Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

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Drano
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Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby Drano » Mon Jul 04, 2016 3:20 pm

20160618_222900.jpg



Sounds like the title of a B-movie, I know.... but I can assure you, it's really more of a love story.

It's been roughly a year since I finally broke down and came out of the closet... I love classic Stern pins!
It was a hard pill to swallow for a DMD and EM loving lad like myself who'd always laughed at the thought of classic 'Sturds" ;)
But, it wasn't long after I'd taken my first steps into exploring early solid state pins that I was ensnared by their shameful lure and digital bleeps, blops and bloops.

I love the Bally and Williams games from this era, but 1980's Sterns are decidedly different. I've heard them referred to as "cheap, pretty and fast…" Now, I'm not sure how cheap they are anymore, but they sure as hell are punishing and as beautiful as they are mean. Not to mention they have some cool rules and objectives for the era.

I had the good fortune of acquiring a Meteor for my first foray into this dark corner of pindom. A fantastic game and I still love it, but it wasn't long before space-rocks and ICBMs gave way to bodacious beauties.

I had set my sights on some rare birds. Star Gazer, Quicksilver and Seawitch. It seems no coincidence that stern artists and designers were angling for the prepubescent male market with these strong female heroins/characters. I jokingly refer to them as "hippie chick, fishy chick and alien chick"… or simply "the ladies". Seeing them all together, they compliment each other beautifully. Each of these games combines great speed, creative shots, captivating sound effects and gorgeous artwork into pure pinball fun.

Given the rarity of some of these, I was extremely lucky to score these titles all within a year. I did have to trade a pretty decent DMD to acquire the Star Gazer, but the other two were found this Spring during the Allentown trip. I even cast my net across the Atlantic and ended up with a 2nd Quicksilver; from Serbia of all places! That 2nd example was sold off pretty quickly and helped to fund the others.
They are all here now and finally lined up in the workshop where they each await some long overdue attention.

So, with good weather on tap for the next few months, I'm setting myself the challenge of getting all 3 of these ladies refurbished, repainted and restored before the year is out. I know... it's not like I don't have other projects, but I am happiest when I have a dozen plates spinning in the air. My Fathom project is on hold until my playfield and parts arrive and the '66 Batman re-theme I'm doing with Monkeybug is also ongoing in the background. It's been a while since I documented an actual restore though, so I'll cover the progress here.

To preface, all machines are mostly working, so at least I can play one or two while working on another.
Star gazer is in the best shape out of the three so I'll probably start with the lowest hanging fruit and do SG first.

My goal is to have these complete before the new year… so I'm setting a very aggressive target date of December 31, 2016.... or 179 days (roughly 2 months per game).

I enjoy working under pressure.... so let's see how I do juggling these 3 pins and my other projects.

Stay tuned!

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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby HPR Pinball » Mon Jul 04, 2016 8:09 pm

Nice collection of classic Stern !
No love for Catacomb, Lightning, Freefall, F2K ?
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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby cait001 » Mon Jul 04, 2016 8:58 pm

Drano wrote:
20160618_222900.jpg

It's been roughly a year since I finally broke down and came out of the closet... I love classic Stern pins!
It was a hard pill to swallow for a DMD and EM loving lad like myself who'd always laughed at the thought of classic 'Sturds" ;)


I support your "lifestyle choices". truly.
And I'm not just saying that because I'm a h-
a h--

gosh it's so hard to say, but here I go:
A haver of Sterns. Stars and Meteor. They're so good. And they're STILL a good value imho.
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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby Drano » Mon Jul 04, 2016 11:47 pm

cait001 wrote:
Drano wrote:
20160618_222900.jpg

It's been roughly a year since I finally broke down and came out of the closet... I love classic Stern pins!
It was a hard pill to swallow for a DMD and EM loving lad like myself who'd always laughed at the thought of classic 'Sturds" ;)


I support your "lifestyle choices". truly.
And I'm not just saying that because I'm a h-
a h--

gosh it's so hard to say, but here I go:
A haver of Sterns. Stars and Meteor. They're so good. And they're STILL a good value imho.


The heart wants what the heart wants ;)


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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby Drano » Mon Jul 04, 2016 11:52 pm

HPR Pinball wrote:Nice collection of classic Stern !
No love for Catacomb, Lightning, Freefall, F2K ?


I came very close to getting F2K but, after playing Clay's entire row of classic Sterns last year at the VFW, I decided on Meteor for my first one. I just didn't like the way the wide body sterns played. Big Game was also on my list... But it felt more like a GTB system 80 than a classic Stern. Also, I'm not a huge fan of the "puzzle" or "toast" games. I guess I just don't understand how they work yet.

