Tag Archives: pinball

Run your pinball DMD with a Parallax Propeller

No better way to spend a Sunday afternoon! John Popaduik gave me one of his spare LED Vishay displays so I thought it would be fun to hook it up to a microcontroller (MCU)

Because it has 8 simultaneous cores and does not require interrupts, the Parallax Propeller seemed like a good bet. The code still had to be written in machine language to be fast enough.

You can download the resulting code here. Wire your DMD to your MCU by cross-referencing your machine’s pinout to the commented code (you need 6 signal wires + ground) or by looking at the Vishay docs.

A single COG is launched in SPIN and will continuously spit out data to your display. The variable array “displayX” holds your screen memory and requires 2 bits per pixel.

This gives you 4 shades of color: 0ff (00), dim (01), medium (10) and bright (11). Check the code comments for more information.

Hopefully this may be of use to anyone modding or doing homebrew pinball – have fun!

Play “Lost” Pinball at Chicago Pinball Expo Next Weekend

McFarlane’s “Lost” action figures allowed us to increase the bikini content of this pinball machine 175% over previous models.

Team Heckendorn has been working furiously on “Lost” pinball for several months now, with the goal of having a playable game at the Chicago Expo. Through our tireless efforts and backbreaking work. this goal will be a reality, unless a meteor strikes the Midwest or something.

Not only can you play the game, but you can enjoy our seminar “Godzilla Gets Lost in the Big Juicy Melons” at 3:30 on Friday, featuring Dennis Nordman, Greg Freres,  Chuck Emery and myself, speaking about homebrew pinball.

“Lost” easily surpasses “Bill Paxton Pinball” (which we may also bring) as the most complicated project I’ve ever built. It contains:

  • New pinball OS that re-uses almost 5% of the code I wrote for Bill Paxton Pinball.
  • Full color LCD display
  • (5) Skill Shots that let you put the ball where you want it upon launch (crash?)
  • On that note, autoplunger!
  • Frozen Donkey Wheel that can collect up to all 5 balls.
  • 3D printed playfield toys such as the “Jughead” bomb and the lighthouse.
  • Under playfield tunnels.
  • Fully working hatch you can shoot the ball into.
  • A magnet, since the show had lots of electromagnetism, it just made sense.
  • Servo-controlled lane changer on upper playfield.
  • Ball-barfing “Light Cave”, the only thing I allowed from Season 6.
  • Ball stopper on main orbit and “hidden” John Locke Lock. (yeah we went there)
  • Kickback on left outlane.

“Lost” runs off the breadboard version of the Ben Heck “Pinball Development Platform” which can run 64 matrixed switches, 64 matrixed lights, RGB cabinet lighting, 24 solenoids / magnets / shakers, 3 servos, 8+ optos or general I/O, (3) channel 16 bit stereo sound, 16 bits of LED backbox lighting elements plus NTSC, VGA or DMD display.

Hope to see you all there!

Charms & Pendants: charms.

Ben Heck Show Episode 13 – Portable Work Bench

Yes, the new bench is there, under all that stuff. Great for a home “work station”, as opposed to a play station.

A popular “character” from past episodes gets its own build in today’s episode of The Ben Heck Show. http://www.element-14.com/tbhs

Yes, it’s the new and improved Portable Work Bench! Follow along as we build a new one, complete with awesome wood stain, and find the designs to try your own on element14.com.

Also, don’t forget to register for the Midwest Gaming Classic! CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE REGISTRATION PAGE. Be one of the first people to play my new “Lost” pinball prototype and of course, try to beat the high score on Paxton which has yet to be surpassed from last year!

Benheck.com Experience at the Midwest Gaming Classic 2011

It’s time once again to get ready for the Midwest Gaming Classic – the largest show of its kind in the Midwest. I’ll have an area at the show once again called the Benheck.com Experience.

We’re also doing a Chicago Stern pinball tour the Friday of, and you can sign up now for it and other special deals.


As an added bonus, the weekend at the show we’ll be filming content for Episode 17 of the Benheck Show: The Pinball Wars, and the current plan is to include my arch-nemesis Jeri Ellsworth. We’ll also be doing a panel on pinball that Sunday. Also, don’t miss the obligatory Friday night karaoke party.

Any questions feel free to email me, or discuss below. We’ll see you then!

Begun, the Pinball Wars have

Ho, ho, ho, now I have a CNC machine.

Yes, after years of using other people’s CNC machines I finally bought one of my own. A big one. A 4’x8′ ShopBot to be exact. Now I can build more of everything and hopefully even sell kits / cases in the future.

In other news, after a shaky truce The Pinball Wars have begun anew. Pinball upstart “The Longhorn Engineer” is attempting to have his machine done by the Midwest Gaming Classic in March. It is called “Reset Vector” and is based off all of the tropes in crappy hacker movies.

Also everyone’s favorite ex-Roller Derby girl / engineer Jeri Ellworth hasn’t given up on her custom pinball either. It’s called “As Seen on TV” and celebrates the world of cheesy infomercials.

For myself, I am planning at least 2 new machines. “Tesla VS Edison” and “Lost“. “Lost” is an unlicensed one-off that I’m doing for a friend, similar to Paxton, but “Tesla” is something I’m hoping to build 2-3 of and sell to interested buyers. If you’re interested please let me know.

Be sure to check out the latest episode of The Ben Heck Show for an exclusive tour of my shop and home, as well as other hi-jinks.

Bill Paxton Pinball

Click here for large version

Since 2005 I have been working on building my own custom pinball machine and now it is finally finished. It is based off the endlessly quotable films of Bill Paxton and thus is called… get this… Bill Paxton Pinball. (Very creative, I know)

Aside from “stock” items such as flippers and solenoids it has been completely manufactured from scratch. Most of the artwork is from his movies and has been assembled in stylized montage form as is typical for a pinball machine. It is controlled by a single Parallax Propeller CPU which runs PCM audio music & voice clips as well as handling game logic, I/O and driving the custom LED display. I did the mechanical design, layout, construction & programming all myself, except for the sound player libraries that I got off the Parallax Object exchange website.

I’ve prepared all sorts of stuff for people to check out, so please check out the links below. Also, I did consider creating a “Virtual Pinball” version of this machine but ultimately didn’t have the time. If anyone is well versed in that tool and wants to take a crack at it, let me know, I can supply with you specifications.

“Making Of” Story
A four part article that describes the making of the machine in great detail. Includes photos of the guts, making of video links and source code.

Bill Paxton Pinball Photo Gallery
Contains lots of photos of the machine and its various parts (finished condition).

Demonstration Videos
See the machine in action, and check out descriptions / demos of the specific modes and toys.

Bill Paxton Pinball Evolution
A downloadable video demonstrating the process from start to finish.

Notice: Bill Paxton Pinball is a personal project and therefore is not for sale or duplication. All music / images / audio used on it are owned by their respective copyright holders.