Donkey Kong Arcade Machine – The Home Straight - Part 2

Part 2 – The Home Straight


So in Part 1 you will have followed my journey so far in restoring this beat up Donkey Kong cab. I felt I was in the home straight now – it was time for some artwork to be applied to the sides of the cab. This part scared me to death, because once the art is on, it’s on. You can’t get it wrong, there are no second chances. So here it is. A step by step guide to applying side art:



1.     Bring the cab into the house, remembering to carefully negotiate around "The Warden". Don't worry, her bark is worse than her bite:



2.     Measure up your artwork and decide where it's going to go. Tape it in place with masking tape, with a long piece across the middle. Remove backing film from the bottom up to the middle of the art, where your long piece of masking tape is, and cut off this bottom part that's now unattached from the artwork. Then carefully start to squeegie from the middle, down and outwards (are you keeping up?). Notice there's another layer of paper on top of the art, to allow a good amount of pressure to be applied without scratching the artwork. Once on, you can peel off this protective paper to reveal the shiny art underneath:



3.     Remove the centre strip of masking tape, and the top half of the backing. Squeegie from the middle, up and outwards. Et voilà:



4.     Repeat the process on the other side, taking measurements from the side you've just done, to ensure their positions match:



5.     Step back, admire your handiwork:



Given that this was “a one chance to get it right” procedure, I was surprised at how easy this was. Take your time, use common sense, and all is well. What I do like is the way the contours of the paintwork subtly show through the side art in certain lights. I think I prefer this to a sheen, flat art, as any imperfections can be forgiven when there's some texture there. This is down to the roller technique I opted for on the paintwork rather than spray:



Bit by bit I brought various pieces into the house and set to work at them. Stripping them down, giving them a thorough clean, then reassembling them.


Managing The Warden was tricky, but with stealth and distraction techniques, I was able to sneak in a complete Donkey King machine via the back door.


One nice piece I bought from the US (yeah more contributions to overseas GDP – whatever) was a reproduction wiring harness. Made by a guy going by the name of Dokert who frequents the KLOV forums, these are a complete all in one replacement for Nintendo games – using the edge connector of the PCB instead of the individual pins, these looms provide a neat and reliable solution to old tatty wiring harnesses.



I had a buyer lined up for my old wiring loom, so the purchase wasn’t quite as financially painful as it could have been. As I started to piece together and solder the loom to the back of the control panel and coin door, I stopped to examine the counter.



This small box sits at the rear of the coin door, and as it’s name suggests, literally counts the number of coins that pass through the coin mechanism. As you can see, my machine had counted up 224,456 credits. If we assume that these were all US quarters, it’s safe to say that this machine in it’s lifetime earned it’s operators over $56,000. (It would also be fair to assume that most of this would have been earned in the early 80s, during the Golden Age of videogames). An incredible statistic. Multiply this figure by the 18,000 Donkey Kong cabinets that were supposedly produced back then, and you start to get an insight to how big the coin op industry actually was.


So my cab had managed to offer up players almost a quarter of a million plays in its 30 year life before being retired to a warehouse somewhere in Germany. I was pleased I was bringing her back to life for a second bite of the arcade cherry.


One of the last parts to look at was the power supply.



This lives at the bottom of the cab and converts the mains electricity into suitable voltages to power the monitor screen, the tube that lights up the marquee and the PSU, which in turn powers the main CPU board. Quite a complex bit of kit, this thing weighs a ton. Again, bit by bit I stripped it down, and cleaned where I could, making sure I pieced it back together as I found it. As I removed the PSU I heard something inside rattling around. Turning the thing upside down, I shook out a load of crap (all over The Warden’s nice tablecloth – more trouble brewing) and amongst it, a coin fell out to the floor. Sure enough, it was a quarter, dated 1992.


What this confirmed was that the cab had at least an eleven-year working life (1981 to 1992). Just a small piece of information like that makes this hobby worth while – you get a fuller picture of what you are working with and a little piece of history to go with your hard work.