But I already have 4, so I think I'm pretty good for now.
Don't want to make my classic Ballys jealous after all ;)

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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby Sparky » Tue Jul 05, 2016 6:40 am

Drano wrote: Big Game was also on my list... But it felt more like a GTB system 80 than a classic Stern.


blasphemy2.jpg


Big Game is the greatest single-ball widebody... EVER. LOL
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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby Mrhide » Tue Jul 05, 2016 7:03 am

+ 1 on sparky there... Big game is one of my favorite Stern. (thanks redketchup !)
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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby redketchup » Tue Jul 05, 2016 7:08 am

All the classic stern are pretty fun and unique, and they look beautifull , this is why i like it so much
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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby DrDude » Tue Jul 05, 2016 7:40 am

Drano wrote:
20160618_222900.jpg

I love the Bally and Williams games from this era, but 1980's Sterns are decidedly different. I've heard them referred to as "cheap, pretty and fast…" Now, I'm not sure how cheap they are anymore, but they sure as hell are punishing and as beautiful as they are mean. Not to mention they have some cool rules and objectives for the era.


Trashing Classic Sterns as "cheap" is something that has its origins in the early history of Stern Electronics, Inc, which pushed its way into the crowded pinball market by purchasing Chicago Coin in December 1976, and using Chicago Coin's production facilities (and designs) to rapidly put out some EM games. As such, the early Stern EM's were Chicago Coin machines. I don't know the Early Stern EM's very well, so can't comment on the mechanical quality of those games, but given that Chicago Coin was a low-end player in the Pinball market at the time, I can't imagine that they were Cadillacs!

But note that date (1976) and what was going on over at Bally right around then: Solid State games were the next Big Thing, and Stern Electronics would need SS if it was to compete (hell, stay alive even!). So Stern literally stole the Bally AS-2518-17 MPU design (and all the other supporting boards as well) by hand-drawing pin-equivalent board-layouts (the Bally boards were nice, clean, CAD layouts), allowing Stern to put out SS games by late 1977 so that they could respond to the new SS threat. I think it is this that caused Pinball operators to disparage Stern as "cheap": The boards themselves look crude compared to the Bally equivalents. Also, early Stern SS games have a lot of compromises on simple things like mounting screws and mechanical brackets (likely deriving from the Chicago Coin production line) that were gradually phased out and improved as Stern moved to the Next Generation MPU-200 board-set in 1979.

Conclusion? The MPU-200 games (Meteor and beyond) were in no way Cheap compared to Bally, but prior to that, yes, Stern EM's and early SS did not really seem as well-built as Bally.
Last edited by DrDude on Tue Jul 05, 2016 8:49 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby Pindude152 » Tue Jul 05, 2016 7:58 am

DrDude wrote: Stern literally stole the Bally AS-2518-17 MPU design (and all the other supporting boards as well) by hand-drawing a pin-equivalent board-layouts (the Bally boards were nice, clean, CAD layouts), allowing Stern to put out SS games by late 1977


If there is such a thing as a PCB preference, I always thought the old Stern boards looked way cooler because of all those squiggly traces :-)

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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby PinMeds » Tue Jul 05, 2016 8:01 am

Drano wrote:It's been roughly a year since I finally broke down and came out of the closet... I love classic Stern pins!


I have really liked Classic Sterns since the first time I played Stars at the Spiders Web Arcade when I was 12 years old.

I have loved them since I played Meteor at the old Skateway Roller Disco shortly thereafter in late '79.

Stargazer, Seawitch, and Quicksilver became faves as well in the ensuing years, and to this day I still covet all these great beauties and their sistren.

With my close friend DrDude a half a block away, I am blessed to have access to a bevy of them within walking distance of my door, and somehow a flock of them seem to graze in my field of dreams for years at a time. Welcome guests indeed!

Drano wrote:Star Gazer, Quicksilver and Seawitch. It seems no coincidence that stern artists and designers were angling for the with these strong female heroins/characters. I jokingly refer to them as "hippie chick, fishy chick and alien chick"… or simply "the ladies".


As a former member of the prepubescent male market I will admit to appreciating the "Stern Women", but the allure for me began with two Space motifs, so I can honestly claim my intentions were honourable.

And as much as the Stern, Gottlieb, and even a handful of Williams women beguiled me, in this arena, the more anatomically complete Bally ladies were the gold standard.

Sparky wrote:Drano wrote:
Big Game was also on my list... But it felt more like a GTB system 80 than a classic Stern.

Big Game is the greatest single-ball widebody... EVER. LOL


I was never huge on Big Game, don't hate it though, but of the Widebody Sterns, Cheetah is by far my fave. Perhaps my inner prepubescent male still holds some influence on my perception...

As far as sys80 goes, I must admit I'm also partial to those old beasts as well!
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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby Drano » Tue Jul 05, 2016 6:28 pm

I think the main issue is that I don't quite understand games like Big Game and Catacomb with their weird rules and 'toast shaped' matrix.
I used to turn my nose up at the very games I'm planning to restore so, I'm sure that if someone spent the time to walk me through it, Big Game would probably climb back up to the top of my wanted list.... But it's probably better for me that it doesn't ;)

As for the system 80 reference... It was more to do with the multiple flippers and wide body layout.
Last edited by Drano on Tue Jul 05, 2016 7:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby HPR Pinball » Tue Jul 05, 2016 6:42 pm

Drano wrote:I think the main issue is that I don't quite understand ganes like Big Game and Catacomb with their weird rules and 'toast shaped' matrix.
I used to turn my nose up at the very ganes I'm planning to restore so, I'm sure that if someone spent the time to walk me through it, Big Game would probably climb back up to the top of my wanted list.... But it's probably better for me that it doesn't ;)

As for the system 80 reference... It was more to do with the multiple flippers and wide body layout.


Imho, from a rules perspective and challenge to play, Catacomb and Big Game are on the top of the list.
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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby OTTOgd » Tue Jul 05, 2016 7:57 pm

Catacomb is a tough game! Dig the bagatelle. Mine isn't leaving anytime soon.

Haven't spent any time on Big Game so I can't comment on it.

Did own Seawitch and did not enjoy it at all.

No hot chicks, but I really enjoyed Stern Hot Hand. Nifty game. Kinda wish I didn't sell it. :(

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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby cait001 » Tue Jul 05, 2016 8:03 pm

Agree with Mike about Cheetah. One of my absolute favourites.
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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby Sparky » Wed Jul 06, 2016 6:47 am

cait001 wrote:Agree with Mike about Cheetah. One of my absolute favourites.


Problem is that not many have ever played a Cheetah. Rare as hell. Even I have never played one.
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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby Drano » Wed Jul 06, 2016 10:31 pm

Sparky wrote:
cait001 wrote:Agree with Mike about Cheetah. One of my absolute favourites.


Problem is that not many have ever played a Cheetah. Rare as hell. Even I have never played one.


I got to restore this one a while back.
I've played it a few times. It's okay.
Like the others, I probably could do with a little tutorial to truly appreciate it.

IMG_3887.JPG

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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby Drano » Wed Jul 06, 2016 10:39 pm

177 days remaining

I got a bit of a start on Star Gazer yesterday night.
I've had this one the longest of the three so I've already gotten a fair head start on collecting parts.
New rubber, coin door stickers, refurbished spinners, new targets and a full set of new repro plastics from PromoJoe on Pinside. He thought he was sold out but found this last set during a recent move. I was very lucky to find them... even though CPR is rumored to be doing them.

20160705_230451.jpg


I took out the playfield and started to take apart the cabinet.
Overall the main cab is in nice shape and fairly clean inside. The head has some damage and some drywall screw repairs. Still, it'll be an easy fix.

I won't be able to get much more done until the weekend due to work, but should have the cab stripped enough to sand down in the next couple of days.

20160705_232819.jpg

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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby redketchup » Thu Jul 07, 2016 7:02 am

That star gazer playfeild look very good!
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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby HPR Pinball » Thu Jul 07, 2016 4:56 pm

Another lucky Stargazer owner !! It look great.
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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby Drano » Thu Jul 07, 2016 7:32 pm

Yes, the playfield is in great shape. At some point somebody placed clear vinyl over the entire surface. It's not Mylar so it peels back easily and without causing damage... so I should have an easy restoration. Just a couple of small areas to fix.

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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby Drano » Thu Jul 07, 2016 7:43 pm

One other thing...
I spoke to Bob Langelius (who reproduced the translucent Bally target fronts for Medusa and other games) and I was trying to get him to make opaque ones for Stern games.

He finally got back to me and has already made some samples in white, red, yellow and other colours. He sent me this the other day.
He's going to send me an email in 3 weeks or so once he has produced them in quantity. You can now have fresh new targets for your SG and other pins.

IMG_6304.JPG

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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby Drano » Fri Jul 08, 2016 10:07 pm

175 days remaining

Just a small update.
Got most of the guts removed. Still have to remove the side-rails but I'll give the inside a quick vacuum and a light sanding on the really dirty wood.
I also have to dig around to see if there's existing art out there for these cabinet labels.

20160708_215520.jpg


20160708_222732.jpg


20160708_222611.jpg

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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby OTTOgd » Sat Jul 09, 2016 12:31 am

Drano wrote:I also have to dig around to see if there's existing art out there for these cabinet labels.


Dig? Are you being serious, Adriano?

I may know someone who already re-made those labels. ;)

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Re: Dr.NO and the STERN 'sisters'

Postby eh97ac » Sat Jul 09, 2016 7:21 am

OTTOgd wrote:
Drano wrote:I may know someone who already re-made those labels. ;)


Is he good looking and lives in Brampton?



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