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Project Pinball

Pinball LED Display – Almost done

by Tom on Oct.21, 2010, under Project Pinball

If your reading this because you received an email notification. Hahaha You can never escape from my nerdisms. Otherwise welcome to part2 of my led screen that will eventually end up as the screen for my pinball machine.


Since my last post, the two screens have expanded to six. I did have a few problems at first because running six screens requires 2304 bits of data (that’s 1s and 0s for you primitives out there ;-) ) to be sent via one wire. The result: slow as a fat kid on crutches painfully slow.

But never fear as there was a solution! Making use of the extra cores (this microcontroller has 8 processors) I can split up the processing to reduce the amount of data sent at one time. 2304 bits split using 6 wires sending 384 bits per wire. Did you get all that?? Good lets continue.

I also borrowed code to process lines and circles. Next step is displaying bitmap graphics and animations. And maybe glue the screens together to make it all neat and tidy. Got to make it look professional!!

Video shows my child like voice and a line of text scrolling vertically and horizontally while drawing lines and circles. It’s works really well. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below :grin:

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Pinball LED Display – Build in Progress

by Tom on Sep.12, 2010, under Project Pinball

Ok it’s been awhile since i’ve updated this site with the latest exciting news of Tom’s custom pinball machine.

So here we are…

I’ve been playing around with some different techniques in building a LED Matrix display. Some things have worked and some have failed. There are also products out there that would make this build so easy but are really expensive. However, after a bit of hunting i found these on E-Bay for $14AUD with free postage!

What they are is a set of six 8×8 LED matrixes (384 LEDS in total) all controlled by just one IC. You can run four of them together by chaining them with the provided ribbon cables and many more if your microprocessor can handle them.

Really easy to interface hardware wise but quite tricky to code compared to using shift-registers. It works a little bit like running an LCD interface where you have to first issue commands to tell the screen what you want it to do, then tell the screen where you want the lights to come on, then finally tell it to turn on that light.

So my first step to getting these bad boys to work was to see if anyone else has done it before. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any code for the Parallax Propeller but i did find a huge forum topic on the matrix using the Ardunio (another type of Microprocessor, completely different language). I had to then convert the code from Ardunio (C Language) to the Propeller (Spin Language). And eventually it worked out great!! Except there is a couple of glitches to fix up later.

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Oh Pinball Parts why are you so expensive!

by Tom on Jul.20, 2010, under Project Pinball

There are many places globally where you can get Pinball Machine parts from, and individually they aren’t too pricey but it all adds up when you need an entire pinball machine worth of parts. Plus I have to add shipping to Perth, Western Australia!

After looking and reading various sites, I came to the conclusion that
1) I don’t really know what I want to order as I haven’t designed the playfield yet.
2) I don’t really know how pinball parts work… yet

Found on Ebay!

(continue reading…)

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And the theme will be…

by Tom on Jul.15, 2010, under Project Pinball

The voting was so close between Napoleon Dynamite and Shaun of the Dead.
So I sat down recently and watched the two movies again.

The ideas started flowing… mostly for Shaun of the Dead.
After all you can’t go wrong with Zombies.
Would be so fun having the Winchester Pub at the back of the playfield while zombies are poping up all over the place.

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Help me pick a theme!

by Tom on Jul.07, 2010, under Project Pinball

Ok, I’m tring to pick a theme to make my pinball machine from.

I have sortened down my list to the following:

(continue reading…)

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The Matrix

by Tom on Jul.01, 2010, under Project Pinball

Not this kind


but I do think that “The Matrix” would make a pretty cool pinball theme. (continue reading…)

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Shift Registers

by Tom on Jun.30, 2010, under Project Pinball

Ok so the propeller microprocessor has 32 Input/output ports. That is 32 wires from the CPU that can connect to other circuits. Now with a pinball machine project that uses many lights to make it look pretty, solenoids for the playfield, a video screen that I may use up to 4096 LEDs with, plus all the sound/music. 32 ports are simply just not enough. (continue reading…)

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The Brains of a Pinball Machine

by Tom on Jun.21, 2010, under Project Pinball

The inner workings of the pinball machine will be controlled by a microprocessor. I have chosen the propeller processor by Parallax, http://www.parallax.com/ the same as what Ben used on his Bill Paxton Machine. It has a very good community with forums and sample code to help anyone get started. I purchased the P8X32A-Q44 SchmartBoard Kit which is a cheaper option but you have solder it all together yourself. And the parts are TINY!

(continue reading…)

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Need skills!

by Tom on Jun.17, 2010, under Project Pinball

After a bit of research on what is required to make a pinball machine I’ve made a list of all the things I need to be able to do: (continue reading…)

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Where do I start

by Tom on Jun.11, 2010, under Project Pinball

Ok, its easy to say “yeah i can do that” but to actually get off my arse and do it is another thing.

So the first thing I started to do was look and read all about pinball machines.

My friend Kenny suggested that I look at virtual pinball machines and to try and create one virtually first. So a few Google searches later I found Future Pinball at http://www.futurepinball.com/


It is a really incredible piece of software (and it’s 100% free!) (continue reading…)

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