Kind of fitting that this particular album was my 50th vinylcast on ds106radio because it represents a bit of a landmark for me. I bought it in 2015, and it was the first new vinyl I bought in decades—which was spurred by access to a turntable after building the UMW Living Room Console. Also, it would be the first of hundreds of albums I would pickup in the ensuring 6 years. While unplanned, there’s a poetic sense of symmetry to the choice.
This album is fun, full of story-like songs that capture the hipster experience on the West coast beautifully with tracks like “Happy Carrot Health Food Store” and “Secret Plot.”
It was just what I needed on this rainy Sunday morning, and nothing gets me happier than when I’m broadcasting to the mighty ds106radio and posting on the bava.blog. Life is good, enjoy the archive, and don’t forget to boycott the radio as well corn, unfun porn, and manmade storms
It’s interesting too, because 4 years ago was when Lauren went full time and we brought on Meredith. Now both of them have become integral figures in the Reclaim Hosting story. I also noted in that post that we just opened CoWork, and it just so happens that the ashes of CoWork became Reclaim Arcade this year. What’s more, the company doubled from 4 to 8 people since 2017, and we’re hopefully going to hire two more folks this month.
Growth has been slow and steady, and sometimes harder than we’d like, but there is not one thing I would do differently about this amazing little corner of the indie edtech web. I both believe in and love the work we do. I also love the community we remain a proud part of. And, most importantly, my co-workers rule the school. Still happy and determined after all these years, and that is enough.
A few highlights for me from year 8 was working with Maren Deepwell and the ALT crew to put on OERxDomains21. We followed that up with the virtual Reclaim Roadshow which allowed us to reconnect with admins in a fairly compelling virtual format, piggybacking on the work Michael Branson Smith, Tom Woodward, and Lauren Hanks did for OERxDomains21. Year 8 was also big for Reclaim Hosting in that we launched Reclaim Cloud last August, and a year later we have over a quarter of our infrastructure on it—that is something!
In January we brought on new team member Paul Jova and he has been amazing, as has our more veteran support agent Gordon Hawley who has been with us for just over 18 months. I should also note Chris Blankenship continues to take on more of a central role in our infrastructure group, and there’s not enough space in this blog for me to sing all his praises. One of the coolest things I have experienced being part of Reclaim is watching folks like Lauren, Meredith, and Chris really come into their own and build a professional identity atop the bedrock of their amazing daily work. I am in awe, and there is no way Reclaim Hosting would look so good at 8 years old without them.
And of course there is the inimitable Timmmmyboy, who has taken the passion and energy he brought to Reclaim Hosting to conjure something from nothing into making Reclaim Arcade the absolute darling of retro arcades. All while setting up Reclaim Cloud, migrating infrastructure, and juggling support and infrastructure for most of this year. Tim has been an absolutely amazing partner these past 8 years, and I think that has been THE key to us being stable and even prosperous during these uncertain times.
There has been some real reward knowing that we have remained scrappy, small, and focused throughout our short history, and we remain masters of our own domain. No selling out here, we still believe the web you create is the coolest learning management system around. So, here’s to at least 8 more years of awesome!
I ‘m going to have to do a series of posts to try and wrap-up July because somehow the entire month got away from me in terms of blogging. I had the best intentions early on, but between a steady diet of work and trying to sneak in vacation (not to mention focusing on the home arcade and minding milestones for ds106radio and Reclaim Hosting) writing regularly was an unfortunate casualty. But this morning I realized I am out of time, July is just about gone. But I rallied my blog troops for at least one post given I have posted at least once a month every month since December of 2005, and I will be damned if that almost 16-year streak stops today. So, long live the bava.blog, hiatus and all!
Testing Explorer, Astro Invader, and Challenger before purchase
The comic-inspired side art of Sidam’s Explorer, which is an Italian bootleg machine based on Scramble
Stern’s Space Invaders rip-off Astro Invader
This haul of games in mid-June made me realize that I can pretty much do what Tim and I did in America for Reclaim Arcade here in Italy. I love the driving long distances to pickup these cabinets, it makes me feel alive!
Loading the furgone and getting on the road
The main difference between buying in Italy versus the US is there are fewer games and the prices are generally much steeper, but after weighing the costs of shipping and paying duties on importing electronics, any savings of buying cheaper in the US and shipping here are negligible. The thing you learn quickly once you get into the hobby of collecting these cabinets is that it’s not necessarily a savvy investment. You tend to put more time, energy and love into these artifacts than you will ever realize from a sale. What’s more, these games are of little value (at least to me) if they can’t be played, and for that to happen they will need repairs, and with that goes any hope of serenity in exchange for a whole lot of fun.
