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Finished Result



playfield and display

We finished working on Solar Ride 2004 pretty much at the end of December 2005. For 2005, we spent big chunks of time on the following topics:

  • Creating PCBs from the breadboards
  • Enhancing the Java software in various areas.

Creating PCBs

Using CADSoft's free version of Eagle, I created small PCB designs for the various boards. The Eagle files were then sent to Olimex in Bulgaria for creation. Once received, I soldered all components on. Generally I made lots of errors (such as forgetting to provide connectors to supply power to one board!).

Also had evil grounding noise problems and other stuff. But generally everything turned out ok. Hopefully the next time I will not make the same mistakes and can move on to bigger and harder to fix mistakes.

Java Software Updates

Worked on several areas. A main target of focus was the display. Updated the code to at least support multiple fonts, right down to the single character level. That was very important in order to convey information to the player better. I can't say that I took full advantage of the facilities but I did what I could that was easy. Also changed the window size to 800 x 600 from 640 x 480 so that it was full screen.


The screen was further partitioned into three areas, so that you have the main message area, plus a couple of smaller status windows to always let you know how you are doing with the SOLAR RIDE sequence, and the upper right rollunder sequence awards.

Also spent a lot of time getting the sound to work properly with the Java Sound API. It didn't work that great until I upgraded to Java 1.5. Also blew about 40 hours trying to install a newer sound driver to play MIDI files properly. Ugh. Had to re-install Windows 98SE. First time I've ever screwed up enough to have to take that extreme measure.

Sound wise, I can play sampled audio in the foreground or background, and one MIDI file in the foreground (restriction due to aforementioned MIDI problems). So MIDI files are only used in attract mode. On other systems I don't have this problem. In the game I can play sampled music in the background while still maintaining multiple foreground channels for sound effects.

Also improved other aspects of the code with respect to timers and game rules, etc. Added tilt and tilt warning code, and the ability to power off the game using the coin reject and start button switches. You push the coin reject button twice to enter test mode then click the start button to shut down Windows. I liked the messed up analogy to Windows, whereby you click START to END!

The Decision to End Development

I decided to stop doing updates and move on to the next project. I could have continued to add on software modes and rules, new and better sound effects, etc. but you have to stop somewhere.


I could still use some basic things like ball search if it doesn't come out of the outhole (duh). When that occurs I need to go to the console and type "fire Outhole". My player management is still kind of awkward, but I did improve it somewhat. It is lacking though.

I had planned to get a flat screen LCD monitor. and use a cheap desktop as the final controlling device instead of the laptop. I debated this for quite awhile. But in the end I just left the original Compaq Armada M700 hooked up. It wasn't good enough for future development so I didn't want it left over! So as you can see in the pix, the Armada remains as the final PC controller, with it's screen and sound card providing respective display and sound support.

game lit up

I modified my back panel, first moving the electronics (now on PCBs) inside onto the bottom board. Then allowing the laptop to sit on top bounded by satellite speakers on either side. The speakers are just attached with twist ties. Behind the laptop is a power bar. On the floor under the game is the subwoofer. Total output of the 3 speakers is I think 28 or 32W RMS. Not loud enough but adequate in my basement!

I wanted to build a nice enclosing box for the screen display but never got around to it. Would have been easier with just an LCD screen. The image below is a software screen capture. If it looks blurry it's because I heavily compressed the file. You can see how basic the screen display is, with my great choice of cheesy colors. The area at bottom can show 4 scores at once. Players generally have their customized names there rather than "Player n". Highest score is hi-lited in a different color, etc.

screen capture

The game sits in my game room with all the other pins and I enjoy playing it regularly. Goes good with scotch. The fun comes mostly from trying to complete sequences, such as spelling SOLAR RIDE and activating some music.

Last updated: September 26, 2008


© Terry Cumming, 2006-2008