myPinballs Custom Bally Pinball Controller in Development

myPinballs

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Following on from my first revision controller board and the demo i did at play expo last year on how arduino controllers can be used to control early pinball machine playfields i have been working on updated controller board that will fit into bally games from 1976 - 1985 and allow you to create your own rules and game. The idea is that it will connect to the existing wiring in the game and allow you to recreate game rules, or create you own game and control the existing lamps, displays and solenoids. There are plenty of new features on the board to such as

RGB Lamp Control
Serial Displays
SD card sound/music storage
Multiple Channel Sound with background music capability

and there will be a new driver board to which will allow you to control many more devices, add flashers in to the games etc etc.

More details and vids to come. Here is a quick pic of the controller board layout.

Bally Pinball Controller v0.3 component layout.png
 

abaxas

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Arduino + pinball = bag of ****e.

If you seriously saying you can program a pinball machine with with arduino IDE, I worry.

The arduino software is NOT real time.
 

lukewells

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The Arduino footprint on that board looks like a Mega 2560 or a Due. The Mega is 16Mhz and the Due is 84Mhz Arm Cortex, while not realtime, both would almost definately be able to handle interrupts in less time that the original Bally MPU
 

PeteB

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How about some privacy?
Oh wow ANOTHER project coming out. Struggling to keep up with how much stuff people are putting out these days.

Very cool though. I think arduino's are powerful enough to do the job.

What about an alternative version which can attach a Raspberry Pi? Then dmd animations (or 1080p video) could also be run?
 

abaxas

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The Arduino footprint on that board looks like a Mega 2560 or a Due. The Mega is 16Mhz and the Due is 84Mhz Arm Cortex, while not realtime, both would almost definately be able to handle interrupts in less time that the original Bally MPU

That isn;t the problem. the arduino software is. You could probably progam a pinball tables on a 8052.

The arduino is NOT up to the job, however the underlying hardware is.
 
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myPinballs

myPinballs

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Arduino + pinball = bag of ****e.[

I'm not sure why you feel the need to say something like this. I actually find your comments quite offensive. I have already stated that I showed the power and functionality of arduinos at Play Expo in October 2014. They can control 70s and 80s games with speed to spare. I had a Bally Supersonic playfield running from my first revision board over the full weekend.

The whole point of this project is to create a low cost controller that can get more people modifying and making their own games. I am passionate about making quality hardware and software solutions for the pinball world at reasonable prices and your comments are not useful. The arduino ide is perfectly fine for making games with as you have the ability to pull in libraries. Therefore i have a full framework which exists as libraries and you use the arduino sketch to configure your games devices and the games logic.

I would like to hear from people who would be interested in these boards to add into their games, or make new games from. Nay sayers can stay away.
 
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myPinballs

myPinballs

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So i thought i'd talk a little more about the sound features on the board. The sound system is multi-channel so you can have a background sound track and a sound/speech track. There is an onboard amp (TDA2003A) and also line out facilities for hooking up to other 3rd party amp solutions (@lukewells :)) The sounds are stored as WAV files on the sd card so you can add any number of original sounds/music files and then assign them to the sound call library to play when you want in the game system.
 

mufcmufc

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Pinballinfo + abaxas = unpleasant place to be

How so, he's raised concerns, which admittedly could have been done more eloquently and Jim has put them to bed, is the whole point of a forum not discussion?

@abaxas please try to voice your concerns in a more civil manner, @myPinballs has obviously put a lot of time and effort into this and doesn't step into things without thinking them through. I'm sure Jim will agree that 2+ heads are generally better than one and welcomes constructive criticism/questions
 

abaxas

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Maybe, if I rephrase the issue.

The arduino ecosystem is a designed for hobbyists to write software to control/play/flash leds/etc. It is not a real time OS designed for scheduled multidimensional IO state machines, which is the definition of pinball.

Saying that any of the atmegas (and problem attinys) are capable of controlling a pinball machine, they are factors faster than the processors inside sys11/WPC machines. My issue is with the software used.

Basically, the fundamentals of the arduino software are at odds to the standard operational of pinball machines. The complexity of pinball is not reading switches or lighting lights. It is doing it all at the same time (well not exactly, it's more in order inside a time envelope) that makes things harder. Especially when things are multiplexed.

I guess the question is. How many missed switch changes or incorrectly lit lamps is acceptable. If you are not bothered, then the arduino is the way forward.
 
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myPinballs

myPinballs

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Maybe, if I rephrase the issue.

