Open pinball project

The Open Pinball Project is a cooperative effort to develop open source pinball hardware and software. Their stated goal is to “to build the perfect pinball machine, or at least a pinball machine for a reasonable price!” To date they’ve worked at restoring a number of old machines, learning valuable lessons in the process. Their project will consist of the development of embedded code for solenoid drivers, input switches, and main controller, and will eventually include software for running the monitor/video in the back box. They’ve explored a number of topics including display selection, construction of an EEPROM burner from scratch, building solenoid driver boards, and lately using Xilinx Spartan 3A FPGAs for solenoid driving, lighting, and digital inputs.

While this is a work in progress (no code or schematic available yet) their postings details substantial progress in the last year. This may be a project to watch for the growing number of hobbyists discovering/rediscovering pinball. Check out their blog page to follow along. Their code repository will eventually appear on Google code.</A.

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  1. I like his reasoning behind deciding against FPGA’s. If you haven’t got BGA soldering skills, the cost per IO pin shoots up. Spreading the load over multiple [cheaper] microcontrollers keps the cost per IO pin down.

    1. Ok, I haven’t read anything about this project yet, but heck – a pinball machine is a mechanical contraption that might generate a dozen or two events per second maximum. Why even bother with FPGA’s with >100 pins or multi cpu designs? Any crappy microcontroller and a handful of dirt cheap latches and multiplexers should be able to handle the requirements just fine.

      Ok, it seems reasonable to offload specific tasks like speech synthesis /sound effects, video or led matrix scrolling to dedicated controllers as a separate subsystem.

      Anyways, the cost of I/O’s on a microcontroller really doesn’t matter here. If the microcontroller costs $3+3+3 or $25 is insignificant in relation to what the physical machine costs with all solenoids, bumpers, sensors, woodwork, paintings and “whatnots”.

      I’d really would like to have a pinball machine at home, but the market for secondhand old arcade games and pinball machines in Malaysia and the neighboring countries are non-existant. Luckily I brough my Defender game with me when I moved here. :-)

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