Safely Arrived at Final Destination
I’ve been tracking the repairs Timmmyboy has been doing at Reclaim Arcade, and it’s serious work. But the love and attention that goes into these Gen-X joy-machines makes all the difference in terms of the Reclaim Arcade experience. What’s more, he also has to deal with repairing pinball machines which is a whole ‘nother level of complexity that I luckily cannot afford.
Three Gems from Pavia: Phoenix, Donkey Kong Jr., and Asterock
Early July saw my second 3-game haul in Italy, this time in Pavia (30 minutes south of Milano) consisting of Phoenix, Donkey Kong Jr. and Asterock. And like the haul in Milano, these games were all in excellent shape. The Phoenix cabinet might as well be new, nary a knick or scape to be found. Phoenix is also one of my all-time favorite games, so finding one in this good shape that needs next to no work was a total bonus.
Phoenix with a 70s filter cause that’s how it looks in my mind
The Donkey Kong Jr. cabinet is also near perfect and it has a dual board setup so it plays either Donkey Kong or Donkey Kong Jr. by simply pressing the player 1 and 2 buttons at the same time.
Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr boards both work in this cabinet, and you can switch between them by pressing the player 1 and 2 buttons simultaneously
And finally, and this is where I pick-up the dangling thread around Explorer mentioned earlier, the Asterock is another bootleg by the Italian game company Sidam. Asterock is a direct rip-off of Asteroids, and this one is in great shape and because it is an Italian game it comes much cheaper, just like Explorer, which is a rip-off of Scramble.*
Asterock was a pirated version of Asteroids that the Italian manufacturer of video games got sued by Atari for infringing copyright
All these games were in great shape, as I already said, and the gentleman in Pavia had a few others for sale, including Millipede, Pac-man (with a high score save kit), Stargate (the sequel to Defender), and the inimitable Gyruss. Given I already have a Pac-man, Gyruss, and Defender in the US I have been debating whether to ship or not, I resisted an impulse buy. But soon after returning from our vacation in Sardegna I reached back out and decided to try and lock-in Stargate, Gyruss, and Pac-man—all of which were in as good if not better condition as the three I just bought from him. Turns out Gyruss and Stargate were still available, but Pac-man was spoken for. Damn that yellow glutton, I will snag him yet! I locked in Gyruss and Stargate, and picked them both up this past Wednesday.
Look at that high score on Gyruss
While I’m partial to Defender, this Stargate might be the nicest cabinet of them all (neck-and-neck with Gyruss which is like new!), and I am enjoying the gameplay a lot!
That officially brings the bavacade into double digits with 10 games (even if one is an Italian pirated version of the US original). You can see a quick tour of seven of these games setup in my foyer in the video below. The running joke in the house is when I am going to get these games down in the basement, which I am converting a part of into a full blown arcade that should have room for up to 20 games. YEAH!
To be fair, I already had the monitor chassis reassembled after I returned from the US at the end of May. So most of that work was done already, I had just been waiting on a missing mounting plate to attach it to the frame. I did get one shipped from America, but realized this weekend that even after getting it and cleaning up the plate, I still needed a few fasteners to keep it secured. I ended up cannibalizing another K4600 monitor from a different game in order to secure it to the frame. I may need to get my hands on a few more bits and bobs for the K4600 chassis to ensure it’s fully secure. As with reassembling the cabinet, re-assembling the monitor chassis was possible because I took pictures of everything in order to see what goes where.
In fact, I spent much of the re-assembly process looking at the most recent disassembly pictures on my phone and working backwards. The power and value of digital photography for DIY work like this cannot be overstated. I started with the speaker grill, coin door and marquee light.
I then worked through the power supply harness down to the power supply on the floor of the cabinet.
After that I moved over to the PCB side and worked on the wiring harness to the coin door, PCB, and connecting the audio.
With everything wired up and the PCB installed, I then turned to the monitor, which was a pain on two fronts. First, as already mentioned, I didn’t have all the pieces to secure the chassis to the monitor frame so I had to take apart another K4600 monitor to get the required bits. But even worse, re-mounting the monitor was no small feat. I recruited my children (they do not like me when I am working like a maniac), and we finally figured out we could lay the cabinet down face down to resist the pull of gravity and mount the monitor with the spacers. It wasn’t easy to secure the monitor to the frame given how hard the lower monitor mounts were to access when the cabinet was laying down, but eventually we got it to work and I only freaked out a little bit. Once it was secured we stood it back up.
