Vectorbeam 1977
Space War : Picture Library Space War : Monitor Modifications
Space War : Control Panel Help Space War: Key Switch Problems & Solutions

Download high resolution scans of the original documents in .pdf format (right-click, save-as):

Note: Flaws in the above drawings are not the result of a bad scan or a bad original document. The images are exact copies of the original documents as they were shipped with the machine.

The following drawing is a "redraw" of the original audio schematic that is intended to greatly improve readability and clarity.
I present this as an aid to servicing your machine. I have added some useful information such as signal names, named sections, and notes on amplifier bias adjustment.

The Story:

Nov. 16, 2008: This is a big day for me with respect to my arcade game collection. Ever since I got into the hobby, I've been trying to find either a Cinematronics Space Wars or a Vectorbeam Space War (the one that I prefer) to add to my personal collection. Over the years I have seen only a few of these games appear for sale on eBay or on the forums. I could've bought one back in 2006 on eBay but I hesitated just one hour too long and I missed it. I tried to buy one this past summer and I offered a very substantial amount for it but again it was not to be. I started to believe that I would never find one so I started buying bits and pieces thinking that I would eventually build a reproduction cab from scratch. So far, I have a board set, the power supply, a Cine control panel, an Armor Attack monitor that will require an overhaul, and that's all.

Now that has all changed. Around May 2006, someone on the coin-op forum contacted me to see if I was interested in what might possibly be (wait for it...) a NIB Vectorbeam Space War. Yes, you read that correctly, that's new in box. No way! Suffice it to say that I was, as one might expect, skeptical to say the least. Still, I responded positively. It took about a year and a half to work through it and clinch the deal. Along the way, there were other interested parties, such as a game museum that someone was putting together. Their interest waned only because they didn't really believe in the existence of this machine either. Can you blame them? Even I never really knew that it was real until I saw the first pictures about 1 week before purchasing the machine.

How does this sort of thing happen? The story that I got was that a long time ago in the Great White North, a fella living in Ontario personally knew someone that worked in the arcade games business way out west in B.C.. That connection lead to some games being shipped cross-country into Ontario. This particular Space War was made in Sept. 1979. It was purchased in bulk and was supposed to be put into Canada's Wonderland for its grand opening. It was to be located in the arcade there called "The Crystal Palace" . They did put other Space War games in there but unfortunately they didn't have room for this one so it was left behind. That explains why the game sat for so long. There was a planned location for it to go to but sadly there just wasn't room. This was very fortunate for me as it turns out.

After that, the game sat in its original box inside a warehouse full of games ever since. A well respected member of the forum was helping the original owner to sell and move whatever was left in the warehouse. This activity had been going on for quite some time, but the Vectorbeam Space War was sitting so far back behind piles of other stuff that it wasn't discovered until 2007. It took until Nov. 2008 to finally uncover it.

So what does a NIB Vectorbeam Space War look like after so much time has passed? All things considered, I think pretty darn good. The outside has some surface stains from possible mildew but that will clean off. Some labels pealed but they are the foil type so they are still good. Some new spray-on adhesive will fix them. The carriage bolts and screws all have surface rust but that's easy to fix. The side art is absolutely mint. The edges are perfect, no pealing, no scratches, no fade. The keys were still taped to the control panel so the glue from the tape will be hard to remove but I'm sure that it'll clean up nice. The interior is pristine, aside from a small amount of debris from the original packing foam, some spiders, and so on. Five minutes with a vacuum cleaner will take care of that. The plywood is absolutely clean as is all of the wiring and cables. The monitor frame and coin box metal surfaces are still shiny. The circuit boards look like brand new except for a few chips that have slightly blackened pins.

Did the game work? Have I played the game yet? No way. Truth be told, I'm a little nervous about turning it on. I'm afraid that something will burn out and put a black mark on the circuit board or something. My plan is to reseat all of the connectors first, vacuum everything clean, and then finally to power it up. It would be pretty cool if it actually worked right away, but frankly, I'd be surprised if it did work after sitting for so long... but you never know. I'll find out soon enough. After I get the machine cleaned up and running again, I'll take lots of new pictures and post them.

Below are some photos that were taken on box-opening day. Click images to embiggen.


