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Frank Bird

Mecca Supporters 2021
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Everything posted by Frank Bird

  1. Another picture from back in the day, looks like an episode of Sweeny. The Customer Service crew! Left to right Dave Mead, Russel Grimble, Huw Thomas, yours truly, Steve Bryant and Martin Stork. My guess 1980 ?, Just had the Fiat twin cam HTG79W.
  2. The good staff didn't.... leave! They were pushed!
  3. Can I just say again that these notes are taken from my perspective so I am bound to figure large in them. If this seems self indulgent or self promoting it's not meant to be so be honest, re-direct me if I drift off subject. The appeal of Development and creating new ideas and (truth is) actually being “recognised” for my abilities was beginning to appeal to me. It was here where I learnt how to create, wire and programme the analogue computer (for that was what it was) from the schematics prepared by Alan and Howard Parker. I never knew what a schematic was and the consideration that it bore no resemblance to the actual physical layout took a while to get my head around. As by way of explanation consider the London underground schematic is not geographical and gives no idea of the distance between two points! Constructing them as we did with a hole cutter, a plastic tray, a rivet gun, a soldering Iron and several rows of SAIA or Starpoint (more of them later) rotary switch timers, dozens of Omron relays and yards and yards of tri coloured wire. Bad Boys Race Our Young Girls But Violet Generally Wins Oh my lord where did that come from…. Black, Brown, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green Blue,Violet,Grey, White Isn’t memory a strange thing, I can forget anniversaries but that came from no where? Anyway, I digress (sounds Welsh?) Working for the first time with Alan and Howard and Ron (Watts) I learned how the machine was wired and constructed. I was also introduced into the world of ‘programming’ as indeed that was what it was, sequencing the operation of the timers and cams so that the various components operated in time during the game cycle. As a simple example the reel motor had to start momentarily before the reel stop solenoids were lifted or the reels would not start quickly and together. Oooh if I remember it was 10 degrees before, now where did that come from! All these little ‘sub routines’ would be recognised for what they were many years later with the introduction of the computer programme, perhaps it was around even then I don’t know. Furthermore I was also exposed to statistics, probability, chance, randomness and game structure and I eagerly started to read about them and found them fascinating. Although basic calculations could be worked out and a free running machine could be constructed to record the wins on meters without a player, believe it or not, the only way a machine was percentage tested was by sitting there with a black coffee (Nescafe) and a fag (Marlboro). Playing the machine over and over again and trying to get maximum return from the benefits offered via holds and features was second nature after a while, all the time recording on sheets of A4 paper the result of each game and what you had done to influence it with hold or hold after win etc. Example…. 6421 Gr | Gr | Or |.......|......|.......| 6422 Gr | Gr | Gr | H1 | H2 |.......| 20p | H 6423 Gr | Gr | Gr | H1 | H2 | H3 | 40p | HAW And so on. By the way I guess the payout amount is wrong but you get the idea hopefully, and the big number? That is the game number and until you got to around 5-6 thousand the results, apparently, were not very revealing unless they were really crazy by which time you knew there was something wrong with the design. With a 3 reel machine and 20 symbols per reel the full game cycle was 8000 games and until that number was achieved we sat there and played - and played. This was the boring bit but it helped that I had a colleague to share banter with and Charles Hazel or Bingham, was that man. One episode that was amusing was brought about while checking the percentage of a machine and realising that I had not recognised a 'Grape' win, or three grapes appearing in the win line. This was about 40p or some small amount and this appeared to be bringing the percentage payout down and certainly should have appeared more often than it had appeared to have done. I checked the spec and the glass and and there was the win symbol but looking at the third reel there were no grapes and the wiring had not accommodated the win either. It had been missed out of the design. I wont mention the guys name but he did go red from embarrassment! I mean 'what' are the chances eh? I found that I was really happy in the development arena. I began to notice that the later endeavours from the research area incorporated electronics, micro processors and plug in circuit boards some of which could be seen in the ‘extra secret’ development area. Plug in sub boards could be seen on a back plane and discrete components such as transistors and capacitors could also be recognised none of which I knew of at the time. So I decided it was time to get some serious studying done and I enrolled in Llandaff technical college for a course in Micro Processor Controllers and Electronic Circuitry and turned up in my Vauxhall viva HA ( to give a time reference). I was not alone as several of my colleagues decided that