The arduino ecosystem is a designed for hobbyists to write software to control/play/flash leds/etc. It is not a real time OS designed for scheduled multidimensional IO state machines, which is the definition of pinball.

Saying that any of the atmegas (and problem attinys) are capable of controlling a pinball machine, they are factors faster than the processors inside sys11/WPC machines. My issue is with the software used.

Basically, the fundamentals of the arduino software are at odds to the standard operational of pinball machines. The complexity of pinball is not reading switches or lighting lights. It is doing it all at the same time (well not exactly, it's more in order inside a time envelope) that makes things harder. Especially when things are multiplexed.

I guess the question is. How many missed switch changes or incorrectly lit lamps is acceptable. If you are not bothered, then the arduino is the way forward.

Not sure what you are trying to achieve here? I already mentioned (twice now) that i showed a working pinball playfield using arduino control back in october 2014. I don't think you should really comment on things unless you have actually played games using this technology and understand how they work. And for the record i totally disagree with everything you have said.

Anyway this thread is about the journey and production of my board set, not whether an arduino can control a pinball machine well. That has already been proved
 
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myPinballs

myPinballs

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Do you not understand what I'm saying?

Maybe, that is the answer to the question. You assume instead of understand.

I never assume and i find you comment insulting - again.

I find it odd that you would say arduinos are no good at controlling pinball machine playfields when i already proved they are, took a working playfield to a public show and openly invited people to play it. and 100s did over a 2 day period.
 

PeteB

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Oh will you girls stop swinging your handbags at each other.

myPinballs, please continue with this and lets see how it turns out. :thumbs:
 

cooldan

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:popcorn: this is quite entertaining. i don't understand the finer points of the discussion though, as i saw the working pin at Play 2014 powered by that chip thingy, and i don't remember any switches being missed. did it miss? what is the problem with the idea of using an arduino, @abaxas ?

gif sparrow-fight.gif gif giraffes fighting.gif gif sparrow-fight.gif

gif cat-fight.gif gif granny fight.gif gif cat-fight.gif gif granny fight.gif

my favourite is the sparrow on the left who lifts up on his tiptoes to get a better look at the fight down below. meanwhile the guy at the front acts as a lookout for teachers who may come to break up the fighting fun.
 
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abaxas

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You don't understand.

I can prove that I can wipe my **** with an index finger and a running tap. That, however, is a bad solution.

The arduino is a bad solution to the pinball problem, just as bog roll is a better solution to wiping my ****.
 

abaxas

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Oh will you girls stop swinging your handbags at each other.

myPinballs, please continue with this and lets see how it turns out. :thumbs:

Good idea, why doesn't mypinballs attach a copy of the arduino pinball library so everyone can take a look.

If' love to be 'proven' wrong. But I'd need some evidence to back down.
 

PeteB

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Good idea, why doesn't mypinballs attach a copy of the arduino pinball library so everyone can take a look.

If' love to be 'proven' wrong. But I'd need some evidence to back down.

Have you pre-ordered a ton of these boards or something? Just wondering why you're so concerned is all.
 

Wizcat

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I don't claim expertise in this area, having only done a few basic arduino/pinball projects myself.. but it does seem that Jim has demonstrated a working solution.

If you're claiming this is not going to work, you probably need to provide some concrete examples of why. Jim has done a number of Arduino projects, including one that he demo'd at NLP that does exactly what he's saying. I don't think Jim has anything further he can prove. And since it is you claiming it won't work, why don't you prove why?
 

PeteB

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Just people need to know the issues before they buy.

I see. Well I think we've all heard your issues, and f*cks given = 0. So, I'd like to give myPinballs a chance to develope this further if you don't mind. If it doesn't work then you can bask in the glory of saying "I told you so".
 

cooldan

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Is this arduino thing in 2015 not at least as fast as the chip used by Bally in 1985? I thought computers have come on a bit, and that there's more computing power now in a phone than there was in all the Apollo space missions?

Your finger wipe analogy was a crude one, and suggests a dirtier solution than has been invented by Jim. Are you saying an arduino would be better replaced by something else? Is it necessary? Wouldn't that affect the price and size and weight etc too much?
 

mufcmufc

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@abaxas No need to be inflammatory for the sake of it, your post can stand but it's a poor analogy. If you went to NLP, you would have seen the working Arduino system and could have raised queries there and then.

I'm (and I'm sure @myPinballs is ) all for constructive points but you seem to be belittling what he's trying to achieve even though the theory has already been proven in a fully working test rig.

