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Pump Haven :: Buying a Pump Machine: A Tale of Whoa!
10:40PM CST :: 10/29/06

Buying A Pump Machine
A Tale of Whoa!

A novel by Pawprint

For starters, I apologize for the stupid pun in the title, plus the redundancy in the phrase "stupid pun." I also apologize for being long-winded, but that's just the way I am. Go get a cold beverage and settle in.

Finding a Machine

[This part is kind of boring. If you're in a hurry, skip to the part titled "Putting it Together" and ignore all the beautiful prose I spent hours typing out, you impatient bastard.]

So on the way back from having a wonderful time at the US Pump Festival, I decided to stop by the Regency Square Mall in Jacksonville to check out a machine listed in a forum thread. I had called the arcade (Tilt) a few weeks earlier to verify it was there, but since it was a Premiere 2 and was basically on my way I figured I'd go see it in person.

I found the machine and noticed that it had a price tag on it. (For those who don't know, Tilt arcades put their machines on sale once a year to clear out the older games so they can get newer ones.) This was somewhat of a surprise to me because although I knew the sale would eventually happen, I didn't think it would be as early as the beginning of October. I quickly found the manager and asked him if all Tilt arcades would have their machines priced and he said yes. I asked the question because I had had my eye on a GX machine in the Oviedo Marketplace Tilt and was ready to pounce as soon as the sale commenced. But first I had to play some Pump, of course.

This machine was a DX (which I didn't know) and had a TV instead of the DX monitor (which I did know). The problem with the TV was that the screen was clipped on all sides. Player 1 couldn't even see the modifier icons, so I wasn't sure if I had set my speed to 2X (which I hadn't) and because I couldn't read the 1X arrows very well I nearly failed--get this--I Love You CZ. How embarassing would that have been? (Of course some folks would be embarassed to be seen playing I Love You in the first place, but not me. I love that song.) I played a couple of other songs, including of course Swing Baby, and then my son played a game. The pads were responsive although they looked horrible. The panels were all turned upside down and the decals had been worn off leaving color only around the edges. You could see the lamps. I later learned the manager (who played a little Pump) felt that the panels were beginning to bow inwards and turned them over to help combat that. Better to play well than to look good.... All in all, it was a decent machine but I didn't think it deserved the price tag of $3,495. (That's USD for you international folks. Ooh, I feel so global.)

I continued on my journey home and called the other Tilt almost immediately. I was told the price was $2,995. I was hoping for about 2,500, but oh well. I decided to go there before stopping at home to check out the machine and plant my flag in it if necessary. When I got there I learned that the monitor was not functioning. Bummer. That's a $400-$500 part right there. I had to think about this. The only other machine I knew of was one in the Fashion Square Mall and it had been to hell and back. But it was $1000 less and I would be remiss if I didn't check it out, so I went there. One of the employees told me the machine wasn't working at all; problems with the main board he figured. That kind of settled it for me. I decided I'd go buy the other machine the next day (Tuesday).

When I arrived at Tilt the next morning the assistant manager, who I had spoken to a few times before and knew I was interested in the machine, told me that they had a new monitor on order and it would be included in the quoted price. I wish the clueless boob I had spoken to the day before had known that. So now I had to wait for the monitor to come in. That was going to be torture!

So I waited. And waited. In the event that I got the good news over the weekend I figured I'd better have my payment ready. They only took cash or cashier's check, so Friday morning I got a cashier's check for the price plus tax, a total of $3,204.65 if you care. On Friday I got a call from the Oviedo Tilt manager who told me he had "some information about the Pump machine." That sounded ominous, and it was. The Regional Manager had decided that since the machine was getting a brand new monitor he wanted to charge me an extra $500 bucks for the damn thing. Dickhead. The manager felt bad about this because he too had been there Tuesday and knew that I had been told the monitor was part of the posted price. He said he'd try to contact his District Manager and see if there was anything she could do.

At this point I was quite pissed and decided to give the Tilt in Jacksonville a call. Since the machines were now the same price I figured I might as well buy the one that had the mix I wanted. (The machine in Oviedo was running The Collection, and I was planning on purchasing a Prem 2 upgrade which I had found for $330.) The girl I spoke to said that the machine could only be purchased if the manager (Brandon) was present, so she helpfully called him to find out when he'd be in next and called me back. She said that he'd be in the next day after 3:00 and had said that the machine might come down in price slightly since they didn't have that mix in their pricing sheet and priced it based on Exceed 2. This was promising, especially since I didn't relish having to dig up another 500+ bucks. Now I had to wait once again. Argh.