The last part that needed work was the monitor. I mentioned earlier that these things put the fear of god into me. Thankfully it appeared that the exploits of Laurel and Hardy (Jims and myself) hadn’t caused any permanent damage to the screen and it still powered up OK when plugged into the power supply. Phew! However, it was covered in what I could only describe as 30 year old oily soot. I’ve never dealt with anything like it. No fun at all. Couple that with some old sticky residue (“Gummy substance” anyone?) and I had my work cut out.



I found an old plastic ruler and some “Sticky Stuff Remover” that The Warden produced from a cupboard under the kitchen sink was the best thing to use. I got through several cloths, and two buckets of fresh water. Several hours later, I’d managed to get most of it off and we had something like a decent looking monitor – albeit with chronic screenburn. (The process that happens when the same image is continuously shown on an old CRT monitor – the shape of the image literally “burns” into the tube). I’d have to address that at some point in the future.



And then it suddenly dawned on me that I was ready to switch on. There was not much left to do - just small details. So I plugged everything in. Checked out my work, double checked again.


3-2-1 CLICK!





The world of arcade game restoration once again proved to me that she can be a harsh mistress. The blank screen just sat there as if to say “now what you clueless idiot?”. I had no idea what was wrong, but doggedly continued to piece the game together, ignoring the fact that the cab was not going to work.


I got into the groove and in quick succession got the marquee, coin door and other remaining parts installed into the cab, until she was pretty much together. Then the t-molding came out. If one part makes a cab look like a cab, it’s the t-molding. For the uninitiated, this is the plastic strip that runs down the edges of the cab to make it look smart. It is installed by tapping it’s t-shape into a groove that runs down the edges of the cab. It takes a bit of time as you need to be careful not to damage it or the wood of the cab. You also need to cut grooves into the plastic when you come to a corner otherwise it will crease up. Tapping with care requires a hammer and something soft so as not to damage it. I think I used a sock, folded in on itself. (Hey, sometimes you’ve got to improvise right?).



Eventually, I could do no more. I had no choice but to start looking at the cab to see why it wasn’t starting up.  Again, I’ll reiterate, I am no expert, but followed some logic and thought that a good place to start would be the mains. The mains wire from the wall socket leads into a transformer, which in turn feeds a PSU that sends voltages to the circuit board. A search led me to a page which listed what these voltages should be, so I pulled out the multimeter and started testing the output.


Nothing – there was no power. Sometimes, things become very obvious. It was clear that the PSU was not working. Pulling this out and stripping it down revealed the source of the problem:



A tiny 4amp fuse. I figured it must’ve blown when Jims and I managed to screw up the monitor installation.


Thankfully, that turned out to be all it was. One replaced fuse later, and BINGO!



Even I’ll admit I was impressed with myself. Starting out with a shell of a cab, to end up with a smart looking playable game, is one of the more satisfying things I’ve ever done. And I mean that not only from a personal point of view at getting this dead thing working again, but also because I’ve given an old girl a new lease of life. By rights, this thing should’ve been scrapped. I am sure there are many people out there who wouldn’t have understood the cultural significance of a lump of wood that was part of the backdrop of many of our lives back in the 80s. But I did, and I wanted this shell of a machine to be making noises again and making players smile once more.


Wherever she ends up, this D2K machine is good for another 30 years now.


There are one or two small details to organise – locks and coin faceplates mainly. But nothing that I and a paypal account can’t handle. The game is playable and that’s what matters.


This was a nice touch. Because this was the first D2K kit shipped outside of the US by Thisoldgame, they customised the identifier place for me. Notice the serial number:



It was a long journey, but one I’m glad I’ve taken. I could get used to this hobby. Before and after:



(Seriously, if I can do it, then so can you)



Tony Temple

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Author: aeroflottWebsite: https://arcadeblogger.com/
Arcade Blogger
A blogger writting about the preservation of Classic Arcade Video Games from the 70s and 80s including restorations, articles and reviews.
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