Atari Centipede Restoration – An Introduction

Good day and welcome back readers.

With the world a little ‘unsettled’ just now, and more incentives than ever to stay indoors and play games, I thought it was time to start a new project and update the blog at the same time.

Back in late 2018, early 2019, I got the opportunity to purchase an Atari Centipede cabinet from a fellow collector on UKVAC. It is the full size upright cabinet, complete with some of the most iconic side art from this period. It was bought working, but with a certain amount of work required both internally and externally.

Those of you who follow this blog will (hopefully) have read some of my previous restoration threads and as such, I’m a little worried that they might begin, after a while, to get a little bit ‘samey’, and that you, the reader, will start to skim through, or even not bother.

My good friend, Tony Temple, has, I think, a wonderfully balanced blog over at www.arcadeblogger.com, a flavoursome mix of restorations, news articles and a deep delve into some archival histories of games and their designers. If you haven’t already, please look him up.

However I know how much effort goes into maintaining that level of writing and I know I cannot commit to anything even close to that, but I still think there is a little room to mix things up a touch.

So, to that end, let us, as always, get a comfy chair, a hot brew and some biscuits to hand and have a look over my Centipede cabinet…………

It was almost 2 years ago now, when I started to think about getting hold of another arcade cabinet. As collectors will know, you always, always, always, want another, even when all logistical factors say you cannot, should not, must not, the urge to own, simply grows even stronger.

One of my biggest limiters, is, as with a lot of people, space. MrsM, (probably correctly), does not allow cabs in the house, which led to me converting my garage into my GAMES ROOM. However, with a finite space, which is also shared with my console collection, and the proper crt tv’s to play those on, I can only ever have a total of 6 cabinets in there.

So, a certain amount of thought and consideration is needed as to what game to go after. For some, the big thing is nostalgia. A game that they played and loved as a kid, for instance. Personally, I don’t have that so much, mainly because, living in a small town network, the arcade cabinets I got to play upon, (aside from holidays), were jamma cabs, usually playing bootleg boards common to the UK, not that i knew that back then, of course. So those that do stand out, are usually associated to family trips to the big seaside resorts, where the deluxe Sega cabs hold strong, fond memories, but I can never fit anything like that in my space, without literally sacrificing everything else first.

Also, with having a good mame set-up in my NEW ASTRO CITY candy cab, I can play most standard controlled games using that. Which has helped me make the decision that a good candidate cabinet to acquire, would be one that doesn’t play well in mame on my NAC. And thinking about the cabs I do own, they already conform to that rule; Space Invaders with the half mirror and backlit scenery; Robotron with it’s twin Wico sticks; Asteroids with it’s glowing phosphorous vector display; none of which really perform, or look anywhere near as good when played in mame.

And so it was with this principal underpinned, that I began to seek out possible candidates, whilst still being a game that I thoroughly enjoyed playing (of course). And the winner as we now know turned out to be Centipede, although it could just have easily been Pole Position or Super Hang On, but they are conversations for another day.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is centipede-stock-image.jpg
STOCK PHOTO OF CENTIPEDE


In 1980 arcade giants, Atari, riding high on the crest of previous hit after hit, released Centipede. A game as famous for it’s side art, as it was for it’s trackball controller, it’s female lead designer and programmer Dona Bailey, and for being widely regarded as the game designed to draw female gamers into the arcades.

For this was not another battle, set in the far reaches of outer space, nor did it see you as a muscle bound hero, guiding your heavily weaponised space craft towards endless waves of killer alien beings. No, far from it. This, as most will know, saw you play as a bug blaster, shooting small darts towards a crawing centipede insect, as it weaved itself around a field of mushrooms, sounding more and more like an episode of In The Night Garden, than a frantic, heart pounding game of skill and strategy, designed to part you from your hard earned ten pence pieces. Yet that was exactly what it turned out to be.

And so, with my mind made up, all I had to do was find one. Now there are various places to start looking; EBay, arcade forums, Facebook groups, etc, but I still think word of mouth is an amazing and powerful tool when used correctly, leaving me to reach out to a few people I knew and start asking around.

One person in particular, I knew had a cabinet and had previously been considering selling. Well, if you don’t ask, you can never get. So I asked and after a few months, of him looking for a replacement to swap it for, the deals were agreed and a sale made. Shortly after I took delivery of my very own Atari Centipede cabinet.

PHOTO OF MY CAB IN GAMES ROOM


I was a happy bunny.

Now, during the pre-sales chats, we had covered most, if not all aspects of the cabinet and I knew it was going to need some work, but of course this is offset in the agreed price, and I love restoring stuff, so for me, this just works in my favour.

Below is a list of the main areas that needed attention (and those that did not);
The GOOD – Visibly, the marquee, bezel, and control panel and side art were all good. Electronically, the monitor was practically burn free and the game played, indicative of a happy pcb, power brick and audio regulator board.

The BAD – Visibly, the cabinet was missing it’s rear door (a common trait where Ops, simply removed them to allow easier access to maintain the cabinet in a working arcade), the other upper and lower rear panels were both split and broken. The side art did have some minor gouges in it. Electronically, the monitor had intermittent colour losses, which I hoped were down to the completely hacked up loom inside. The marquee light assembly was not working.

The UGLY – Inside the cabinet, apart from lots of dirt and dust, the monitor appeared at some point to have been swapped out for a much larger horizontally mounted monitor, which in order to accommodate, had resulted in a previous owner, completely hacking away (with a blunt axe I think), the monitor housing and mounting bezel. The wooden edges towards the control panel were also broken away leaving a gaping hole. Oh and the mains cable and plug looked like something from the British Museum!

A quick look back over those three paragraphs provides all the information you might need, to see that there was more to do, than there was not to do. However…….. the game did indeed, as promised, play just fine, and so the temptation to simply push it into place and play the game, easily won out, and, I already had an ASTEROIDS cabinet to fix up, so I’ve been playing the game since then, hence the delay in starting the restoration.

NEED TO WORK ON THOSE SCORES


But start it I now have, and in keeping with my (mild) promise at the start of this post, I want to try and mix it up a little, (as much as a resto thread can be) so I think I will try and post mini updates, with each one focussing on a particular area/skill and include some really detailed photos and information to, hopefully, help out anyone in a similar position.

As usual, I am slightly ahead of the game, and have a few areas already completed and ready to start writing up, so the next update should not be too 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, Centipede, surely one of Atari’s more appealing, accessible games, 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 soon for the next instalment.

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