Fortunately Saturday is my Pump day at DisneyQuest, so the time went by pretty quickly. A little after 3:00 I gave Oviedo a call to see if the DM had been able to do anything about the price, but they said that since the Regional was in charge of the whole East Coast there was nothing that could be done. I told them thanks for all they tried to do, but I had to pass. Then I called Jacksonville and asked about the final price of the machine. Brandon made a quick call to El PeckerCabesa and told me the price would be $2,995. Dickhead had redeemed himself slightly. As a bonus, Jacksonville's tax rate was the same as mine so I had the exact amount in my check. Now when can I get it? Uh oh, Brandon won't be in on Sunday and only works days during the week. I'd have to wait until next Saturday! No, that was not possible. I'd go nucking futs. I had to get it today.

So I called some friends. My friend Tony was unavailable because he was helping someone else in Orlando. His roommate Rob was available to drive his truck but couldn't help lift because he had a broken rib, so I had transporation but not muscle. My brother-in-law was working. My sister wanted to have dinner with my brother and his wife who were leaving to go home to Tennessee the next morning, and told me she'd help if I really needed her. Damn! I didn't want to screw up her plans, so I called a work colleague (James) and he and his girlfriend kindly postponed their dinner plans with his mother to help me out. Now I was in business. I hauled ass home from DQ, changed clothes, and headed towards Jacksonville, 120 miles away. I met up with my buddy driving the truck on I-95 and guided them to the mall. We got there around 8:00 and Brandon and I started dismantling the machine. We soon realized that the whole thing wasn't going to fit into my friend's short-bed truck, so I asked if we could leave the system unit there and come back tomorrow. Fortunately the answer was yes. Brandon also gave me some extra panels he had which were in much better shape decal-wise than the ones on the machine but which he said were also bowed somewhat.

The mall closed at 9:00 and we got out of there around 10:00. The Tilt folks were really cool to hang around to help load the heavy stuff into the truck. We drove back to my place and unloaded everything. My apartment was littered with Pump pieces and parts. Somewhere around 2:30 in the morning they left for home. I got to bed about 3:00.

And got up at 9:00. Ouch. Three hours of Pump the day before and all that driving and hauling afterwards was not making my body happy. I was hoping that I could ride in the truck for this second run, but it was not to be, because James saw a machine he wanted and so there wouldn't be room for the system unit, his machine, and the marquee--which I had forgotten to bring along last night, duh--in the truck bed and the marquee would have to go in the passenger compartment.

So now I had to make another 240-mile round trip. Egad.

We got everything in the truck by tipping the system unit on its side and removing the casters and feet. This allowed it to slide further back in the truck bed. (The wheel wells gave us only 40.5 inches and the system unit is 39 inches high with the stuff detached--whew!) Now we had room to heft James's really goddamn unwieldy game into the truck. Took about five of us to do it, but we succeeded. A stop at James's place to unload his game and we were on our way to my place (minus James, who was just barely going to make his dinner engagement with his mother) and the end of the driving at last! Tony and I unloaded the system unit and the marquee and I told them they could go home because I was going to clean everything before putting it together. It was now about 6:30. I had a Pump machine!

In several pieces.

Putting it Together

While taking the machine apart I noticed that the pads were missing one caster and two others were broken, so I went to Home Depot before the second cargo run and bought four new ones (might as well have one pad with all new casters). I also bought some black screws that are used to connect the pads together and also hold the bars in place. I actually brought several screws with me because there were others I was short on, but I found no matches. I realized later that this was due to Home Depot's piss-poor selection of screws. Unless you're looking for something mundane, folks, go to a local hardware store for your fasteners, not Home Depot.

This machine is not new. The cabinet is in decent shape, and the pads are solid, but they probably hadn't been cleaned since they were new. So I cleaned them, at least outside. Inside would come later. Why the bottom of the pads is painted white I'll never know. Who's going to see underneath? Well, besides me of course. Regardless, not counting the few rust spots and areas where the paint had flaked off I now have pads with a nice, clean, white underbelly. I discovered in the process that Pump pads have "drain holes" in the bottom. There are four square holes per panel and they let some of the dirt that makes it underneath a panel fall through to the floor. Emphasis on some.