Now that the monitor was in I quickly installed the marquee, bezel and the control panel. All quite straight forward. And finally it was time to power the machine on for the moment of truth. It seemed impossible to me that it was going to work, but when I turned it on everything was working as it should be. The marquee lit up, the monitor came on, I could add credits through the coin door, and the game played cleanly from the joystick and buttons. The one issue was there was no sound, which seemed odd. The only difference from the original setup was the new PCB board with the high score save kit. So I swapped in the old board and the sound worked, so it was a board issue not a Jim issue—which was amazing to me 🙂 I quickly swapped boards and was only 10 minutes late to pick up Adam from the train station at 9:30 PM. Even better, he was able to come back to the bavamanse and play some Scramble as it was meant to be played!
So good! And to be fair I was not totally finished with the game. I still needed to fix the free play option and deactivate the interlocking switch in the coin door, not to mention affix the new t-molding I bought (which I did do yesterday). But now I can say it is officially done and working like new!
This has got to be one of the coolest projects I have ever done, and I am now itching for another one.
I finally have a bit of time to provide an update on the Scramble project, which was officially finished this past weekend! In order to compartmentalize, I’ll just cover the stenciling of the side art in this post, which was by far the most labor intensive part of the entire project. As I mentioned in my last update, I brought back the stencil kit I bought from This Old Game in order to replace the generic STERN side art with the original abstract astronaut art.
Once I got a few coats of primer and the base yellow laid down, it was time for the stencils. This was my first time using stencils, and I made a few mistakes for sure. The biggest was opting to roll the paint rather than spraying. The water-based paint I was using ran a bit so the edges where the colors overlap were not as sharp as they should have, it is particularly noticeable when you get up close.
I bought the spray paint with every intention of going that route, but I was concerned with the paint going all over the place given I don’t have a dedicated, enclosed space like a garage. So, in the end, I opted for water-based roll-on paint, and I am now wondering if latex would have been a bit better, but you know what they say about hindsight. Anyway, that was probably my biggest mistake as a first-timer, so if you’re reading this and contemplating rolling the stencils with paint, think twice about it. I spent hours after the fact trying to clean up the lines, and they’re still far from perfect.
Anyway, above is an image of the first stencil mask, and the thing about these bastards is you have to line them up, then tape them across the middle with masking tape to hold them in place. After that you fold the top half down and peel the mask on the back off and cutting the plastic away. After that you stick the stencil to the cabinet. You then do the same thing to the bottom half of the cabinet so that the stencil is secured to the side of the cabinet with only the front mask left to remove.
Now you have to peel off the front plastic, which is the part of this process that takes the most time in my experience. I would estimate at least 2 hours for each side for each stencil. With 2 stencils for each side that makes a minimum of 8 hours in mounting and peeling the stencils, and that does not include painting each color on each side with 2-3 coats. It was definitely labor intensive.
But the first of the two colors, safety orange, came out pretty damn good.
After several coats of orange you rinse and repeat for the second stencil, which is black. This is where you start to see the impressionistic astronaut design start to take shape.
And it was not only more detailed peeling, but also you had to align the second stencil with the first bylining up the asterisk on the first stencil with the pre-cut triangle on the second:
That was kind stressful, and the peeling of the stencil did not get any easier, in fact this one took me longer than I care to admit.
And while exhausting, it did get finished. It was now time to paint the black of the design:
Aafter a couple of coats of the black I was ready to peel and unveil the design:
At the right angle and distance it looks perfect 🙂 There were some imperfections that I mentioned earlier with lines not being as sharp and tight as they might have been, but I do admit I’m kind of knit-picking given the time and energy I put in and the fact that I will be the only person using this machine for the foreseeable future.
After I let the project sit for a bit I came back with a brush and cleaned up as much as I could, and I do think it is presentable at the very least:
There is a full album on Flickr with all the shots of the stenciling for anyone interested. On a personal note, this project was absolutely heaven for me. While I made some rookie mistakes, the idea of spending several hours each morning bringing this relatively beat up Scramble cabinet back to its former glory was a deep source of happiness. So after two weeks of painting and stenciling it was time to put the cabinet back together, and I’ll save that story for the next and final update.
The Reclaim Roadshow logo! Using this as an example for the Workshop session.
