So, the 90's are over. In some ways, that's good news (the music was terrible.) But, the bad news is that the peak of pinball innovation ended. But, there were over a hundred thousand games manufactured. While I love the NIB (new In Box) machines, I keep picking up older games, which makes me think about their position in history, the evolution of electronic technology, advances in materials, and improvements in software. So, I put it all together, and have...
90's Pinball Manifesto...
Paint and Protection
If you wind up with a 90's game, it's probably going to have some crusty and rusty legs. Pinball feet are almost never cleaned, so they accumulate nearly 3 decades of mop residue. So you order new legs from Pinball Life. You can select from raw, chrome, black, gold, red, yellow and orange. But,
Powdercoating isn't too expensive, at $215 for some multi-color exotic finishes. So, element one of manifesto is to powdercoat those legs, rails, and hinges. The hinges are important. Don't cheap out on them..
There is an amazing powder company called, Prismatic Powders makes a variety of colors, shades, shine levels and textures. I go to Fox Valley Sandblasting and Powder Coating. From $125 t0 $215, you can get all nine pieces done (4 legs, 2 rails, 2 hinges, and 1 lockdown bar.) Put on some new leg levelers, and you are in great shape.
Lighting for GI and Lamp Matrix:
Well, LEDs were expensive and hot in the 90's. Now, they consume a lot less power, deliver a higher brightness, and last longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. But, nothing angers me more than a "rainbow puke" LED job that just jams a bunch of vibrant colors. The initial design on 90's games expected warm white light to hit the artwork, wood, metal, and plastic components.
This isn't easy. I have arrived at a method. Any lightbulb that is highly visible gets an incandescent bulb. Any bulb that is under the playfield or obscured by plastics ramps or artwork can be a warm white LED bulb. I prefer to buy from Titan Pinball. Any other choice argues from the position, why shouldn't this be warm white... Each machine can get a few exceptions. Purism doesn't make anyone happy in the long run.
Then, it gets a bit funky. The LEDs can look terrible at times. Some games like to ghost, which means the LED is on or flashing when it is not supposed to because they are more sensitive than incandescent bulbs because they use so much less power. The power can be cleaned by a product from LED OCD.
Well, all the new machines have color LCDs with full animation. For my money, the Color DMD is the best Mod in pinball. The DMD era had some great animations, video modes, and selection screens. However, they just one color; orange.
So every 90's machine with a DMD should have a color DMD when available. This $399-ish upgrade is a must. You have a big choice, LCD or LED. On my Apollo 13 and Guns N' Roses, I have LED versions.
This single upgrade can bring a game up to today's feel is a color DMD.
A lot of people light up the undersides of their machines, speaker panels, and even legs. I experimented in some animated lighting, but didn't find an adhesive that worked well enough for me, and I didn't want to mess with my cabinets. But, I do love light up buttons and some ring lights in the pop bumpers, like this.
I haven't added any PinSound boards into any of my machines yet, but I am considering adding one to the Guns N' Roses pinball this spring or maybe the Apollo 13. I haven't added any powereder external subwoofers, but I have been jealous of some friends, Jerry, Kent and Marc with some crazy loud subwoofers.
There are still some things that I like to see, but haven't done myself. I like some of the Pinduino-based modifications that add tracking lights, new sounds and other features. I also like some LCD screen mods for integrated videos on the playfield or even to replace under-playfield holograms in Creature from the Black Lagoon.
No go items:
I can't stand some stuff. I respect other people's opinions (except for rainbow puke.) But in general, I support good technical updates. You don't need to jam a bunch of old toys into the machine. I removed a Saturn V rocket model from the Apollo 13. I see a lot of Slash action figures in Guns N' Roses pinball machines. Just because you found an action figure on eBay, you don't need to jam it into the machine. Also, I dislike the pinstadium lights, because they take away the focus from where it originally was.