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Frank Bird

Mecca Supporters 2021
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Everything posted by Frank Bird

  1. Thanks for that, It has been fun dragging all these memories from the past to be honest. Also brought out some bad feeling again but hey-ho.
  2. It was insane, we never thought we would fill it. If I remember correctly we had MS Dos and, Lotus 123 was it? ( Memory is not what it was! ) I know we used Ashton Tate's Framework a little later and that was way before it's time. Quite where that product went I don't know as it had Word processing, data base, spreadsheet and a programming language, Fred I think it was and as a user you could switch between them and leave them suspended in 'tabs' - I cant say windows can I, (he he).
  3. Yes Ron was there and we had a great relationship both in work and socially and of course it continued, eventually, into Astra games! I take your point about him not putting up with it, and believe me he was as frustrated as the rest of us but there moves afoot company wise, as well as just machine production. Eyes were on the future and the preparation for the sale I am sure. It was about this time that we had a visit from Margaret Thatcher by the way. Forgive me but I never said I took over R+D, only 'machine' development, the 'hard stuff' not game dev or testing. Things like cabinet proving and fitting, wiring loom development, prototype build, Bills of material, change control, testing suppliers new devices etc. Ron as you may know was the main guy behind most of JPM's 'games', him and Alan Parker. He was a consummate prankster, I am sure it was him that arranged for the strip-a-gram company rep on my 30th birthday! My move to Dev meant I worked more closely with both of them again as I did when I first went into Dev all those years earlier. As an aside we more often than not played Backgammon or Trivial Pursuits lunch time, but more of that later! 🙂 😉
  4. JPM, in the earlier Electro mechanical days. Several colleagues used to play test through dev, then a play test department took over before a limited site trial locally for a couple of weeks. During that time a limited production run would be made to send a couple to each of the distributors and 'Majors' as we called them Music hire, Associated Leisure etc. Quite often last minute changes to the programming of timers etc before despatch. Usually on site for two week before the decision to run a bigger output. We did have a modem operated data collection system running just prior to the takeover by Whitbread hence their huge interest in POS data collection for pubs at that time. Hope that helps!
  5. Merry Xmas to you guys and thanks for the continued supporting comments. Still got GUAB and Astra games to go, oh and Coinmaster and Gamesoft.
  6. From Customer Services, back to Development 1982 (ish) The 'Machine’ Development Department was falling apart at the seams. It wasn’t producing prototype product on time, BOM’s were badly prepared and priced, wiring diagrams were erroneously designed and Prototypes were poorly prepared. This was thanks in no small part to the Toss pots that any of you that have read my previous posts will have recognised. I was asked to leave Customer Services and take it on. It took some thinking about because I had never been trained to be honest, it all came naturally, but leading a new crew in disciplines I wasn’t too sure of? I thought long and hard and decided to give it a go. Just to add here that I left the Customer Service Team in the capable hands of Martyn Stork who worked with me for many years and of course ably assisted by the other colleagues, Huw, Russel, Steve, David, Adrian and of course Julia. First day I brought everyone in and we had a long chat about what was going wrong and what they thought about the problems. Basically they were being treated like idiots by the morons that were now gone. They were not respected, they were being told exactly what to do without any chance of input and they felt like they had no respect in the company like for instance they pointed out, the Customer Service guys (sic). They were constantly told to sweep any problems they had under the carpet. So in a bid to try to raise moral I bought everyone (and me) white coats, we all had ID badges, installed push button access pads with "Authorised personnel only" above the doors. There was a secondary and far more important reason for the latter but I will come back to that later. I started two systems of appraisal, I appraised them and (and this is unusual) they were asked to appraise me, and they were commanded to attend exhibitions. It wasn’t a magic transformation, it took time, but heads were held high(er) and more pride was taken in the work. Things changed. One thing didn’t, my hatred of the huge IBM main frame machine, well not exactly the machine but all that it meant in terms of waiting for the Data guys to prepare reports and input data and Jaisus H christ. (apologies) We would prepare the BOM’s from an available (previous machine) parts list (IBM output, wait). We would then have to ask for that parts list to be copied and have new part numbers input and costed (wait) and of course some parts deleted in the new machine listing, then after they were put back in we would have to wait for a costed BOM to be created or printed (wait) so we could let Jack know how much the new machine was going to cost. So sod that, I persuaded my new boss, Alan Parker (yes the P in JPM) to buy an actual IBM PC, which were by now coming on stream and so we had this new machine delivered with a hard disk! My god 10MB hard disk, we were never going to fill that. Anyway. We bought the new Lotus 123 package and as I had some (limited) experience with spreadsheets we started to make our own BOMs from the system by copying the numbers from the screen on the System 38 terminal that we had into the system. Oh explanation, the IBM PC had the ability to interface with and display, not record, information data from the IBM main frame. This is when I realised that a guy that had been working with us, John Lockwood yes Julia’s brother no less, was taking to this new machine technology like a duck to water. Trouble is he was a little, lets say, wild. All he wanted to do as I remember was go off to Teneriffe and get drunk and shag anything that stood still long enough No one had any time for him but I gave him some brotherly words of advice and tried to point him in the right direction. We enlisted the aid of another guy who described to us some (illicit?) software from the states called SideKick, that allowed us to grab the screen ram contents while were in the IBM’s ‘terminal’ mode and dump them into the PC’s hard disk as a comma delimited file. Like I knew what any of that meant! We bought and installed it and by doing so we could load the data into a spreadsheet, select the parts we needed and prepare ‘live’ BOM’s that were costed at that days buying cost, something we would have to wait days for. It’s hard to comprehend these days, given the distance we have come, but back then the systems guys were hugely protective and, it must be said overly busy, or was it the other way around? The machines were comprehensively labour intensive and of course the GUI was yet to be introduced and many things were command line driven and of course no mouse! I remember the first mouse manual. Honest! Around 10 pages. Anyway, I got called into a meeting in Jack’s office to explain how I was once again bucking the system, and of course the hugely expensive IBM monolith. I seem to remember his wry smile and the shaking of the head as he stood and defended me in front of the Irate Data Team manager. The days of the IBM were numbered thanks in no small way to me, Johnny Lockwood and the other nerd who’s name I cannot for the life of me remember! John went on to become a leading Computer Specialist with a national multi branch company. Good man. One other humorous departure. I asked a colleague to bring me some striped wire as I was helping with a wiring task due to an urgent preparation, cant remember what for! I said bring me some brown-red cable and some brown-orange (colours may be wrong by the way) He brought me some Red yellow and Red-green. I obviously said "don’t be a dick" and with that he looked at me strangely and asked what was wrong? He had been taken on as a junior in the department and was colour blind! You couldn’t make it up! The reason I know it was 1982 is that it was my 30th birthday while I was in Development and I walked in to a clean desk (not my way at all), a bottle of Jameson's Whiskey and a glass. The day went down from there but that's a whole different type of story and doesn't belong here!
  7. Honestly can't remember, sorry! I know this is going to sound strange but I was never interested in the games themselves, just the figures they produced, the mechanisms within them and the design process.
  8. At JPM we once had a lorry turn up from Ireland that had delivered frozen goods to a local establishment and had been paid to pick up machines for the return journey. The lorries compressor unit was stuck on, so the the thing was like a huge fridge and the guys loading the lorry with sack trucks soon had coats on, although as the machine were in those huge plastic bags no one was unduly worried. Unfortunately the contraction coefficient of solder is much different to the relay base metal tags so the vast majority of them fell off and even those that didn't were suspect. The relay base has 11 soldered connections as I remember and the club machine had 20+ relays and there were 40 machines delivered. That's somewhere near 9,000 questionable connections! It took us days to solder the bloody things back on, but at least the Guinness and craic were good. Ha just remembered another funny incident. Martin Stork and I were in Ireland and we were working on a couple of machines, don't forget this is in the 80's. We were modifying product and terminating cables using 'bomb ends'. https://www.rivval.com/Product.aspx?p=RP00454/1 The look on peoples faces when I shouted to Martin to chuck me a couple of bombs!