I’m hijacking this post which was originally used as a demonstration of the magic of SPLOTs at this week’s Reclaim Roadshow for a quick recap of the two-day event we provided Domain of One’s Own administrators. The Roadshow has been our in-person, regionally focused event wherein Lauren and I provide administrators both technical training with cPanel, WHMCS, and WHM (web hosting acronym soup right there!) as well as the opportunity to share cool things happening at the various schools using Domains. This in-person event was yet another casualty of COVID-19. We had events planned at both Brynn Mawr College in Pennsylvania last Spring and Trinity College in Connecticut this past fall, but the best laid plans of mice and men pale in comparison to the undying will of a microscopic virus.
OERxDomains21 site setup inspired the Virtual Reclaim Roadshow delivery, and it ruled
So, after the awesome that was the virtual event OERxDomains21—and thanks to an email from Lee Skallerup Bissette looking for some training—Lauren Hanks and I decided to see if there was broader interest in a virtual Roadshow, and the response was an overwhelming YES! So, we got to work in May to put it all together despite the fact we were still hung over from helping to run OERxDomains21—but a good hung over 🙂 So, first thing we wanted to do was further tailor the setup we used for OERxDomains21 to meet the needs of a more focused schedule. This included the following:
Pre-recorded sessions that have the various technical trainings so we can chat during the videos, but they also stand apart as ongoing resources
Live sessions for panel presentations, show and tell and the SPLOT workshop and more
A Discord server for the participants to comment alongside the videos as well as voice channel break-out spaces to dig in on a variety of topics
It was fairly ambitious and experimental, much like OERxDomains21, and I think we were excited because we relished the opportunity to further refine this approach to virtual events. This also meant working again with Michael Branson Smith (MBS) and Tom Woodward (ignore the featured image on his latest post) to revisit the headless WordPress site and video player integration, something I believe ALT is also keen on doing for their annual conference which is pretty awesome because it means more development and further fine-tuning of this slick setup.
Reclaim Roadshow Video Player and Schedule with embedded Discord chat
Once again Discord proved to be an easy tool for onboarding 80+ folks and the combination of pre-recorded and live sessions was fun and fairly effective. The site for this version was more streamlined with a single URL (http://reclaimroadshow.com) that included the schedule along the top for both days, the video player, and embedded chat from Discord. It was designed to have everything there for you, and the schedule had an abstract for each session along with links to useful resources for the various video dealing with WHM, WHMCS, and the WordPress portal for Domain of One’s Own. And like OERxDomains21, all the sessions have been instantaneously archived for viewing after the fact, and we are thinking through keeping the Discord server as an ongoing community resource.
It’s nice having an archive of the tech overview videos because we realized day 1 was a pretty intense experience with videos streaming and folks chatting, turns out that a lot of those videos might have been best pre-released and then re-run during the actual conference with active discussion. We’ll have to revisit how to slow things down a bit during the tech training, but I want to believe the live panel discussions and SPLOT overview/workshop helped break the intensity of some of day 1. Also, having the videos as ongoing resources with links to all the relevant documentation discussed will have a more “just in time” approach to solving issues for admins.
I think attendees really appreciated hearing from the various schools running a Domains project, nothing like practical advice and solid examples to inspire. A special thanks to Tim Clarke from Muhlenberg, Caroline Sinkinson and Amanda McAndrew from UC Boulder, as well as the dynamic duo of Keegan Long-Wheeler and John Stewart from the University of Oklahoma (they made us!). It was a great session with discussions around framing the community, highlighting the work, and managing the day-today of providing infrastructure for faculty, staff, and students.
Tim Owens and Meredith Fierro took over the support and troubleshooting sessions, offering some focused advice for new and veteran admins alike, and it turns out the real gold of these events is allowing folks to network and share common challenges and successes. The ability to carve out some time and space to connect is not easy, so seeing so many folks show up and contribute was magic.
We wrapped up day 1 with SPLOTs, that other weird acronym that came from Canada 🙂 We even had honorary Canadian Alan Levine join us for DIY SPLOTs session, and it is always cool to see the awesome stuff folks do with these tools. Alan blogged about some new SPLOTs in the wild, they’re everywhere!
And with that we closed up day 1 of the Roadshow. Day 2 had no pre-recorded sessions, and was. focused on further linking attendees with each other through shared interests, examples, and broader issues such as analytics, assessment, support, and more. The first session was another panel, Where DoOO You Live?, trying to highlight how hosting often has different facets/faces depending on where it lives, i.e. the library, a Digital Humanities group, an ed tech shop, a teaching center, IT, etc. And while there is definite overlap, some times thinking through the distinctions is useful. We brought back old colleague, friend, and hair model Andy Rush to frame how Domains is being used at the University of North Florida; Amie Freeman also returned to discuss the brilliant work they are doing out of the library at the University of South Carolina; Blair Tinker talked how they use Domains as part of a Digital Humanities group at University of Rochester, and finally Marie Selvanadin and Lee Skallerup Bessette talked about the work they’re doing out of Center for New Designs in learning and Scholarship (CNDLS). The session was chock full of good advice about how different schools use this tool for a variety of applications.