Nov. 17, 2008:

Nov. 18, 2008:

I have a spare VSW board set to work with. The sound on it works, dunno about CCPU. I also have the parts to make new ribbon cables if I need to replace the old ones. I also have the working Star Castle sitting right there so the first thing I'm going to do is take advantage of its known-good power supply and monitor.

I'm not expecting the SW monitor to be okay to tell the truth, especially since the picture started shrinking like it did. I just realized that the power connectors on the Vectorbeam monitor (6-pin) and the Cine monitor (15-pin) are different so I can't swap the monitors even if I wanted to, at least not without making an adapter cable first.

I took the SW board set out of the cab and placed it into my Star Castle and plugged it in using the SW ribbon cable. The picture came up perfect. The SW board set is working great (what a relief!). I let it run for a couple of hours and it was fine. This proves that there is a monitor problem.

I suspect the Y DAC for the vector problem. Unfortunately, the DAC's are soldered into the PCB so a simple quick swap is out of the question. As for the screen shrinking, I'll be checking the power supply first. I have to keep in mind that both X and Y are effected at the same time but the geometry remains intact. That will help me narrow down the possibilities.

Nov. 22, 2008:

Nov. 23, 2008:

Nov. 24, 2008:

Dec. 7, 2008:

Dec. 18, 2008:

Oct. 11, 2009:

Nov. 13, 2009:

July 15, 2012:


Just my 25 cents...

I hunted doggedly for a VB version SW for 6 years before I finally got mine. I was extremely lucky when I got the chance to buy it so I didn't dick around trying to barter the cost down and risk losing a super rare opportunity and end up waiting another who knows how many years trying to find another one. Up here in Ontario, I know of only about 5 of them in various conditions.

Yes, over the years, many of them have appeared for sale, often for cheap, on eBay and on various forums and maybe even on Craigslist and Kijiji, however, shipping from the USA to Canada is usually very expensive and can be tricky. For someone to be willing to cover that additional cost, he has to be really committed to acquiring that specific game.

I don't agree at all with the opinion that the game requiring two people to play is some sort of disadvantage. I've heard people say that from time to time. That's like saying "I hate tennis because it requires two players". Playing with a friend is specifically the entire point of the game! That's what attracted me and my friends to it back in 1979. It's what still attracts people to it today. I have groups of people come over to my place to play arcade games relatively often and SW is always winning over new admirers. Most people have never seen the game, certainly kids haven't, and they usually are a little intimidated by all the keys, but I just give them a quick demo and away they go and once they get into it, they wish they had one at home.

I've also heard some people say that the vector graphics and the monochrome picture are primitive and so nobody would ever want to play it. I believe that the vector graphics and the monochrome picture do not detract from the game at all. In my opinion, those characteristics are an important part of the allure and part of the whole "wow this game is really old but it's so cool" impression. You don't go for a drive in a model-T Ford and bitch that it's slow or noisey or hard to steer or hard to shift gears. You don't bitch that it's not painted red instead of plain black. You don't complain that the seat should be softer. It's a model-T !!! That's the point !!! Vectorbeam/Cinematronics Space War/s as a game has a history behind it and anyone who takes the time to read up on it might find it interesting. Many wouldn't. It depends on the person. Nothing wrong with that, but it's certainly not ever going to be what people today would expect to be common knowledge. There's a limited audience but an audience there is none-the-less.

Honestly, if anyone thinks my Space War sits in the corner and never gets played because I have nobody to play with, they're clueless. I have lots of friends who like to play it with me and each other. Finding opponents is never a problem.

Another reason why non-working units often sell so cheap has nothing to do with lack of value or rarity or collectability. In my opinion, there are two main reasons that a non-working SW can be difficult to sell...

1/ Very few people know how to service them well enough to get them working again completely on their own and they know that before buying it. Nobody wants to buy a 30+ year old machine that is likely to cost them a great deal of time and money to repair, or send out to have repaired. That's why fully restored or original-but-still-working units command such high prices. It is a relatively rare person who cannot restore such a game on their own but still knows the game and is an old fan and wants it bad enough to pay for whatever it takes to make it happen. Even if the game is working at the moment, a lot of people fear what will happen when the game breaks down because they don't know how they'll get it repaired. You can't just call Nerds on Wheels and have them scoot over to your house.

