From: mvale…@esoterica.com (Mario Francisco Valente)
Subject: (LONG) The Ongoing Saga of a Newbie Collector
organization: Esoterica, Portugal
My name is Mario Valente and I’m an alcoholic (…what?…humm?..oh yes..)
sorry about that…
My name is Mario Valente and I’m now a collector of arcade games, as
stated in the VAPS list: I have a real arcade game. Rally X, to be exact.
It all started in 1993 when I discovered rgvac…
Well, to be true, it all started in about 1980. I was living in a backward
part of Portugal. Now Portugal isnt the most developed of countries. Were
part of Europe, but had a dictatorship for 48 years ( the longest one ever,
its even in the Guinness book ) which made it closed to the outside and the
dictator ( a softie really ) wasnt very keen on progress and development.
But if were now part of the European Community ( important as you’ll read
further, if you get that far ) and up to par with other European countries
( were considered a miracle of economic recovery ), in 1980 we werent; and
in a backward part of the country, even more so.
Why is this important ? Because in 1980 I made a trip to the capital,
Lisbon. And I played my first game: Space Invaders, the one with the plastic
colored film over; the game was really black and white, but the several
bands of color made it look like colour. At the time, we didnt have color
And thats when I started loving video games. I also found out Pacman in
a later trip to the capital. And eventually played Pong in a cousins home
This eventually led me to buy a ZX81 computer ( the predecessor to the
Spectrum ) with 1K of memory ( eat that Bill Gates! ). So that I could play
games. And I later bought a Spectrum, and a C64 and eventually a PC. So that
I could play games. And I went to University to find out more about making
games ( and I didnt ). I got out of University and I still love games ( even
after being brainwashed into beliveing that all you can do with computers is
stocks and salary programs in Cobol ).
At the University I got my first contact with the Internet. I kept this
contact up to date after leaving the University and going to work at a
research Institute. I took this further by creating the first commercial
Internet Service Provider in Portugal, Esoterica. But I still love games.
My partners know that my interest in the Internet is mainly as a support
for other ventures, namely creating and playing multiplayer games.
Back in 1993, it should have been October or November, I started searching
for newsgroups about computer games. This was because of the ongoing
developments in consoles. There was talk about the Saturn and other stuff
and I missed good games a lot. I was fed up with PC multimedia games,
couldnt find any playable games ( things like a good Pacman, a good Space
Invaders, a nice fighting game, etc ). With this search I came up with the
rec.games.video.arcade group and this one,rec.games.video.arcade.collecting.
At the time I didnt pay much attention to rgvac. rgva led me to discover
Virtua Fighter and for a while I got deep into arcade games again.
But after some cursory reading rgvac for a few weeks, I found something
out: people were COLLECTING this stuff. Having REAL arcade games at home,
with coins and everything. I couldnt belive this!
My first thought was “Lucky bastards!”. There was no way I was gonna be
able to do the same. But I kept reading….
One of the games I really played a lot when I was 16 was Rally X. I didnt
know the name of the game ( there isnt ant reference to it in the game
itself ) and the cabinet didnt have any original paintings ( like most
games here ). And so I asked in rgvac if someone knew the name of this
game with cars and flags and if it would be possible to buy it.
To my amazement someone answered not only with the name of the game but
with a copy of a post by Bill Esquivel selling several games which included
Once again my first thought was “This is impossible, its going to be
expensive, take time, I dont know enough about this, its going to be hell
with customs, etc, etc”. You have to keep in mind that here in Portugal
video game machines need a license and people under 16 cant play them.
But I contacted Bill anyway. I thought that he was going to say “No I’m
not able to ship to Portugal” or that the shipping and handling would be
a lot. To my amazement Bill was up to it! He thought it was a strange
proposal and he’d never done any selling/buying/shipping to other places
than US, but he was up to it anyway.
There was a problem: Bill had the whole machine, PCB and cabinet. And there
was no way we were going to ship the whole thing from the US to Portugal
across the Atlantic. It was too expensive.
I was not going to stop now. I started searching for a way to buy a cabinet
here in Portugal or at least in Europe.
Meanwhile I decided to buy the PCB with Rally X. Bill went to a lot of
trouble to find out how much shipping would be; I took sometime off work;
the international cheque took almost 3 weeks to come out. But eventually
in April or May 94 I sent the $150 cheque to Bill. And almost 2 months later
( we used surface mail, because its cheaper ) I got my notice from the
mail to pick up a large box ( encased in yet another box, thanks Bill! :-)
containing lots of white stuff and this PCB, joystick, buttons, the whole
harness. As my wife said “Can we play now? No ?!? Then whats the use?” I
still had to work out the cabinet thing.
I had already contacted another rgvac citizen, Graham Bisset, about a
cabinet with a 14″ monitor he was selling but I lost it. And I had started
looking up local operators and finding out that you could buy stuff here
( I still have my eye in one who has a stash of old boards ), and so there
was no need to ship a cabinet from the UK to Portugal.