After that panel we experimented with breakout groups using voice channels in Discord. It was a new frame, and we organized the groups around topics such as supporting domains, building community, assessing domains, archiving domains, and promoting domains. Here was another intentional attempt to connect folks, and we asked folks in the community to help run these discussions in order to ensure folks had some structure yet could take the conversation where it led. I found myself in the assessment session for the full hour, and it was an interesting discussion around how you demonstrate the effectiveness of domains to the folks funding it—a common issue anyone running any program faces. We explored the possibilities and limits of analytics, the value of leading with examples, and the power of trying to engage your community with cool, focused workshops like the Exploration Week Bryn Mawr runs or the amazing Coventry Learn site that marries education with design for those interested in what Domains can do.
After that Tom Woodward and I talked about what we means when we talk about analytics and tried to frame more specific ways to collect data from across the three systems to make a Domain of One’s Own administrators job a bit easier. Tom, being the awesome blogger that he is, wrote up everything he wanted to say but I wouldn’t let him given my refusal to give up the mic 🙂 I highly recommend his post “DoOO Data Considerations” as a thoughtful frame to think about the claims you make, how to demonstrate them, and how to balance with qualitative and quantitative elements of the data collected. I am particularly excited about his explorations around the WHM, WHMCS, and WP APIs given some deeper integration into the WordPress admin portal of data from the other systems is long overdue. Hoping to making that a summer project with a few folks from the Roadshow who have expressed interest.
The “Why Reclaim Cloud?” session was fun, and I brought back Kathleen Fitzpatrick because she was so amazing at OERxDomains21! And we also got to hear from Kristen Mapes about her experimenting with Mattermost, Etherpad, and Jitsi for her Intro to Digital Humanities class in the fall. I liked her frame a lot because it highlights the difficulty of going full blown into these integrations, and underscores that Reclaim Cloud is a sandbox. Finally, Mo Pelzel and Sarah Purcell got us started talking about their early experiments at Grinnell College with the Cloud. Sarah shared how she is using Voyant Tools with her class, and the broader discussion was highlighting that while not part of Domain of One’s Own, Reclaim Cloud does represent a next generation sandbox beyond cPanel hosting.
The last session, and one of my very favorites was based around Show and Tell. We provided a link for folks inn the workshop to join us in Streamyard and share a project, idea, or whatever else they want with everyone. It was cool because we were using Streamyard in a new way for us, and while we weren’t sure it would be seamless, we wanted to continue to encourage engagement and providing a platform for anyone attending. Turns out Streamyard’s genius is its simplicity. Folks can use the link, we can keep them backstage until we are ready, and we can also communicate privately to make sure they have screen sharing set and are ready to go—it is quite nice. What’s even better is folks shared!
Ed Beck from SUNY Oneonta got us started with his first of two sharing sessions talking about the OER intiaitive at SUNY and how they are using Pressbooks, H5P and more. After that Lee Skallerup Bessette talked about the Data Sitters Club, a brilliantly fun and engaging Digital Humanities project centered around computational analysis of texts. If Lee’s excitement for this project does not tell the whole story, I don’t know what will 🙂 And then Marie Selvanadin blew us away with the Free Speech Project site built of Georgetown Domains, a truly awesome example of marrying social justice to scholarship. Lee came back for a second tour sharing the minimal computing project called Wax, which is a simple Exhibit tool using flat files—a love me some cool tool sharing! Tim Clarke highlighted the various applications he is running in his domain that may not be the more popular WordPress, Omeka, or Scalar. And then Tom Woodward shared how he has integrated Slack with WordPress so that you can send Slack posts to WordPress, or use updates as ways to track work progress, it was quite wild!
