern bench display boards as well. So look for some of those things to go back-in-stock as kits/bare boards sometime early February!

Yikes. New USPS Shipping Rates Take Effect
Posted on 01/19/2016

The new USPS rates have taken effect as of Sunday, 1/17/2016. Rates have gone up across the board and I've updated shipping rates for the shopping cart accordingly. I probably have some things to tweak for weights of some things going forward, but the bottom line is once again USPS rates are up -- near 20% in many cases. Unfortunately it looks like international rates went up even more than domestic rates -- they have been doing that over the last few years and there gets to be some pretty ridiculous shipping rates even for lighter items. I'll be taking a closer look at this soon to see what I can do to minimize the impact of these types of things -- maybe offer some shipping discounts on very large orders and just eat some of the shipping costs. What a pain!

New PCB Order Soon & A Few Other Updates
Posted on 01/09/2016

I've decided I'm going to split up a PCB order I had planned on making in January into two separate orders. The first order will be [mostly] items that I'm running low on. Ordering enough quantity of some of those boards about justifies a separate order in itself. I'll be trying to *squeeze in* the Bally/Stern Solenoid Output Tester in there as well (one of the newer designs on the Pinitech Lab page). And maybe another smaller board I haven't discussed yet. So at this point I'm shooting to get that in by the end of next week. Then I'll take some time wrapping up some designs for the 2nd PCB order that will likely occur closer to the end of January or sometime in February, which should hopefully include a few additional new designs I had been working on over in the Pinitech Lab.

The Universal Tester project -- that one is going to be a play-it-by-ear type of thing. I'll be trying to squeeze in some time to work on it in January/February but I also have quite a lot of project machines to work on that **need to go** to gain space back. So my plan there is to use a bunch of the equipment I've built over these last few years to start making headway through project machines over the winter months. Intertwined in that will be continued work on some new projects and most likely inspiration for some more one-off testers that can help making diagnosing of machines easier. It sounds good on paper at least, so that's going to be my direction for early 2016.

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