Twilight Zone Pinball Machine (Page 2)

Mini-Playfield Lamp

There are several vendors of after-market mini-playfield lamps that dress up that area of the playfield.  One of them sent me one of these lamps in return for photographing his line of lamps.

The tricked out mini-playfield lamp courtesy of Skooter.
Note the ghosty reflection of "Zone" in the plastic.

The lamp is very beautifully made, and its reflective chrome really shines.  This makes it tricky to photograph as it simply reflects the area around it.  I shot the series of photos with some LED lighting to provide highlights to show off the lamp's finish.  One nice touch is his use of heavy-gauge ribbon cable for the wiring, as this keeps the wire routing clean.

Skooter has several varieties of lamps, some say "Lost in the Zone", or are blue, or do not have the end panel pyramid cut out.  The lamp is easily installed with an inline connector, but you do have to remove the mini-playfield to install it.  His web site is here.

Robby the Robot

Picture of Robby on the playfield.

In the past, this mod has fetched $100 to $200 in Ebay auctions.  It is based on the one from Masudaya.  Click here for a comparison.  I figured it was beyond my reach until Hallmark decided to market one for the 2009 Holiday season.  It was only $18.50, so I went by the local store and purchased the four that they had in stock.  After examination, I decided to put three LEDs into the unit.  The first two were to replace the ones already provided (the yellow buttons and the blue 'mouth').  The third would be a way to light up the clear domed helmet.

Opening the robot case.

The first task is to safely open the robot.  I studied Martin's pictures of the robot, and tried his suggested method of "levering" the legs apart.  This worked partially, but the main body's glue joints did not come apart.  I then used a miniature screw driver as shown above to pry the body open.  Once open, I removed the battery holder, circuit board and speaker, and I glued the case and legs back together.

Hook removed and head opened.

The next step was to figure out a way into the head.  I first removed the ornament hook at the top by simply pulling it out.  I had tried unscrewing it, but it simply spun.  However, I am sure that the initial spinning did loosen it up, and prevented any damage.
I then used a miniature screwdriver in the back to pry the head open.  The result is shown above.  As can be seen, the center post holds the two parts together, and was glued into place.  Trim the center stud and widen the hole so that they two halves fit back together.

From this vantage point, you can finally see that the clear domed helmet is held down by glue tabs deep inside the head.  Use a miniature screwdriver to clean these out, and the helmet should come out. 

The 'face' of Robby without his clear helmet.  This latter part is
glued into the two holes at the top.

While Robby had his face shield off, I decided to repaint him slightly to match the playfield image (see above).  This meant adding some red accents with my favorite detail paint brush: a sewing pin.

Robby with his makeup on.  Compare to the playfield image above.
Much of my painting on playfields is done with this blunt sewing pin.

Once this was done, I decided to light up the helmet by drilling a hole near the top back of the face, and putting an LED inside the head.  I used a white LED that was filed flat on front and back side.

LED inserted into the head to light up the helmet.

Next, I drilled a small hole into the post of the head so that I could put in a screw to hold the two halves together.  A washer is needed due to the size of the hole in the head disk.  I then selected a white (not blue) wide angle LED to face towards the player to produce the brightest spot of blue in the mouth plastic.  One leg of this LED was held down by the washer, and then the body of the LED was glued into place.

Finished head disk assembly.  A screw is used to hold the LED
down, and to join the two halves of the head.

After this, I prepared the body (now mainly empty) by glueing a bright yellow LED (a gift from Martin) that faced forward into the chest openings.

The two halves of Robby ready to come back together.

I received a bracket for this robot courtesy of Cliffy.  He made these for the original Masudaya robot mod.

The completed robot, mounted on a bracket courtesy of Cliffy.
The disconnect is made using IC socket pins.
Note the other color accents on the robot's body.

I decided to wire the three new LEDs to the three lamps that are next to the image of Robby on the playfield.  They happen to be on the same column of the lamp matrix, which makes it convenient for wiring.  I only needed four wires for the three LEDs.  I prepared a harness made from ribbon cable with a connector as I usually do to allow disconnection of the mod.

Wiring Diagram of the LEDs.  Wire colors for the lamp matrix
connections are shown.

The lamp column wire is the anode connection, and I put diodes in series (inside the body) to protect the LEDs from reverse voltage.  I also put a 51 ohm resistor in series to control the current, but that was placed under the playfield for easy access to change the brightness.

When I went to wire the robot into the playfield, I found out that these three lamps are on a small board.  This made it even easier to wire the robot into the playfield as I could remove the board to attach the wires.

Robby installed into the playfield.

Youtube video of the installed robot.

Animated GIF showing the effect of the LEDs.


Another ornament released for the 2009 Christmas season is a 60s style television with a Twilight Zone theme for $16.50.  I decided to use that for a mod.

Hallmark Twilight Zone TV Ornament
The original Hallmark Twilight Zone ornament.  I removed the ornament
hook at the top by first twisting and then pulling it out.

The plan is to integrate into this ornament a digital photo keychain and load it with photos from the Twilight Zone episodes that are featured on this machine.  The combined assembly would then be able to play a slide show of the particular scenes that inspired the machine's elements.