I put the casters and feet back on the pads, slid them into the back room (they're too wide to roll through the door in their normal position) and tipped them down. My brand new casters got about 12 whole inches of use before the pads were in place, and they won't see action again until I buy a house and move out of this apartment!

I cleaned the conduit that protects the wires going from the pads to the cabinet but there are some black marks on it that will never go away. (The plastic isn't black like most newer machines; it's kind of slate blue.) It doesn't bend as well as I'd like, and because the DX speakers extend outward from the coin door area, the conduit comes into the metal cover box from the bottom, requiring a tight bend. I might look into replacing the material with something more flexible.

As I was connecting the pads together with the heavy black metal plates, I discovered that one of the screw holes in the plate had a burr. This discovery took place as I was hand-turning a screw and my finger slid across the burr, making a quarter-inch slice. Fortunately it wasn't deep, but it was quick to bleed. My first hardware injury.

The Machine

DXs are quite different from the other models of cabinet. For one thing, they have two pieces whereas the other cabs are a single unit. The back piece holds the monitor and is the base for the marquee, while the front piece is the system unit. There are two metal...beams (for lack of a better word)...that connect to the front piece and the marquee, serving to both help hold the marquee up and keep the two cabinet pieces together. The lights are attached to these beams. There's also metal plates that screw into both parts of the cabinet, holding them together at the bottom.

Something interesting I discovered about the back (monitor) section is that, in my machine at least, it too is in two parts. The top part sits on top of a 10-inch-high box which serves to bring the monitor up to the required height. This wouldn't be noteworthy at all except for the fact that the top part has its own set of casters and feet. It's as if the top part could be used on its own, but certainly not with the system unit I have. The metal plates mentioned above hold these two parts together as well.

So there it is: a Pump machine in my back bedroom. The pads have more than likely come from different machines, judging by the slightly different shapes of the bends in the bars and also the general rust levels. On the front are decals showing codes for Extra. The marquee has a banner proclaiming it to be The Perfect Collection. Inside is actually Premiere 2. Ladies and gentlemen, I am the proud owner...

...of Frankenbox.


But it sure is one damn clean Frankenbox. As part of some subconscious "I'd rather work on my machine than actually play it" agenda I spent the next several evenings and most of Sunday cleaning up, as well as a Sunday a couple of weeks later (the day I wrote this section, actually). I at least took off one Sunday to have a music game party at my place.

One of the first things I noticed from the few times I actually played a game was that the panels were loud. They rattled a lot. I determined that this was because the sensor brackets under them were basically bare metal. From the few times I've looked under a panel in an arcade I knew that there was some sort of rubber-like material on the top of these brackets, and now I knew why. So I bought some rubber tape, specifically Scotch 2228 Rubber Mastic Tape. I put this on all brackets that needed it (each pad had one panel with "good" sensor brackets, the rest needed the mod). Here's a before and after:

I later learned that I probably should have used something called "friction tape" because the panels actually stick to this rubber, like your thigh to a leather car seat on a hot day. It doesn't affect sensitivity, but it's a bitch to lift the panels off if you need to get under them.

I also did some cleanup on the older pad. I removed the four metal covers between the panels and took out the metal supports underneath. These I painted with "aluminum" colored Rustoleum spray paint. I also painted the bars. Here's another before and after:

In case you're interested, "Safety Red" professional Rustoleum paint is a perfect match for Pump bars. In these pictures you can see the difference in the bars I mentioned earlier. Look for the inside bend. One is also shorter than the other, but when installed they're at the same height.

My pads came complete with cardboard modding, which you can see in the rubber mod pictures above. If you don't know, that's when you take strips of thin cardboard and put them under the sensor bracket so that the bracket presses better against the sensor. It's done when the sensors start to wear out. It's also pretty ghetto. I had heard someone mention modding with double-sided tape once, so I decided I'd give it a try. My first thought was to stick a piece under the sensor bracket, but that was actually a pretty stupid idea. You see, the sensor sits inside a rubber "sleeve" whose sides come up to the same height as the sensor (at least when it's worn). If the bracket (or the tape under the bracket) presses down on these sides it doesn't push the sensor down as well as it should, and since the brackets have wiggle room you can't be assured that the tape on the underside will always push directly against the sensor.

So I switched my brain into the On position and realized I should put the tape directly on the sensor. This then creates a raised area above the rubber sleeve and provides a perfect place for the bracket to press against. Not only that, but it's virtually invisible when the panels are removed as opposed to cardboard which is obvious. Here's a picture of the sensors with the tape applied:

In the upper-left corner you can see one that I had already finished. You can't tell they've been modded. Who's gonna see? No one; it just makes me feel better.

