Atari Asteroids Cocktail Restoration – Part 1

Hi everyone and thanks for stopping by, again. Once more things have gotten a little busy in real life stuff, which has put the brakes on the fun stuff a little, but, where time has allowed, I have been tinkering away with the restoration of my Atari Asteroids Cocktail cabinet.  You can read more about the adventure that lead to me finding this, here.

So, to very quickly recap, this cabinet was bought, without the ability to test, and with no known history or back story. Internally it looked intact but, had clearly not been switched on, for a very long time. In terms of a purchase, it was a lottery….

On picking it back up, from my friend’s storage, I got it home and into the games room, where I gave it a good clean externally and reminded myself how cool it was to own an original Atari arcade cabinet. For those that don’t know me, I have a long fondness to the heyday Atari corporation.

A original 1
For some, a lump of wood. For me, Atari greatness.

Despite the urge to wire on a plug and simply connect to the mains and see what happens, the likelihood of the all too familiar ‘magic smoke’, instead of a fully working cabinet, was just too great. With no working knowledge of the cabinet, prior to my ownership it would most likely result in damage to one or more components.

Instead, a staged switch on approach is a much more sensible and cautious method, beginning where the 240volts enter the cabinet, with the power brick. As you can see in the photo below, it was dusty and rusty, but again, intact with no obvious, apparent signs of damage or destruction. Once all the molex connectors are unplugged (it’s a good idea to take a few photos of the connections as you go) and the fixings unscrewed, the whole unit simply comes out, making it much easier to work on.

B power brick 1
Note the loop of connectors just above the fuses, a really useful inclusion by Atari allowing for different voltages to be used, by simply changing the jumper connection.

These units vary slightly from model to model, but essentially hold the main isolation transformer for the monitor, the fuses for the cabinet’s various electronic components and Atari’s large capacitor, commonly known as ‘Big Blue’. And a small pcb, underneath, the bridge rectifier, which converts the AC into DC ready for distribution through the cabinet.

As you can see, on my brick, the iso transformer was sheathed in a metal banding which easily came away and had taken on all of the rust, protecting the actual transformer unit, behind it. Once removed it was easily polished up and replaced, along with a general good deep clean of the rest of the unit, ready for testing, later on.

B power brick 2
Outer banding removed, preserved transformer behind.
B power brick 3
Cleaned up and ready for powering up.

 

Once out of the cab, the audio regulator and logic board were also in really nice condition with no signs of corrosion or previous repairs, although there was some evidence of soldering on the main edge connector.

But of course at this stage, I had no way of knowing if the main pcb was working or not, and that brings us nicely to the other main component of the cabinet, the monitor.

Again on initial inspection, it looked intact, the neck looked solid with no cracks and the chassis had no bulging caps, but there was quite a bit of singeing underneath of of the large ceramic resistors, that might need some inspection.

But, as some of you may know, that is the extent of my fiddling with arcade monitors. I don’t pretend to know what I am doing with these, not to myself or others, but luckily live very close to an old school TV repair shop, who have become very familiar with my needs and I dropped off the monitor with them to check over (pre Covid19, of course,) and whilst they looked at that, I could turn my attention to some other areas.

We will return to both the monitor and pcb, when we know a bit more.

The two control panels, were where I decided to turn to next, hopefully relatively straight forward jobs, which didn’t appear to need too much work doing. Out with the screwdriver and hot soapy water and away we go.

E control panel 1
Panel off and on the bench.

The only way to really clean these is to strip them back to their component parts.

E control panel 2
Tools at the ready, lets go.

By far the worst part, by way of the construction, are the exposed buttons and surrounds, with the reverse of the panel hidden, sealed, away within the cabinet itself.

E control panel 3
Look at that dirt and grime.
E control panel 4
Time to break out the Fairy.

For the next level of cleaning, I use a soft sanding pad, held in the palm of my hand, with the button/surround, held in my drill, and literally just spin it round, gently using the friction to take a micro layer from the surface, removing the dirt with it.

E control panel 5
Surround done, button still to do.

Once they are all cleaned I replace the sanding pad with a polishing cloth and apply some car polish, to re-apply that shiny protective finish, I removed through the sanding process.

Before putting everything back together, it was time to spruce up the control panel itself. Now, like most of the externals, the dirt and dust had protected these too and once given a good clean, there wasn’t much to do. Player 1 side definitely had more wear, with some tiny chips here and there to the overlay, but Player 2 was virtually as new.

E control panel 7
Dummy fit of buttons, small chips and rips to the vinyl visible here.

I used a POSCA paint pen to fill in the tiny chips and then buffed everything with Autoglym bumper care polish which really brings out the shine and deepens the black colour. Then it was just a case of putting it all back together.

E control panel 6
Same level of attention to the rear of the panel too.

E control panel 8
Finished. Exact same process applied to the other panel too.

Well, there we go, that’s it for this instalment. Some good progress made, and even better news is that I am actually much further ahead in real time, so the next update should not be far away.

Please let me know what you think; any thoughts you have on how far to go with restoration projects; and the game itself, Asteroids, surely a stone cold classic, right?

As always, if you like what you find here, please subscribe, read through my earlier posts, hit like, and share on the social media of your choice, via the buttons below. I genuinely would love to hear what you think, good or bad, and will always reply to any comment, kind enough to be left.

Thank you for taking the time to read through, see you all next time.

4 thoughts on “Atari Asteroids Cocktail Restoration – Part 1

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