this was the way to go so we used to got to college and this was an excuse for another night out! Working with industrial research and development teams and being exposed to ‘cutting edge’ technology of it’s time meant that much of the stuff we were exposed to was ahead of the college’s mediocre supplies. I began taking orders and quite often delivered components, circuits and odd parts in to donate to the tutors which they were grateful for and helped me to become friendly with the tutors. All this was sanctioned by the company as it gave us an ‘in’ to the University. As an aside here it was during this period of development that we were working closely with Texas Instruments and as we were about to take a great deal of their products, particularly the TI 9980. This was to be the heart of the new system I was told. Anyway, one of their consultants came to work alongside us to help with the interface. The guys name was Peter Crow. I can remember some years later the hilarity caused as a receptionist in a hotel took down the names of myself and my colleagues. Martyn Stork, Frank Bird, Peter Crow and Ian Wingfield when we all booked into a hotel for the night. Cheeky girl laughed and her name was Abigail. Part of the development of the Electronic system for JPM was the adoption of a cutting edge drive for the reel unit, those spinning wheels that display the recognised symbols such as Oranges Grapes and Lemons etc. Again as an aside here, many people are unaware that the symbols or Icons of fruits, are actually supposed to be a hangover from the early days of coin operated machine in the US. Or at least this is what I have heard from many people both in this country and the states and it is the subject of much conjecture. Most people (well those not on this forum anyway) probably don't know where the term ‘fruit machine’ came from. The modern day ‘fruit machine’ is actually supposed to be a result of several American companies around at that time one of which was called Bell and they produced chewing gum, or so the story goes. They developed a machine along with the Mills company (again so the story goes) that dispensed the ‘Bell’ fruit flavoured chewing gum and sold them in early coin operated machines that used the reels as a gimmick. The game would play and the customer would get delivered a fruit flavoured gum! The ‘Bar’ symbol is again, supposed to be, a representation of a stick of chewing gum and the Bell symbol, well that goes without saying. Of course the typical bar owner would always have a little ‘book’ on the side and you could give the guy a dollar or two and bet him that you would win your stick of gum. If you did he would give you back a prize whose value was based on an arbitrary amount depending on the fruits that came up or perhaps the Bell or the Bar symbol would have been the top prize and gave perhaps 10 to 1 on your stake. Of course the odds were heavily in favour of the Bar (for Bar read Mob, of course). In any case enough of ancient history, the next step (sic) is into the future with the Stepper Reel unit!
  4. I have to explain first of all what brought me back to this forum. During a long lunchtime exercise walk around the ex WWII aircraft hangers in Llandow, my colleague picked something up from the grass verge... would you believe it!
  5. Hi there, happy to be back. I was (eventually) the project manager for the SWP Product and that will certainly be mentioned in time, I am trying to be as historically correct as I can.
  6. Apologies.. Been a strange couple of years hasn't it? I have some more to add ( at last ) for anyone interested - let me catch up what I have done before.
  7. That's the one... Good times, used to have a banging disco....
  8. Every single machine had and 92250 key on the outer cash box and the back doors.
  9. Hey guys let's not forget there were many more pubs than arcades in those days and in truth arcades didn't necessarily have the latest product. At that time we had to change products every 6 to 8 weeks and these filtered down to secondary sites etc.
  10. I used to visit at least once a month, remember the Wigan Pies but didn't know what the hell a barm cake was! I stayed at the hotel they owned, damned if I can remember the name. I did a lot of training for them as well, we hired a couple of bingo halls and brought in loads of engineers - more of that in later recollections.
  11. We did peak at 1000 in one week at one point...
  12. I recall that machine and the design but at that time I was off the tools as such and managing Development and production engineering and or SWP project management. What I do know is that the cabinet design was as a desire from Jack Jones to get into the US market, we even had an arcade on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, and as you may know eventually after JPM, Jack bought and I ran as MD, a sheet steel engineering company and developed the curved top, metal cabinet idea and the Azkoyen hopper through to large scale manufacture when we kicked off the Astra cabinet design, but if you read my posts I will go into that again.
  13. Sorry fella no, we never dreamt in a million years that they would be a collectors item! I do remember feeling a right pr3£k at the time doing a photo shoot and I can remember the crazy old colourful (ooh matron) coot taking the photos. He was playing the "Ink Spots" over and over again on a huge pair of corner mounted Tanoy speakers which I envied!