Lauren and I closed the session sharing various sites of interest, and then we wrapped up the Roadshow after more than 90 minutes of sharing. I think that tells the story of this Roadshow, it was two days of intense engagement, community building, and sharing using a cocktail of platforms that I couldn’t be more excited about. The fact that this Roadshow was so well attended, and folks actually came and engaged is really encouraging. Next month Reclaim Hosting turns 8 years old, and the fact folks are still fired up about what’s possible is everything to this aging edtech 🙂
Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t end this post by acknowledging just how amazing it has been to work alongside Lauren on OERxDomains21 in April and now Reclaim Roadshow last week. The way in which she has been integrating and managing this new suite of small (and large) tools loosely joined to create a compelling conference/workshop experience is nothing short of stellar. I noted this in Lauren’s annual review, and I think it bears repeating: the work she is doing integrating Discord with Slack, thinking through the design of the Roadshow schedule/video/discord site with MBS and Tom, while at the same time proving a brilliant teacher and engaging representative of Reclaim points to the fact that she is doing some truly amazing ed tech work on top of everything else she already does. And having just finished her sixth full year at Reclaim, we are reminded just how lucky we are to work with her and how crucial she is to who we are as an indie ed tech outfit. Kudos are in order!
Now that I got my epic “Return to Reclaim Arcade” post out of the way, I can get back to some kind of normal blog rhythm. The long ones are harder and harder to write cause I am getting on in blog years. Alas, I can’t go on, I’ll go on…
The Scramble project has been nothing short of therapy for me these last few weeks. When I was back in Fredericksburg I attended to a few details around this project so that I could be done with it once I returned to Italy. This included having the Arcade Buffett do a cap kit on the Wells Gardner K4600 chassis that was the inspiration to strip the whole thing and totally redo the cabinet.
Video and synch boards for Wells Gardner K4600
Wells Gardner K4600 Neck Board
Anode and Flyback for Wells Gardner K4600
The other bit was getting an extra PCB for the cabinet, which I bought before I even had this cabinet last year. I also had a high score save (HSS) kit added to it, so now I have two working Scramble PCBs, although the one I brought back has the HSS kit.
Scramble PCB with High Score Save Kit
Finally, I picked up a side art stencil set from This Old Game so that once I got back to Italy I could start re-painting the cabinet and then replacing the generic STERN side art with the original Scramble astronaut side art.
Scramble Stencil Art From IAD to MXP!
Here is what it should look like:
I also picked up an extra power supply and wiring harness for Scramble given I was going overboard, but I left that in Virginia for now given I was already bringing back way too much stuff.
Wells Gardner K4600 mounting plate soaking in white vinegar
After returning to Italy and unpacking everything—had a scare I lost the stencil at Malpensa Airport—I was thrilled to see nothing broke. But soon after that I realized I didn’t have the metal mounting plate for the chassis that attaches it to the monitor—bummer. It’s a simple piece, but without it I would not be able to get the monitor working correctly. So, I reached out to Arcade Buffett who had an old one hanging around and sent it to Italy, which was awesome. Thanks Buffett! I’m currently soaking it in white vinegar and gonna scrub it before painting it in preparation to remount the chassis on the monitor harness.
STERN side art
Second coat of primer all but erases STERN
Speaking of painting, I finally stripped every last piece of the cabinet, which included the coin door and speaker grill, and started priming the sides to make sure there were no relics of the original STERN side art given yellow shows everything. I then took the back door to a local paint store and got the color matched. I decided to roll rather than spray in order to keep things neat.
I am pretty thrilled with how it is looking so far, and I am about to start the stenciling this morning, which should take me a few days. But if all goes well I could have the game back together and playable in a week or so which is pretty damn exciting!
“Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories.”
— Walter Benjamin
In mid-May I took a trip back to Fredericksburg, which included a quick jaunt to Long Island to see family and collect a gorgeous Pole Position in New Jersey and a Pleiades cocktail my brother was storing for me. This was my first trip back in which Reclaim Arcade was in full swing. I guess the theme of this trip was continuing to map the transition from dream to fun project to viable business. We’ve been collecting games for almost 3 years now, and I consider that the dream phase. With every new acquisition the dream of what’s possible becomes realer and realer—this is a fun process given you don’t yet have to worry about managing things: you just need the time and cash to find and purchase games.
After that comes the fun project part. And while it is not always fun and games building out the arcade (especially when you throw in food and beverage), I think it’s fair to say Tim and I did have some fun this fall and early winter actually getting the space up and running. I wrote a bit about the trip back in October/November talking about how the space was nothing short of art, and after that Tim installed a bitching video wall. Come January we actually got this fun project successfully launched and opened at the height of the pandemic in the US against quite a few odds. Tim and I reflected on the process of opening in the moment in a Reclaim Today episode, which captures the excitement we were both feeling.