2/ Compared to games like Pacman, Centipede, Defender, Asteroids, and so on, there simply weren't all that many SW machines out there so a lot of people have simply never played one. Also, many OPs bitd avoided all but the most popular vector machines because of service costs and their reputation for breaking down. In fact, my own VBSW sat in a warehouse as NIB for 29 years simply due to the OPs reluctance to put it on route. The fan base is understandably small, but those fans are still out there. Many of those people simply do not know that they could probably own an original game so they aren't looking for one. Let's face it, the general population is not into the hobby of collecting and repairing old arcade machines. Heck, doing that never even occurred to me until 2004 when a friend from work introduced me to his collection. As soon as I decided to assemble my own collection, SW was #1 on my list.

There are other factors contributing to difficulty to sell a SW machine such as simple timing. Even an avid SW fan might not be looking for one during the period of days or weeks that one happens to become available. That potential buyer might not even be subscribed to the forum where the sale was posted. Another factor is distance. Not everyone wants to drive 12 hours each way or pay for shipping and a lot of sellers don't want to be bothered with palleting and wrapping a big machine. Some sellers would rather part it out and scrap the cab than do that.

All I can say beyond the above is this, if you want a specific game in your collection, you have to decide for yourself what it is worth to you to get it, be it right away, or if you're willing to wait for years to get it. You have to decide what it is worth to you to get it, maybe now or risk not at all. It doesn't really matter what the other guys think it is worth or what the potential resale value is. What is it worth to you? Do you want it or not?

SW obviously requires the right buyer. They pop up from time to time in horrible shape or barely operable shape and still can't get $50 within 2 weeks of being posted. That doesn't mean they are worthless. It means that the right person hasn't seen the offer. Potential SW buyers are a relatively rare bunch and most of them are aging all too fast (myself included). Younger people have never seen one and therefore, understandably, are not pining for one. As such, the market may be shrinking, but there are still people out there who write me emails from time to time asking if I know where they can find one. As usual, timing is everything and it's usually not conveniently playing in one's favor.

I know this much, there are more SW machines being tossed into the garbage heap each year than there are machines being repaired or fully restored each year. Whether they are lost in fires, floods, or are deliberately parted out or outright scrapped, more are lost never to return. That drives the value of the remaining population of working machines higher each year. Someone said they (SW) are a dime-a-dozen or something along that line. Such will not remain the case forever.

How many people, speaking of arcade game collectors, wish they had an Atari Quantum, Sega Star Trek, Gotlieb Reactor, Deathrace, Warrior, Indy 800, 4-player Eliminator, <insert your holy grail name here>, and so on? No doubt there was a time when any one of them would have been relatively easy to acquire and their dollar value would have been comparatively lower than it is today. Will SW become like those other games, hard to find and valuable? Probably. Maybe it's already well on it's way to achieving that status. Who knows. Let's say that does happen and the value peaks a few years from now. At that time you'll be thinking that you made a great investment. Fast-forward 15 to 20 more years. Will the dollar value still be there? As all of us who value the game due to the nastalgia of playing it in our youth have mostly died off, will the next generation pay as much to own the machine as we would have? Who knows. Probably not. My point is that if you buy and collect games for their resale value, you're collecting games for the wrong reason. If you habitually say "I'm not paying $1000 for that game because I've seen it sell for $500", you might be missing your only chance to own one. The days of your life will continue to tick away one by one and nobody knows how many days they have left. So again, do you want the game or not? If someone else pays double what you would have, does that make them a sucker? That depends on a lot more than your own personal opinion. In fact, it doesn't depend on it at all. Tomorrow when that person is happily enjoying his new addition to his collection, and you are still looking, you'll have to decide for yourself if you made the right choice. If you are happy about saving some money, great. If you resent the other guy because he got it and you didn't then maybe you weren't as smart as you thought. If you lost it because you couldn't afford it, there's no shame in that and you'll keep looking and hopefully you'll get another chance.

I own my SW machine because I enjoying playing the game and because I enjoy the history of the game and the technology of the design. I like the fact that it was the first solid-state CRT type game that I ever played with another person. I love the concept and the execution of the entire design, the electronic assemblies, that's it's a vector image and not raster just like its '60s computer ancestor, the artwork, the presence of the cabinet, and the game play. I appreciate the whole package and I feel very privileged and lucky to own one. Did I pay way too much for it? Maybe you'd think so. I don't.


Space War : Picture Library Space War : Monitor Modifications
Space War : Control Panel Help Space War: Key Switch Problems & Solutions


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Last update: January 28, 2012