  14. To be honest I was happy to be using my head and not my hands and I had no focus other than my willingness to work and be rewarded. I had no bigger vision as it were. Regards Frank
  15. Once again forgive me, these are personal observations so I’m bound to figure in them. Ok, so early to mid 1970’s. Flairs were the in thing, that and turtle neck sweaters, bright flowered shirts and JPM were reinforcing their early beginnings. We seemed to have found a recipe for machine development that combined decent technical detail and popular game play. Most of this was the brain child of Alan Parker, Howard Parker and Ron Watts the latter being the one that combined the ideas of the others into great artwork design. At this time I had moved from reel build and test onto the Control Board test and from there a step, literally a step, through a newly opened break in the wall and onto the final machine test area. In reality this was taken quite soon after I had begun my employment with JPM and I was one of only a few individuals to have worked full time in all the areas within the JPM test area although others had obviously done similar with other smaller companies. Alongside the production staff’s motley collection of vehicles, the car park was beginning to be populated by vehicles that displayed, quite rightly, the recent success of the company. BMW 5 series, Rover P6 3.5, Aston Martin ( ok second hand ) and Mercedes. Visitors regularly turned up in equally high class vehicles and it was not unusual to see the odd Rolls or Bentley parked out front as the larger than life operators and distributors, sometimes with their secretary's ( nudge nudge ) came to look around. Let me necessarily outline at this point a little about the culture at JPM. It was a Team. That is no hyperbole or unrealistic exaggeration. That phrase has been hi-jacked over the years by wannabe’s with no real substance behind their claims, but it was used as a slogan in the JPM Marketing Strategy ( photo to follow ) and quite honestly, it was the truth. There was just not an us and them. The directors had a job to do as much as we all did but they often joined in with conversations at the factory door or came to have a chat and ask how things were and if anything could be improved, and they quite often were as a result. They also bought Fish and chips ( no Domino’s in those days ) when there was a need to work late, sometimes all nighters, and it was far more that just ‘trying to stay with the boys’. One of the biggest factual statements of the team culture was the payment structure. As memory serves we were on about £30(ish) a week, now that wasn’t a lot of money and certainly less than I had been earning as a time served Joiner and latterly a Ceramic tiler, but I had to give it all up due to an injury which is why I took this temporary job in a factory! (Nothing as permanent as temporary eh) If you worked a flat 40 hours then no bonus was payable ( as I remember ) needless to say I never found out and when the shout of “Bonus is up” was shouted out, the top wage earner on the huge paper chart pinned to the wall was either Gary G, Gary P, or me or one of very few others. I have recollections of monthly pay slips boosted by over £1,000 but 70-80 hour weeks were not unusual, and you were never, never ever, late. I also have vague recollections of going over to the Plymouth Arms on bonus day, but I don’t remember going home. That is not to say that this was a constant, I remember vaguely being asked to go the cabinet shop which had a large open area that was usually filled with cabinets but on this day was ominously empty. As we all circled Jack Jones he explained about the huge downturn in business and that he had to lay off 30% of the production staff, turning around he apologised individually as he picked every third person, I did the maths and the head count pretty quickly and stayed exactly where I was but filled with fear at the possibility of being laid off for the first time in my life. A few months later most of those staff that were laid off were back anyway. However it was just a little time later when a position was advertised internally for the development department and although I had not long been married and taken on quite a mortgage, the idea of a constant flat salary, but admittedly at a considerably lower wage, appealed to me after all I could still earn a few quid on the weekend tiling if I needed to! And so it was that I left the production area and climbed the stairs ( and not just metaphorically ) to claim my bench in the development area and join a bunch of new colleagues and disciplines. L These were the TEAM ( printed on the back) give away T shirts - one was in each Cash box for a period L -> R Rob Higgins, Me, Ernie Beaver, Rob Old, Howard Parker, Huw Thomas
  16. Ron Watts was the design guru behind a great deal of JPM's products and success. I was always happy to work with Ron as he was open with guidance and assistance, but as well as the work aspect he was a solid guy to know. More to come in my recollections!
  17. Sorry chap no, although we still meet so with this forum now in mind I'll ask around. Regards Frank
  18. Anyone know how much I could get a JPM Winner for. Well that is if one still exists Regards Frank Bird
  19. Here's one for you... Development team. The older gent was Charles Weekes, a mentor, what a guy, we've all grown used to stepper reel units? They were his brainchild. More in future stories. Left to right. David Mead, Tony Braggins, Ron Watts, yours truly, Charles Weekes, Charles (Bingham) Hazel.
  20. Funnily enough I worked with Janshens when I was with Coinmaster, in 2001 I was at the opening of the casino in Sheveningen with Paul Heuvelman as we put a couple of 10 player Auto Roulette in.
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