Electronic troubleshooting of a video game essentially consists of checking for the presence of various signals and of examining their condition. A signal can be thought of as acting like a "messenger" that carries instructions from one unit or circuit to another. Many different types of signals are produced in a video game, and for this reason several unusual and perhaps unfamiliar types of test instruments are used during troubleshooting. Each instrument has its own set of advantages and disadvantages for examining a given type of signal, and both the depth of the intended troubleshooting capability and budget will determine what instruments will be needed. Some instruments are basic and essential, no matter what size of service facility, while other optional instruments are desirable because they make troubleshooting easier and quicker.
6.2.1 Basic Tes1 Equipment:
(a) The Video Probe. This is a simple but invaluable instrument having two leads—a test-clip lead and a test-probe lead. During troubleshooting of video signals the test-clip lead is left connected to the game side of the video coupling capacitor. On the Flyball game this point is the junction of resistors R44 through R48 on the PCB. When the test-probe lead is then connected to any video developmental signal, that signal will be coupled to the video signal going to the TV monitor and a video probe picture will appear on the TV screen. The shape and other characteristics of this picture will give information about the signal being probed. The video probe is suited for troubleshooting synchronization and image signals, but will not be useful for extremely fast signals (such as the clock) or for very slow analog or digital signals.
A video probe can be constructed in a few minutes from these common electrical components: a length of 20 AWG (American Wire Gauge) rubber-coated wire, a 4,7K-ohm, '/«-watt carbon resistor, and two test leads. For the leads, use a single Mouser test clip (Mouser # 131C301 or 302) attached to one end of the wire, and a test prod containing the resistor on the other.
To assemble the video probe, proceed as follows: Remove the cap from the test clip and strip 3/16 inch off each end of the wire. Solder one end to the post in the test clip, thread the other end through the hole in the cap, and snap on the cap. Next unscrew the plastic body of the test prod from the point and trim both leads of the resistor to a 3/16-inch length. Solder one resistor lead to the inside of the point. Thread the other end of the wire through the hole in the body and solder it to the other resistor lead; screw the body back onto the point.
(b) The Logic Probe. This is a test instrument designed for fast verification of digital IC outputs. It is small, convenient to carry, easy to read, and relatively inexpensive. The logic probe derives its power from the system under test; it has two power leads, one for connection to ground and the other to +5 volts DC. When the logic probe's tip is held against a digital signal point, three colored lamps in the tip will indicate the signal's condition or state, as follows:
• The red lamp lit indicates a high or logic level 1 (for TTL components, this is +2.4 to +5 volts)
• The white lamp lit indicates a low or logic level 0 (for TTL components, this is 0 to +0.8 volt)
• The blue lamp lit indicates that the signal is changing states
• No lamps lit indicate the grey region between 0 andl (for TTL this is between +0.8 and +2.4 volts)
A circuit shorted to ground will illuminate the white lamp and an open circuit will illuminate the red lamp.
The logic probe is readily available from electronic supply sources; a commercial model found satisfactory is the Kurz-Kasch model LP 520.
(c) The Logic Pulser. This test instrument is similar in size and shape to the logic probe, and it also derives its power from the system under test. When the logic pulser's tip is held against a digital signal point, the source and sink capabilities of the pulser override any IC output and the point is driven to the opposite logic level. If the point that the logic pulser is held against is low, pressing the switch on the side of the pulser will introduce a high pulse. Conversely, pulsing a high line will pull that line low momentarily.
During troubleshooting the logic pulser allows stimulation of in-clrcuit ICs with a shaped digital pulse. For example, a certain feature of the game may not be working and you suspect that a circuit is not receiving the necessary signal. Use the pulser to imitate that signal: if the circuit begins working, you have proved that the signal was in fact missing and you can begin tracking it down. This technique is very similar to jumping coils in electromechanical games such as pinball machines.
In addition to the regular "pulse" button., there is another switch mounted on the logic pulser. When this switch is set in the "rep" mode, the instrument pulses the digital signal point at a 5-Hz rate or 5 times per second. This extremely low rate is slow enough to allow watching events initiated by the pulser. Counter outputs, for example, are more easily observed when the counter is pulsed or clocked at this rate.
The logic pulser is also readily available from electronic supply sources; a commercial model found satisfactory is the Kurz-Kasch model HL 583.
(d) Oscilloscope, The most versatile test instrument, and also the most expensive, is the oscilloscope. The high-speed TTL integrated circuits used in video games produce fast-rise-time signals. The oscilloscope should have a 50-MHz bandwidth, dual trace and dual time base capability. These latter features allow examination of both input and output signals simultaneously, so that precise timing relationships can be checked. The oscilloscope should also have provision for internal or external sync.
Of the newer, solid-state oscilloscopes, a satisfactory model is the Tektronix 465.
(e) VOM or Volt-Ohmmeter. This common measuring instrument is extremely useful in video game troubleshooting. It can be used to check line voltage, transformer secondary windings, continuity, resistance, power supply voltages, and to some extent used for measurements in the analog circuitry.
One commercial model found satisfactory is the Simpson 260.
6.2.2 Optional Test Equipment:
(a) The Logic Comparator. This test instrument's main benefit is that it can be used to check the functioning of an integrated circuit device while the device is still in place on the printed circuit board. The logic comparator performs the check by comparing the suspect ICs functioning with that of an identical-type reference IC mounted in the instrument itself. Suppose that the functioning of a type-74193 device on the PCB is suspected to be defective. First insert a program card with a known-to-be-good 74193 into the logic comparator, and then clip the comparator test leads onto the leads of the suspect device. If there are any logic state differences between the reference IC and the suspect IC under test, then an LED on the logic comparator will light up to indicate which output is not functioning correctly. Once a defective IC has been located, it should be replaced.
Logic comparators are readily available from electronic supply sources.
(b) Atari Universal Test Fixture. In situations where a large number of video games are being serviced, investment in the Universal Test Fixture will be justified. This item of test equipment forms a test station for troubleshooting printed circuit boards after they have been removed from the game cabinet. The Universal Test Fixture has a full set of controls for operating the game and also has its own TV monitor. The game's PCB is plugged into an edge connector mounted on the side of the Fixture; with this arrangement the PCB is positioned in a convenient way for connecting probes and other test instruments.
A program card inserted into a receptacle in the top of Fixture takes the place of the game's interconnect wires. The program card thus sets up the Fixture for each particular game; the game's name is clearly printed on the program card itself.
With the Universal Test Fixture the method of troubleshooting via substitution of known-to-be-good parts is made fast and convenient. For example, suppose that the TV picture in a game is completely broken up and you want to determine whether the game or monitor is causing the problem. Remove the PCB and plug it into the Fixture's edge connector, and also insert the correct program card for that game. If the picture on the Fixture's monitor is correct, then you know that the problem lies in the game's monitor.
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