1 of 11,400 Space Invaders
Retained in an East End Loft

The Montreal Pinball Repair Blog Chronicles

Saturday afternoon while running around with my fiancée and six year old son doing errands, Sally Ann & Tau (the name of the stores, - I am not a hippie) I get two messages on my business line, about 5 minutes apart from the same guy inquiring about a pinball repair he wants done. My policy is to try and call everyone back as soon as I can, when they sound serious, so I did. He wanted to know how much I charged to fix an intermittent problem he was having with his Space Invaders pinball machine. At first I got the feeling that this guy was putting me on. His voice was bland and lifeless. I felt like he was just prodding me for information about what his machine was worth rather than really wanting to fix it. I cut him off when it got boring, and after he asked how much I would give him for it broken. I told him that I wasn`t interested in buying pinball machines that could be fixed and enjoyed, especially when they already had homes, and that I would call him back after 6PM to book his repair.

"Fine.", he said.

Back on the island, I checked the Montreal Kijiji ads and there was a Space Invaders pinball machine advertised as working for $1500, and the phone number matched my caller`s. I got on the horn and asked him when he wanted to get this done. It was past 6PM on Saturday and we agreed to fix it that night. OK then, this guy is serious about his time frame. I asked where he was located and he told me in Rosemont, on Masson east of d`Iberville. Shit ! I immediately explained my rate structure and stressed the fact that I accept cash only for the first service call. He said fine again, - a little too easy for my taste. His neighbourhood did not inspire confidence as an economically stable part of the city, but what the hell I thought, I grew up in Rosemont, and I am more or less responsible.

So I got my Bally solid state repair gear together, told my fiancée that we`d be seeing our movie rental a little later than expected, and hit the road.

Got to the address in question and Paul buzzed me up to a fine looking loft overlooking this rowdy neighbourhood. Pool table in the main living space, Gibson Les Paul under the mint looking Space Invaders pin and his i-phone ringing at least three times during the repair with people wanting to buy this thing, - as far as Québec city. I asked him why the hell he was selling it, the thing was in good aesthetic condition and was going to work properly when I got through with it. He told me that he was in the market for a house and his girlfriend said that they should get rid of "this thing" before moving. I paused from the repair, shot him a look over my reading glasses and asked him what "he" really wanted to do. He shrugged and said, "Fix it and sell it I guess." OK then.

I also asked him how long he`s had it, and where it came from. He told me that about ten years ago an older guy he knew, a coin machine operator had given him the pick of any pinball in the warehouse when he was shutting down the business in the late 1990`s. Paul liked the widebody pin and ofcourse the lovely alien creature on the backglass had stuck in his mind as a kid. I told him that he had probably picked the right one. He also told me that it always worked well, but now after not being played for a couple of years it was messing up. He had powered it up a couple of days ago, wiped it down to sell it and the damn thing wouldn`t play for more than a few games. And then later, as soon as he would hit the flippers, the counters would go blank and the game would start up again in attract mode after a few seconds. Usually, I would take some of the client`s time to look at the problem more closely, but this was Saturday night and I had other "fish to fry" as they say. So I cleaned and inspected both J3 connectors located on the power supply and on the solenoid driver board. I also redid a few cold solders I saw, or thought I saw. Slight improvement, but no, - after half a game, blank- same problem. Once I checked the diodes on the flipper coils, I swapped the solenoid driver board with my spare, and no more problem. Definitely a shop job on the PCB later on, probably a bad ground or a capacitor. Who cares, Paul and I got to the important stuff and began talking.

So after he played a few uninterrupted games while I packed my tools, Paul`s male character started to emerge. No longer was this young dude calm and docile, he was jumping and swearing at his working pinball. Seeing this, I immediately suggested that he pull the Kijiji ad off the site and enjoy his game for a while longer. In any case, it will probably do better than his RRSP if he wanted to sell it in a few years. He agreed with an excited look on his face, and when I called him back a week later to see if everything was still working, he told me that his girlfriend had gotten into the game big time and that they were going to bring it with them into their new home. He then asked if I would be available to disassemble it & set it up again to make sure everything worked properly when the time came for them to move.

"Call me," I said, "I should still be around."