Tag Archives: counterforce

Counterforce shop notes: Lamps

My new-to-me Counterforce had most of the lamps in the insert panel (behind the backglass) missing. I grabbed my supply of LEDs and populated the lot. The glare was so bad it made the game hard to play.

I replaced a bunch of the LEDs with #47 incandescents, except where I liberally used #455s, the blinky bulbs. I love these — although I see they seem to be out of stock at several suppliers. I suppose they will go NLA soon. But I have them for now, and I love their randomness and the noise that they make. Plus, since they’re usually off, the glare is greatly reduced.

When I cleaned the playfield, I upgraded several lamps to LEDs–Nifty frosted warm white, generally, since I still have a stock of those. But a lot of the playfield holes won’t accommodate the larger plastic ring on the LEDs, so I used #47s.

Initially, I didn’t know if I would LED the controlled lamps or not. But I had a couple I wanted to brighten up, and they looked so good, I started installing LEDs in all the inserts. Counterforce has quite a few non-controlled inserts — around 12 that are on when a corresponding drop target is on. All of these are yellow inserts, so I used TJ’s trick of lighting them with a pink bulb. A yellow LED bulb tends to look washed out. The pink ones look great. They look really hot in the purple inserts that Gottlieb used for extra ball.

Another 28 lamps are stepped up with an under-playfield transistor. These provide the incoming bomb lights. I haven’t done these yet, but I think they’ll look great when done.

But on my way there, I’m soldering shut a bunch of lamp sockets, or maybe replacing sockets. This is a trick I learned from Tim Arnold’s handouts a long time ago. Here’s a PDF. On old sockets, the press-fit loses its will to press-fit. But a drop of solder on the joint provides connectivity and can revive a dying lamp socket.

So far I’ve had a couple that look great with the upgrade.

I plan to do this on the bus sockets used for the bomb lamps and the bonus ladder, both of which are irreplaceable, have lots of individual wire connections, and quite a few loose sockets.

[Originally written in early 2021, minor updates in early 2024.]

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Gottlieb Early System 80 Head Locks

A useful video, found via Pinside, on how these are supposed to work.

I have a Counterforce that has been sitting idle since we moved to a new house. I got it set up and noticed some score digits were out. No problem, I know exactly what the problem is: I have connectors that I have not serviced. I opened the head to jiggle them.

When I went to open the head, I noticed that the key was easy to move, as if there was no lock mechanism. What actually had happened is that I did not tighten the screw sufficiently when I re-keyed the lock, and having the game on a truck for shows and a house move jiggled the screw out of the lock.

When I first got this game, I remember changing the lock. I only change head locks when I can’t find a key. On this game, I think there was no lock or the lock was defeated. I changed it to my keyed-alike lock, and forgot how the mechanism works.

In short, the mechanism on these early System 80 games moves a crossbar down and forward, which pushes two (sprung) arms forward. When the arms are in the forward position, you can’t lift the backglass.

On Counterforce, there is an extra wrinkle that the speaker mounting is in front of the lock, but a long screwdriver is very helpful in getting the screwdriver in the right place.

Note that it is useless to tighten the screw when the lock is unlocked (assuming my usual Fort locks, which will not release the key in the unlocked position). And, when the insert panel is fully open, it prevents the head from being locked (the crossbar intentionally interferes with the insert panel). However, if the insert panel is only somewhat open, I can lock the head, pull the key so the lock doesn’t turn, and then crank down on the screw.

Even by the standards of this blog, which is an absolute backwater of the Internet, this post is of very limited utility. But here it is.

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