I grew up in San Francisco, moving to New Zealand in 2009 to work at Weta on Avatar. I left everything I owned in storage in California, thinking I would retrieve it after a year. 7 years later I’ve finally retrieved what has amounted to a time-capsule.
The Vectrex was released in 1983, and is essentially an embodiment of the Golden Age of gaming in one device. I was ecstatic, my time-capsule had produced a gem, and I was in business.
With the VecFlash custom cartridge to code, and play home-brewed games I was minutes away from naustalgia influenced bliss.
There was only one problem with the Vectrex… it didn’t work.
There was no response when powered on, and I don’t know the first thing about electronics.
An online version of the manual pointed to where the fuse inside the unit. Now, this presented a problem… I’ve never opened up an electronic device, and certainly not with an intention of fixing it. I got the back off and was presented with this disarrayed electronic mess. It was like looking for a needle in a stack of needles.
The manual gave me a clue as to what the fuse may look like: Replace fuse with 0.5A, 250V slow blow type only. So I was on the hunt for any fuse-looking object with these alphanumeric values. Found it at the power cord entry point. Upon inspection I could tell the fuse was blown to bits.
I didn’t know if it would be fixed by a fuse replacement, but I knew it wouldn’t work otherwise. I bought a fuse with identical properties, a soldering iron, and some electrical tape.
I watched a video on disassembly of a Vectrex and found that you can die while tinkering back there. The unit can carry upwards of a 20,000 volt charge even when unplugged. They call it the “widow maker”; this didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.
After discharging the device I went to work. I ripped the fuse out with pliers, and went to solder on the fuse… only then noticing I had forgotten wire.
Looking around I saw lots of wires. Surely one of them would do? I ended up tearing apart a monitor power cable with scissors. Applying what I knew from a year 7 Electronics Class I soldered the fuse to the wiring and back the board, in which, of course, was an expert application of soldering technique.
With an exorbitant amount of solder, I made a thing.
I then wrapped my mess of a job in electronic tape, screwed the back on and powered it up.
Turning the power knob I heard that beautiful 8-bit sound, and was presented with the all-mighty Vectrex logo.