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Atari SpaceRiders Pinball (1977)

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last updated May 23, 2009 10:41 PM

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My introduction to collecting old arcade machines.


Atari Space Riders Pinball (1978)

Well, this is how it all started for me...

I was over at an acquaintance's house one day and saw that he had a pinball machine in his basement. I thought that was pretty cool. His little kids were playing it, and I could see that it had a number of things wrong with it, such as flippers that didn't work, broken bumpers, etc. I didn't even take note of the name of it or anything.

One day I find out they are moving. I asked what the plan was for the pinball machine. I was told that it was now in the garage, as it was almost totally unplayable. After offering to buy it from him he said I could just have it. I didn't feel this was fair, so I gave him $25 (that's Canadian, remember).

Well, I didn't waste much time, but got over there with a friend's truck. I can't even remember who it was who helped me with it now. It was apart, of course, and we lugged it up to my third floor apartment (no elevator). Good thing it was a two bedroom apartment and no kids (at the time)!  I set to work on it right away.

I obviously came to realize it was an Atari Space Riders. One thing that impressed me right away was the manufacturer. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Atari. I was a huge Atari 800/600xl fan, and at one time owned a lot of Atari 8-bit computer stuff. I also loved Atari for their arcade stuff as well. I was a big fan of Centipede and Battlezone especially.

I never really knew much of Atari's pinball history though. However, after tinkering with my Space Riders, I started having flashbacks of this machine. I now recall having played it many times at a campground not far from where I grew up in Penticton, BC, Canada. I would walk over to the campground and play on the 5 or 6 arcade machines they had there. I'm pretty certain now that one of the pinball machines was an Atari Space Riders.

What makes Space Riders unique is that it has no electronics, not even scoring, in the head. The scoring is displayed near the bottom of the main box, just above the left flipper button. The backglass is just one big lit up mirrored picture of a guy and his girl on a motorbike. Actually the flyer calls it a "super motocross theme". :)

Another unique feature is the wide-body design. It's a full 29" wide.
What makes Atari pins in general unique is that they only made a handful of them in their entire game making history! Pretty surprising for a company that dominated the arcades for many years.

Back to my progress with the machine... I eventually got the machine back into great working order, with a lot of help from a distributor here in Calgary called Southern Music.  I hate to admit it now that I know the company better.  If I'd have only known then about how over priced they were! At any rate, they seemed able to have, at their fingertips, any part I ever needed at a moments notice! They must have been slowly stripping another Space Riders in the back. I was even able to replace the bumper caps with original Atari ones with the logo on them. I replaced tons of solenoids and power transistors on the board. I ultimately think there was something wrong with the power supply that it kept burning these things out.

Once the thing was working fully, we moved from our apartment to a 4-plex, still in Airdrie, Alberta, Canada, but we no longer had room for my big toy.  I had another friend who was a huge '50's buff, and even though Space Riders was not a '50's machine, he felt pinball in general was a 50's thing.  I didn't argue, as my machine was about the only one he would ever have the opportunity to display in his theme basement.  I think you can see where I'm going with this.   He promised to store it for me as long as he could set it up and use it.   Well, we moved it to his place and there it stayed until that fateful day when he had a garage sale.

I told him to throw a sign on it for $175.  "If it sells, it sells," I thought.  It did.  $175 (remember, Canadian currency) in my pocket.  Hmmm, let's see, I probably spent $200 on parts, etc.  I don't think I made money on it, but the fun and experience were well worth it!   However, I was now 'machineless'.  Arcade machines would be out of my life for a few years after this...

One quick story though. In the third floor (this has significance) apartment, I used to do a lot of work on the machine. I would also play it whenever I felt like it. I came to realize these two activities didn't mix well. You see, I left the glass of most of the time because, as many of you know, it easier to work on it that way. Do you see where I'm going this time? Well, one night, about 11:30pm, I was playing pinball when all of the sudden there was a loud pounding on the floor! Oh oh, never thought about the neighbours! The machine was probably twice as loud without the glass on it! I was more cautious after that! :-)


back to Cliff's Arcade Page - Come 'n Gones...
here's that great Atari Pinball link again!

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