I would characterize this most recent trip back to the arcade as another shift in which we focused on ensuring Reclaim Arcade remains a viable business. This is something Tim and I are familiar with after running Reclaim Hosting for 8 years, but with that said, the arcade is an entirely different beast. While we successfully opened during a pandemic with a scaled down, targeted model, we knew that model would need to change once the restrictions were eased and things started opening back up. During the pandemic we were able to offer the entire space to private parties or public access with significantly reduced occupancy within a 2 hour block. As the restrictions began to ease in April and May Tim and I started brainstorming how to transition to a new model. In fact, it’s almost like re-opening the business all over again, which can be a bit taxing physically and psychically.
Tim documents the conversion of the TV Studio to the Arcade Party Room
Conversion complete: Reclaim Arcade Party Room
Conversion complete: Reclaim Arcade Party Room
Parties really floated us the first several months we were open, so we needed to keep those going which was part of the inspiration for my going back to help get a party room online as soon as possible. But Tim hates waiting, so he basically did most of it before I even landed. He did save the cove base for me, which reminds me of all the side jobs I did with my brother while trying to afford to live in NYC while doing a Ph.D. 🙂
Do or DIY!
Tim also painted the Reclaim Arcade logo on one of the walls that is not pictured here, and we got 4 sets of tables and chairs, some LED lighting and moved a few games in the party room hall, and that was that. In just a couple of weeks the party room was ready to be booked, if you will it it is no dream!
Spy Hunter project
Mousetrap back online after an Arcade Buffett fix
The other projects I started as soon as I got back on the ground was the long game of machine maintenance. Tim does this all the time, so when I’m back I try and do double time to ensure the video games are locked-in so Tim has less to do when I’m not there. This usually entails monitor work, PCB board repair, and various other bits like high score save kits, testing boards, cleaning games, etc. As soon as I got off the plane I picked up a Spy Hunter project machine in Northern Virginia that may come online in the next month or two. At the same time the Arcade Buffett (arcade repair extraordinaire) was at Reclaim Arcade working on a few games that need some TLC. The first night back was a doozy given I was 6 hours ahead on European time and did not get to bed until 4:30 Am Eastern US, but I like to get as much done early on during these trips because I begin to fade towards the end.
Arcade Buffett worked on the monitors for Mortal Kombat, Mouse Trap, Star Wars (although there is an ongoing issue there cause the PCB repair also resulted in no love), Killer Instinct, swapped the monitor on Phoenix, rejuvenated the Gyruss cocktail, as well dismantling the bavacade Galaxian and Defender monitors for chassis repair. He also took a gander at the Venture project, which has a dead power supply and needs some extra love. In other words, no shortage of work at Reclaim Arcade. He took 4 K4600 chassis to repair (one for my Scramble back in Italy, one for Venture, one for the Defender, and one for Galaxian) as well as a G07 that was having issues. It was a long night, but I was already feeling accomplished less than 24 hours into the trip.
This is a Defender PCB that has multiple boards, which is what I mean when I say PCBs
The next morning had me taking close to 15 PCBs down to Mike of East Coast Arcade Repairs in Petersburg to get a bunch of boards working. I brought the following:
Make Trax (spare board)
Defender (PCB from bavacade Defender)
Star Wars PCB
Super Cobra PCB (back-up PCB)
Scramble PCB with HSS kit to be installed (bavacade) –was working
Bootleg Scramble PCB –was working
Tutenkham PCB (backup)
Mortal Kombat Sound Card (backup)
Missile Command (backup)
Crossbow PCB (backup for my Cheyenne—although learning the Exidy 440 has issues swapping boards 🙁 )
Galaxian PCB (backup -> Sprites are off color)
Pengo –was working
There may be one or two I am forgetting, but this was most of them. Three were already working so no work needed, but the rest needed to be repaired, and that ensures most of our games have PCB boards we can quickly swap out—a practice that often keeps a game online. The Star Wars repair did not fix the problem, so that is still a mystery. Also, the HSS on the Super Cobra may have been a mistake, so that PCB still needs to be looked at.
You can see the graphical glitch in the high score on Super Cobra
The Defender PCB is jumpy after getting it back, so will test it against the second PCB set we are getting repaired. The machine this one came out of is Reclaim Arcade’s Defender, and I put the bavacade Defender out on the floor running a JROK. I also took the board set out of the bavacade Defender and sent that in for repair, so we will see if that has the same issues.