But we eventually got to the money thing. And the price for a used cabinet
with monitor and power supply was about $1000. There was no way I could spend
that kind of money. Back to the drawing board…
I posted on rgvac about a cabinet, and eventually Graham Bisset contacted
me again. Yes he still had the cabinet, and yes he would sell it to me for
about $100. That was 10 times less that the local price!!!! Even with
shipping it should be much cheaper…
I was quite confident that shipping would be cheap: my brother had gone
to live on London for a year and shipping is bass guitars and amplifiers
had cost about $200. Imagine my surprise when I was quoted $500 for shipping
the cabinet from Aberdeen ( in Scotland ) to Portugal! Its much longer from
Aberdeen to Lisbon than from London to Lisbon, they said….
So, I Graham and me had to work something out. Could Graham ship this
stuff to London, to my brothers house ? Sure, he said. All I had to do was
pay the shipping. Graham went to a lot of trouble to find out the costs
( thanks again Graham ) and we agreed on a price of about $200 to pay for
the cabinet and the shipping to London. It took almost a month to get the
international cheque, and I eventually sent it to Graham. We were now in
October or November 94.
My brother came over to Portugal so there was no chance for sending the
cabinet. Then it was the Christmas holidays. Then Graham had a problem with
the carriers who refused to take anything that wasnt packaged properly. We
eventually managed to get the cabinet to my brothers house in middle January
1995. “You must be crazy!” my brother said. “You dont know what you’ve done,
the size of this thing. Cristina is going to kill you!”
My brother was coming home in March, and so we decided to ship the cabinet
together with his bass equipment. I had to wait until the end of March.
Last week he got home. And so did his things. And so did my cabinet!
Everything here, after a year of wheeling and dealing!
OK now what ? Well, I was in Electronics in high school. But I’ve forgotten
most of it by now. I can tell a resistor from a condenser from an IC. But
thats about it.
“Can we play now?” said Cristina. Well, no, you see the cabinet has a JAMMA
connector but the board isnt JAMMA, and so… I started exploring the
I gave it a thorough cleaning and went to see where everything connected.
I labelled everything. And did the same with the PCB. I made some questions
to Graham ( thanks again :-) and this weekend I decided I was going to put
this to work.
Friday afternoon I took off the wires that were connected to the power
suplly and connected the ones on the PCB. I got lucky that in Portugal we
have the same voltage as in the UK, 220V. The wall power jack was different
but I had a converter I had bought in London when I was there on my
honeymoon. I also connected the wires labelled SPEAKER from the PCB ( thanks
Bill :-) to the speaker itself. And connected the wires labelled RGB to the
ones where the JAMMA wires were connected ( thanks Bill and thanks Graham
:-) Called Cristina and asked her if she wanted to see the house explode.
I connected the power cord and heard a loud BANG!!!
At least there wasnt any smoke or fire… it was just the game in test
mode and the volume was too high ( one of the wires wasnt connected ).
But there was no video. I know that in the back of monitors there are
high voltages, but with care I shook this connector and that one. I
eventually found out that one of the power connectors on the monitor
wasnt soldered. I got it bent in a way that I got video for a couple
of minutes and finnaly checked that all was OK with the board. But the
solderings on the connector finnaly gave way and I couldnt get any video
no more. It was 4 AM Saturday morning and I was beat. And anyway I didnt
have a soldering iron, without which I couldnt continue.
So I woke up at about 9 AM and went to buy solder and a soldering iron.
Spent the whole Saturday connecting and soldering stuff. The joystick
was easy enough as well as the fire button and the coin switch. But
the 1 and 2 player buttons were confusing because there were some loose
wires which werent labelled and connected God knows where and also
because the Rally X board had other wires for lights under the buttons.
I just went ahead with experimenting and touching the wires to connectors
and finding out what they did. I took my time, labelled everyhing, took
several breaks. I had/have some trouble with the coin mechanism ( thats
not my forte ) and decided to connect one of the buttons on the cabinet
to simulate a coin dropping. I closed everything, cleaned up the living
room and finnaly got to dinner at 10PM.
But the dessert was wonderful: a nice game of Rally X!! ( a tear or two
now :-) I hadnt played this in about 10 years! I felt like a kid again
( not that I’m too old, just 27 ) but it was great anyway.
Cristina also loves the game. Says its like Tetris, you cant get it out
of your mind, and keep thinking strategies to win. Isnt that what makes
a great game ? Also she’s now changed her idea that it would be better
to have a console; you get a feeling playing a real arcade that you dont
get with a console or PC.
And now ? Well, I’d like to get a Time Pilot 84 and A Tutankham, another
two favourites. Also I can now finnish my port of Rally X to the PC and
make it more like the real thing.
Final notes: sorry about the long post, my biggest ever on Usenet. But
I think it would be useful for people outside the US and UK to know that
its possible for them to collect; and I think its also useful for people
in UK and US to know that its easier for them and to be aware of the
problems others are having ( no auctions, no abundance of arcades, no
new stuff games, no conferences ).
I’d also like to thank ( once again! ) Bill Esquivel and Graham Bisset
for their help and attention beyond the money/deal thing. They went to
a lot of trouble with shipping, packaging, questions, etc that they
probably could do without; all this to help someone start his collection.
I cant express my gratitude.
And now its off to another game of Rally X, see if I can finnaly get past
the 7th level. Without expending money!!! :-)
Et in Arcadia Ego