Written by glilly-BOA, published February 1st, 2011. 2 comment(s).
If you read my story on how I got into pinballs, then you know that one of the pins I used to own was a Bally Fathom. I happend upon it while doing some side work for the Arcade Company I used to work for in the Daytona Beach area. I used to come in on Saturdays and repair games for them.
On this particular day, I came in and was working on some arcade machines when the manager (Bob) came in and asked me if I would consider taking a Fathom pinball for my payment that day rather than cash. He said his full time techs (two of them) had spent almost a month, off and on, trying to figure out what was wrong with the Fathom with no luck. He said he didn't want to invest any more time in it. I checked it out and agreed. Seemed like a good deal to me (I had no idea yet just how good...).
I went back to work and at lunch, I powered up the machine to see how bad it was. I was surprised to see what the symptom was. It didn't quite complete the power up process and the displays were showing rolling numbers (it kind of looks like AC noise in the DC). Well, I knew right away what was wrong here.... I started looking all around the playfield and BINGO, there was one of the pinballs stuck up under one of the slingshot plastics out of sight. I freed it up and the game finished powering up. It even played just fine with hardly any problems (just needed a good cleaning and a few adjustments).
Bob (the manager) walked in while I was playing the pinball and his eyes just about popped out of his head. He stood there for a minute with his mouth opened and then just turned around and walked out shaking his head. He admitted later that he was kicking himself for making the deal before asking me to see if I could just fix it. He did live up to his end of the bargain and I got a nice Fathom for the price of a Steel Ball stuck on the playfield (less than 5 minutes of trouble shooting). Of course, I still had to fix a bunch of games for him that day also.
So, if you encounter a Mid-80's Bally Multi-Ball Pinball that won't finish the power up sequence and has what looks like AC noise in all of the displays... just take a quick count of the balls in the out trough. Apparently, this was Bally's way of letting you know when there was a ball missing in the early multiball games. It actually bit me in the butt once too when I was working on a Fireball II game. I found out because someone came in after I had worked on it for two days and said "Oh, yeah. It's missing a ball". I told him I was sure it was not that simple and he was mistaken... and then he dropped an extra ball on the playfield and proceeded to grin when the pinball powered up and played (doooh!!!).
Moral of the story!! Sometimes it realy is an easy fix. It's only hard when we try to over analyze what's going on.