The second haul of PCBs later in the trip was smaller:
The second Defender board set (as confusedly mentioned above)
The actual Mortal Kombat II board so Mike could work on the sound board (dooh!)
the Spy Hunter PCB set
the Gyruss PCB from the cocktail
A lot of work to be done, and we got lucky enough for Mike to come to Reclaim Arcade and check it out (he was a particular fan of Reclaim Video), and he took a look at the Venture and Spy Hunter machines as well. Confirming the Arcade Buffett, a rebuild of the Venture power supply may be possible, and I think Spy Hunter may be closer than we think to operational—but not sure if there is a power supply issue there as well as the PCB, but that brings us up to date on the Reclaim Arcade repairs, but that’s a never ending story.
VHS Stack as we get them in the system
With both the party room and the games well in-hand by the end of week one, I could turn to some of the other projects I needed to take care of, including organizing the laserdisc and VHS collections, moving all my personal stuff (books, DVDs, papers, etc.) into storage, all in service of getting the space ready for the next phase of work at Reclaim Arcade which includes a kitchen!
VHS Stack as we get them in the system
Getting the hundreds of VHS tapes I have bought and folks have donated into our database has been long overdue, so I worked with Sophia to get that under control and she made short work of it. I had boxes and tubs of VHS that were just waiting to be inventoried, so I put a kinda of moratorium on acquiring new tapes, but that is now lifted as my recent adventures on Ebay attest to 🙂
I may or may not have spent way too much on a The Wanderers laserdisc with a director's commentary. It will play out like this: first the big box VHS tape followed by a laserdisc chaser with director's commentary next time I'm back at @reclaimvideopic.twitter.com/g7mxT6mXXd
I should talk a bit about my recent acquisitions in a separate post, but I am starting to really fill in the gaps of the the collection, and that feels good. Reclaim Video continues to hold a special place in my heart, and I have seen more than a few folks take joy in it, not to mention the amazing moment wherein one of the extras from Nuke ‘Em High was at the arcade and asked Tony and I if we had the movie on VHS…..of course we do! Two copies in fact! He was even kind enough to reprise his role for us on the fly:
Another highlight of the trip was seeing the living room get used in some of the ways we imagined. For example, a group of teenagers who had attended a birthday party stayed around and watched Gremlins.
Teenagers watching Gremlins in Reclaim Arcade’s Living Room
That is everything to me! And Tim noted that with the new model of folks not being limited to two hour blocks we will see more of this, and I really do love the idea of the space being full and lived in!
Reclaim Arcade’s Grant Potter Action Figure
But the greatest joy for me during this trip back was seeing folks in the space and working alongside Shane, Sophia, and Tony. We got really lucky with these three, and they are an absolute blast to be around. Tony reminded us that The Empire Strikes Back turned 41 years old, and even had it playing on Reclaim Video’s VHS/TV setup, that is #4life!
There is a lot that goes into making Reclaim Arcade operational and even successful, and Sophia, Tony, and Shane are a huge part of that right now. I’m filled with awe seeing how responsible, cool, and into the Reclaim Arcade vision these three are, and it fills me with hope that it will be more than business as usual everyday at Reclaim Arcade, it will be an experience to remember! The chaos of memories can be the most generative kind of entertainment, and the possibility of creating new ones is the ultimate goal of all of this.
Got back on the #ds106radio train this morning with a vinylcast of Sinéad O’Connor‘s 1990 album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, it ages well. I woke up singing “Three Babies,” thinking it was Black Boys on Mopeds, but that was my problem. I think I had Sinéad on my mind since reading about her new memoir Rememberings. Going to have to listen to that one.
It’s always fun to have folks along, and it was nice to use this #vinylcast as a way to break my post-travel blogging slump. I also chatted a bit about my arcade project as well as my recent VHS and laserdisc purchases, so all-in-all par for the course for some bavaradio, hope you enjoy!
Lee Skallerup Bessette reached out soon after OERxDomains21 to ask if we would be doing a workshop on Domains anytime soon given she would be taking a more active role in the project, and I imagine her recent promotion might be part of that—congrats!
So, we reached out to see if there was broader interest, and I am pretty stoked that we got such a resounding “yes.” It’s been a hard year on so many of us, but between the shot in the arm that was OERxDomains21 and the heartening realization so many good people are doubling-down on the open web. It gets me all fired up!
So, we will be running a two-day virtual workshop around Domain of One’s Own to train current administrators, give some insight to this whole Reclaim Cloud thing, talk SPLOTs, and most importantly connect folks at different schools to share the work happening across various campuses. We’ll be bringing in panelists and speakers, so you just might get the call in the coming week or two 🙂 The dates are June 22nd and 23rd, and the days will be from 11 AM – 4 PM Eastern. You can register here: https://roadshow.reclaimhosting.com/virtual/
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