30 of the images that I selected for use on the key chain.
Each of these has a tie-in to the pinball machine, and
they are displayed in the above order.

One side benefit of this project is all the episodes I watched on YouTube to fish these snapshots out.  It gave me a new appreciation of the series, and I really liked seeing the look of the 60s (hair, car, and home styles, etc).

TV with the back removed.

The first thing to do is to pry the back off.  Then the protruding posts that held the back need to be cut down to size so that the little keychain can be mounted onto a plastic panel.  The result is shown above. 

Once you are done, build the small circuit board that allows the keychain to be powered from the pinball machine.  It is shown below.

The circuit board with the diode and test jumper.

The power leads from the pinball machine exit the above photo on the left.  Connect a red alligator clip to the top wire, and a black one to the bottom.  You then connect a diode in series with the power lead (banded side on the right) and solder it in.  The result is that the diode drops the voltage from the pinball machine from 5.0 volts to 4.2 volts.  Note that there are three solder pads in the bottom edge of the board above.  Call them 'left' (ground), 'middle' (keychain supply), and 'right' (battery).

The electronics module inside the Insignia
keychain remote.

The above photo shows the electronics module inside the keychain.  Prepare it by desoldering the red lead from the circuit board of the module.  Solder the red lead of the battery to the 'right' lead of the diode board.  Then take a lead and solder the 'middle' terminal of the diode board to the location on the electronics module where the red lead _used_ to go.  This will power the keychain when the machine is powered.  Finally splice into the black battery lead (do not interrupt it), and solder that to the 'left' terminal of the diode board.

The small jumper on the diode board allows the reconnection of the battery, and is useful for testing the mod, or restoring it for loading of images.

The finished back of the TV mod.  Note the three wires
exiting from the module, and their attachment to the diode

The assembled TV.  It looks really amazing, just like a miniature TV.  The first two
images show "Twilight Zone" in two zoom levels as shown in the thumb nails.
The image is extremely crisp and this image does not do it justice.

The TV mod mounted into the machine.  Note the white paper in the back
to reflect the LED sequencer's light.

I have always wanted to dress up the back right corner of the playfield.  The back left is lit nicely by the gumball machine, and there always seemed to be something missing in the other corner.  This location seemed perfect for the TV.  The mod needs to be mounted beyond the right edge of the DMD so that its reflection on the playfield glass would not interfere with the TV's screen.  I made a bracket by using a small piece of Lexan that was glued to the top of the TV.  The bracket is not visible to the player due to the overhang of the backbox.  This is then screwed onto the top of the backboard so that the TV is placed at an angle facing the player.  The mod is very easily removable and leaves just a small mark in a hidden area.

Once installed connect the red and black alligator to the gumball machine control board under the playfield.  There is a ceramic bypass capacitor near the voltage regulator that is a good location for the connection.

View of the top of the playfield.  Note that the bracket is hidden.  The new mod
lights up the back right corner quite well.  The back of the TV is lit by the
sequencing LEDs in a glittering fashion.

YouTube video of this mod.

After I finished this mod, I did a Google search for "TZ TV mod", and found this TV mod at  Although it shows videos of the series (without sound), it costs more than 15x the one described here, and has a 1.3" screen.

If you enjoyed this write-up, you may be interested in the
following mods of similar complexity:

I got such a big response when I wrote about my mod that
I decided to build them.  Here is the first four.
They are installed without soldering.

Another batch of TVs.  I ran out of the white connect wires, and these are grey.

Ebay sale for TV
  This Ebay sale closed above $290 (item 280446813207).

It was just a matter of time!  In January 2010, I had
an imitator trying to sell their version.  No bidders.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery  8-).

This was from Rob Ventura, who now sells under the
Ebay name "pinballmodspinball".  His design looks like a
straight copy of mine.  Even the images displayed is the same
(although he did mention he would not use my files).

Alternate TV mod
I subsequently developed an alternate version of this mod using a different
ornament.  This one shows images from "Nightmare on Elm Street".
This version is also available for sale.

Video of the mod in action.


Project Log

  • 4/12/08 - Purchased machine for $2500.  DMD board had a bad transistor, but machine was complete otherwise.
  • 4/21/08 - Playfield top and most of bottom have been stripped of parts.
  • 4/22/08 - Pop bumper light mod.
  • 4/23/08 - Received at no charge three plastics including a town square and a power field sign from John Estill.  Thank you!
  • 4/26/08 - Finished shop job and TZ is available for play.
  • 4/29/08 - Printed the apron cards by Vinito.
  • 5/1/08 - Installed Lost Spiral plastic from John Estill.
  • 5/1/08 - Replaced light sockets in backbox.
  • 5/12/08 - Repainted the cab.
  • 5/25/08 - Gumball machine mod.  It was part of a gift bag of pinball part from Martin.
  • 5/26/08 - Added opto sensors to third magnet mod.
  • 5/29/08 - Bought an authentic gumball machine from a local thrift store.
  • 5/31/08 - Finished third magnet installation.
  • 6/11/08 - A Lost Spiral plastic sold on Ebay for an amazing $203 (item 180250428336).

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