Another thing that bugged me about the machine was the TV. Not the fact that it had a TV, but rather the picture quality. There was a circuit board installed which transformed the VGA signal from the Pump hardware into S-Video and that's what fed the TV. Unfortunately, the picture was cropped on all sides. Player 1 couldn't even tell what modifiers were in effect, as all you could see were a few blue pixels from the right side of the graphics. You also couldn't see your life bar at the top. I needed something that could directly handle VGA input. There was pretty much only one choice: a big-screen TV.

I checked around at Best Buy ('cause hey, I'm going to get Reward Zone points for a purchase of this size, dammit) and I found a nice Samsung 42" DLP TV for $1400. I also had a coupon for double points on a single purchase so this is going to end up buying me Guitar Hero 2! This TV is pretty nice, and boy is it light. It only weighs about 70 pounds, which is lighter than the 32" tube my sister and I removed from the machine. After she helped me bring the bulky box inside I picked up the new TV and carried it to the machine on my own. Apparently technology has advanced in just the last year and a half because I bought a 52" DLP TV then and it weighs almost twice as much!

I didn't gain much--if any--screen real estate because this TV is a wide screen and the 4:3 mode is pretty much the same as the 32". (Yes, I could put the display on widescreen stretch mode but I think it looks awful.) However, there's very little cutoff. A tiny bit on the left and a tiny bit on top, but you have to look for it to notice it. This seems to be common to TVs with VGA input, because the same thing happens to the computer connected to my other TV, and it's even a different brand. More before and after pics:

Old and Busted

New Hotness

There's actually one more After pic coming in this sequence. Notice the scratches in the plastic that covers the screen. That was too distracting to me, so I bought a piece of plastic and cut it to fit. Notice to anyone who's ever scored and broken a piece of plastic: you may want to skip the next paragraph as it will probably cause unpleasant flashbacks.

The suggested method for cutting plastic is to use a speacial scoring knife and then break the plastic along the score. Yeah, right. I had to take a 36" x 48" piece and cut it to 31.5" x 43". The directions recommended I score the piece about 5 or 6 times, so I did. Then you put one hand on each side and break a little, then move two inches and repeat. Ha. The first break went about 8 inches long and curved away from the piece after about 3 inches. Realizing that this would probably happen a lot I re-scored it about 4 or 5 times and broke off what I could. Then I took a hacksaw and cut off the large wave-shaped bits that were left and finally filed down what few bumps remained. Then I had the other side to do. It went a little easier since I knew what to expect, but the whole experience was not fun. If I were ever to do something like this again I'd get two or three other people and a two-by-four and we'd all push on this at the same time. Either that or I'd use a jigsaw.

Anyways, I installed my new scratchless plastic screen and it looks really nice:

If you look closely at the bottom of the TV on the right and left you might see some holes I drilled in the plastic. This is for the TV's speakers. It lets my machine do something I bet yours can't:

Pump at Home

So what's cool about having your own Pump machine? "Why, getting to play for free" you probably say. Bullshit. If someone gives you a machine you're playing for free, but if you buy it you're paying, either for lots and lots of games in advance (if you paid cash) or on the installment plan (if you paid with credit). No, here's what's great about having a machine:

1. Complete control of your playing environment. Fans. Fans are wonderful. I've got a ceiling fan directly above me and a tower fan in the doorway. It's so nice.

2. Playing in your underwear. Now maybe you go to a really fun arcade where you can do this--and if so I'd appreciate an invitation--but more than likely you play Pump fully clothed. Not I. Shoes, socks, and briefs for me.

3. Farting with impunity. Ever had to rip one but didn't want to do it in front of a crowd? Sucks, doesn't it? At home you can just cut loose.

4. No waiting. And no inconsiderate asshole n00bs who play a song, fail, and start the game up again.

5. Looking at your machine and thinking "That's mine." 'Nuff said.


I'll end this story here. I was going to share how I hit my head on one of the lights, how I cleaned some dust rhinos out of the speakers, and other anecdotes, but I just want to get this thing over with. Someday I'll post some more pictures showing the innards of a machine for those who are interested. If I didn't cover some aspect of purchasing a machine that you want to know about, feel free to ask. Remember, I didn't buy this from a distributor, so I can't tell you what that experience is like. Thanks for reading. Here's one more pic: