In October 2015 I found a FREE Area 51 cabinet on Craigslist in Pensacola, FL. Even though that is a 20 hr round trip drive for me, my father lives down there so I had him drive over and pick it up. When I got it home a few weeks later it was in pretty bad shape:



The main problem was the monitor which was completely hosed. Normally, a game would still be kind of playable with a bad monitor but a game that uses light guns for controllers has to have perfect video:



One thing to note when working on TVs or arcade monitors. They will kill the hell out of you. There is about 14 Bajillion volts stored in those things so you must short them out before playing with them. Here is the tool I built to short them:



The first thing to do when trying to fix an old arcade monitor is to replace all the capacitors on the chassis. It took me around 6 hours to replace all 30 of them:



I found that installing a cap kit still did not fix the monitor and noticed that the purity rings were broken on the neck:



I replaced the rings but it still didn't help. It looked like I needed to replace the monitor. Since 25" arcade monitors are around $400, buying a new one was not an option. I opted to do a tube swap with an old CRT TV. These things are getting pretty hard to find. Pawn shops don't sell them, Goodwill won't take them, and even though the local dump is full of them they will not allow you to take one. I cruised around town during the early morning hours and found a few sitting on the side of the road on trash pickup day and finally found a swap shop that had some old broken TVs. After trying 14 different broken TVs over a period of six weeks I finally found someone on Craigslist that had one for $20 - WAY WAY too much for something that ought to be in a junk pile but 25" TVs with CR-23 sockets are hard to find. That was a while back and now I usually give less than $10 for one or just carry them away for free. Even though some people think they have "treasure" sitting in their spare bedroom they really are worth less than nothing and will eventually end up at the dump:



To get an old CRT TV to work in an arcade machine you must make sure they neckboard will fit. The Area 51 uses a Wells Garner K7000 chassis so it is important that my TV had a CR-23 socket. It is also important that the resistance readings on the vertical and horizontal coils be close on the monitor and TV. The K7000 showed 1.8 and 7.3 ohms and the Phillips 25TR19C221 TV showed 1.6 and 9.1 ohms. I was in business:



Getting the TV tube ready for the swap:



Finally, everything is together. This took me over two months to get to this point:



Once the monitor was up and running the colors still looked pretty bad. I built a deguassing coil and used it to get the monitor guns working properly:



After getting the monitor sorted out (kind of - more on that later) I needed to get the light guns working. One of them was not working very well and the other was not working at all. I found an extra light gun harness in the bottom of the cabinet when I first brought it home and that tricked me into thinking there was something wrong with the wiring. It ended up bing a very hard to see broken leg on the light source (right above where the trigger would be):



The power supply was the next thing to get fixed. The fan was completely shot so after that was replaced a little cleanup was all that was needed:



The cabinet did not have any side art installed, the control panel was pretty trashed and the marquee was in pretty bad shape. Here my kitty is helping me work on the marquee. Sadly the cat, who was 17 years old, died before the project was completed. He is pretty much nothing but skin and bones at this point.



After getting the game working a little better, I wanted to enhance it a bit. This was my first dedicated arcade machine (all my other machines were running MAME with multiple games on them) and it felt a little strange just having the one game on a cabinet. I found that at one time Area 51 was released in a dual configuration with two games in one. To get both games on my cabinet I had to take several steps. The first was to replace the Area 51 hard drive with a compact flash card containing the Area 51 / Maximum Force Duo:



Ah, much better. Yes, I know I left the HD in there. What did you want me to do with it? Pull it out and put it in a drawer? I'll leave it in there forever:



I also had to replace the Area 51 roms with Area51MX roms (Duo). Here you can see the roms marked H K M P:



I ordered some 27C040-10 roms off Ebay and purchased a UV light Eprom eraser (yes, you use light to delete the data off the old eproms):



To put the new data on the blank eproms I purchased a GQ-4x4 eprom burner. Note that you can see a Galaga chip in the picture. Yet another project:



The roms used in the Area 51 MX Duo game checks for a security chip at the beginning of gameplay. If the chip does not exist then the game will shut down. Since I did not have a security chip (if you look closely you can see the empty IC socket close to the HD in one of the pictures above) I had to alter the code on the chips so the game would not do the check. Here you can see the hexidecimal code you have to change:



The new CF card with IDE interface and rom chips are installed:



As soon as I got the chips hacked so I could play the Duo game my monitor decided to go on the fritz again. This time I was having intermittent focus issues. Usually this is caused by a bad flyback transformer:



I ordered a new flyback transformer and installed it:



I was still having issues so the next place to look was the neckboard. I ordered a replacement K7000 chassis from Ebay so I had some spare parts. I paid $62 for it and it was pretty toasty:



After swapping neckboards things were looking worse instead of better:

Edit - As I learn more about monitors I have determined that this is probably a horizontal sync issue. I'll have to look into this sometime in the future.



So, I ordered a third K7000 chassis off Ebay ($35 this time). I pulled the neckboard from chassis #3 and installed it in the machine. It did not use the "push in" type focus wire but instead had a solder lug for the focus wire. As I got ready to solder it I saw that my focus wire (a multi-stranded wire) had several strands that were broken. I cut the bad section out, restripped the wire and everything was fine. I am not sure if this had been the problem all along but at least the game was working perfectly at this point. I would have tried neckboard #1 again but I will probably use it in another project so it wasn't really necessary. Anyway, the game is now in dual mode and is working great:




Change log:
replaced original area51.3h with area51mx.3h
replaced original area51.3k with hacked area51mx.3k (security chip check)
replaced original area51.3m with hacked area51mx.3m (security chip check)
replaced original area51.3p with hacked area51mx.3p (security chip check)


removed HD and replaced with 8GB compact flash card containing area51mx.chd

This webpage describes a similar process much better than I ever could:
http://www.thekillerinstinctproject.com/kiproject/chdman.html


These are the rom hacks that I applied:

; Patch area51mx.3k to remove need for security chip Offset $000106: From $81 To $75 Offset $07FFFF: From $00 To $0C

; Patch area51mx.3m to remove need for security chip Offset $000106: From $00 To $4E Offset $07FFFF: From $00 To $B2

; Patch area51mx.3p to remove need for security chip Offset $000106: From $F9 To $75 Offset $07FFFF: From $00 To $84


UPDATE - The game was sold to my friend Davi in January, 2017.