If you have genuine concerns / are trying to help then do so in a more eloquent manner as I've already stated, otherwise in the words of Elsa, "Let it Go"
 

Nedreud

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Woah. I was excited to see this thread pop up in my New Posts list tonight. I'd spotted the same board layout image from Jim a few days ago on another forum (can't remember the name but I'd got there after chatting with a few other peeps messing around with Arduinos as pinball controllers).

I have to say I'm a bit disheartened after reading the rest of the posts up to this point :(

I'm not a hardware specialist but I have been a software engineer for 15 years. I'm new(ish) to both the Motorola and Arduino environments, but on the flip-side I wasn't born yesterday either. I've studied enough about the Motorola 68xx architecture to be able to fault trace, diagnose and repair Bally MPU boards. And I've done more than flash a few LEDs with an Arduino - so far I've got my MEGA 2560 playing chip tunes on a General Instruments AY-3-8910 Programmable Sound Generator (classic chip used in many SS pinballs, video games and early home computers) and even managed to get it to generate the 2MHz clock signal for the PSG thus dispensing with the need for an external crystal oscillator. I've also just hooked up a TF card reader and VLSI VS1053 audio codec chip - now it's tweeting out WAV samples of the sounds from a CENTAUR. My ultimate goal here is to create an Arduino-based replacement for the AS-2518-51 sound module in my GOLD BALL. Why? Because I can and because I might have to if I can't fix the original.

Is the Arduino the best solution to all these pinball ideas/problems? Maybe not. Is it an absolute doddle to work with, have a massive open-source community and cost peanuts? Yes. I believe an Arduino MEGA 2560 is more than up to the job of at least replicating what the original Motorola 6800-based MPU does and probably surpassing it with greater reliability and accuracy.

I'm also bit confused about the statement that Arduino is not realtime. Whilst the standard setup/loop of the Arduino IDE is non deterministic there are several projects to create real-time operating systems (RTOS) for Arduino; notable the DuinOS port of the mature FreeRTOS and others, e.g., RTuinOS.

Sorry, another one of my epic late night posts. Basically, whilst I think the Arduino is a reasonable choice I'm completely open to hearing why others think it isn't... but I need some meat on the bones you pick and I don't care how low-level or technical you need to be to demonstrate your concerns
 
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Nedreud

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Hi @myPinballs, very excited about this! Also very annoyed you’re WAY ahead of me :mad:;):D

Interested to know how you implemented the multi-channel sound? I've just got started with VLSI VS1053 audio codec chip. Are you using something similar?
 
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myPinballs

myPinballs

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Hi @myPinballs, very excited about this! Also very annoyed you’re WAY ahead of me :mad:;):D
Thanks for the post. I've been working on this project for around 13 months now and i believe i have a decent solution. As with all my projects they will be demonstrated in public at shows and anyone is welcome to try them out before purchasing. Everything that I build and sell is to the highest quality and my best engineering abilities. The main goal with this project is to create something lower cost than other custom controller solutions and with an intuitive framework for people build/modify games from. Arduinos provide a good option for this for simpler playfield layouts from the late 70s and 80s. I also have around 4 years experience rewriting more complex games from the wpc and system 11 era using the p-roc system, so i think i know what makes a good system. Anyway, once the next revision is finished i will get it out for people to test like before.

As i mentioned at the start of this thread i am interested in hearing from people who are interested in this project and i know some people have already mentioned that, so thank you. I will continue to update here and on other forums as the revision 2 board project progresses.

A quick note on the associated driver board which will form part of this board set. I have just finished breadboarding a new maxim chip that i'll be using to drive the regular lamps, which is SPI driven. A very nice chip indeed. More details and vids on the deriver board side of things to soon. The coil driving technology remain pretty much the same as i demoed back in october with the earlier driver board and is based around wpc driver board theory of operation

Jim
 
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Nedreud

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I think it's fairly obvious I'm interested in this project. If you need some testers who'd be willing to experiment with your prototype boards in their beloved Bally pinballs may I offer the services of my GOLD BALL ;)

Have you got an idea of the ballpark end price? I know it's hard until you get the final BOM, but I'm assuming you're heading towards some approximate price-point? As I already have an Arduino MEGA I'd be interested if it's within my humble means.
 

Jono Sandilands

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Yeah, this is very exciting @myPinballs - also count me in for prototype
As you know Jim, I'm interested in building my own. My plan is to start simple and build on skills & ideas over time. Arduino is perfect for my requirements.
Will stay tuned for more, particularly interested in the driver boards