  9. This one had got little to do with machines, sorry but it's part of the history! 😉 As well as running the Customer Service team I was eventually asked to run the Spares Sales department which was recovering after an unsuccessful attempt at trying to stock other manufacturers spares for the industry, a sort of “Radio Spares” for the industry. This meant I had to get to grips with stock holdings, more budgets, stock takes and bin cards but while I was there though I became more aware of the Ferranti computer which was a dirty great Main Frame computer that ran the rest of the company and which we in Customer Service knew very little about. We had to put our figures in via data entry clerks specialists. Looking back now it seems farcical, but let’s not forget that at the time Fax hadn’t made its way to the office yet, we were still using telex and TNT had only just started delivering parcels! Jack wanted to bring the place up to date and install a much smaller but much more powerful machine from IBM but was concerned that the change over would be a bit of a nightmare. The decision was taken by the board that the trial would be made by installing a system 36 as a test bed, more for the company than for IBM obviously, and he decided that the trial would be under my wing. Bird ha ha! Spares Sales was chosen as it was the smaller of the stores and so I was banged off on a course in Bracknell where I was exposed to the programming language and the various process’s involved. When the trial was over I could start helping others understand when the larger system was installed. I think it was system 38? The installation went ahead and within a week we had our stock levels in and were running the two systems in tandem, the same numbers being entered into both machines by ourselves and the data entry clerks, these were then tallied against the stock at the end of each month. Problem was the figures never tallied. Try as we might we could not get our stock figures to match up with those that were in the main frame and this was a complete mystery. We had a consignment of stock delivered from the main stores, we stocked it, sold it, dispatched it and logged every single transaction. The ensuing figures were often way out for too many items to be comfortable, so exhibiting less trust than perhaps I should have, I worked for a month with the team watching as many transactions as I could and cross checking data entries. After a long period of head scratching and considering all the variables we eventually came to the simple conclusion that the only figure over which we had no control was the item count of the incoming goods. So when the next delivery came from the main stores I took the film wrapped cases, opened them and counted them in rather than taking the quantity on face value. Many of them were wrong! The clouds cleared. Light Bulb moment! For my incoming stock to be wrong the main stores levels should in reality also be similarly incorrect? As some quantities were actually greater than they should have been that would mean that the corresponding items in the main stores should have been short? Yet their figures and stock levels were constantly correct so throwing bad light on our efforts and therefore reinforcing the effort to keep the Ferranti and the status quo. It was obvious to me that they were passing stock errors, shortages, and who knows what else, on to us and then casting aspersions our way, but who to tell? I decided that the only person to tell was Jack Jones as I didn’t know who to trust, that sounds a little conspiratorial but in truth there was a managerial clique, as there often is in business, and as the Customer’s representative I found I quite often didn’t fit, but then you knew that already? My goals were a little different to theirs although they should have been the same. I called Jack over and prayed that the items we were about to open would give credence to my claims. A pack of expensive TMS 9980 Micro Processors straight from the stores were first opened, we checked the quantity against the stock sheet we had been given, it was short. Eproms, worth a few quid each, 40 too many, transistors at pennies each, hundreds too many and so it went on. The only thing to do now was to wait for the next stock check in the main stores which came in and was apparently correct. Even with the irregularities in our transfers, really? After a few weeks the obvious and very visible shortages in the stores were several of the stores staff and a data entry clerk who also failed to make an appearance. Quite what was happening I never found out, but the Ferranti was changed and the System 38 was put in. On another point, having had experience of the IBM and the Ferranti and being exposed to personal computers, I began to consider the common ground between them. But this was not my ‘job’ it was just an interest, and currently my ‘job’ was Customer Service and Spares Sales. But not for much longer……..
  10. 1980-82? After Sales was a great place to work and was somewhere that I found I really had a penchant for, and really enjoyed. I mean people had problems. You fixed them cause you could. They were happy, your employer was happy, what was there not to like. Well for a start several of the 'old school’ team. Although they were in their positions they did not do the job properly, as I saw it, and I worked hard at doing the job right. As I have said I was eventually given the job of After Sales Manager so I guess I was right? I mean as a lowly engineer rep I was given 3 patches, North of Hadrian’s Wall, South of the M4 and anything to the right of Cambridge. This meant that all the large city centres with their easily available night life attractions were retained by my superiors! Let’s not go there! My main team consisted of Anne Marie O Sullivan, Julia Lockwood, Martyn Stork, Hugh Thomas, Russell Grimble, David Mead, then later Steve Bryant, Simon McCarthy and Adrian Davies. Although others joined us it was us that kicked off my new “Customer Service” department. I didn’t like the handle ‘After Sales’, it smacked more of the ‘companies toilet paper’ rather than an aide to the customer which is how I saw it As I figured it we were there to represent the customer during and After Sales, and in fact if we could get to them Pre sales we might persuade them to be a customer by explaining the finer points of the product!’ At that time we were still preparing service manuals the old fashioned way and when I use the term ‘cut and paste’, I literally mean it. Cutting sections from an old printed manual and pasting them onto a new sheet that had the new bits already typed in but with spaces for the old text. This was then set off to be reproduced by some witchcraft of which I knew very little but I think it involved photography of some description! Plus of course the Technical Service Bulletins or TSB’s had to be produced when we had an issue or wanted Customers to know about information like conversion kits and law changes or other important information. Addressing envelopes individually from address books was daunting and although we did look at memory golf ball typewriters, I got to hear of the new personal computers that were becoming available so I approached Jack and he agreed to at least listen to my suggestions and so off I went. I spoke to Dave Young who had his own Marketing company and spent a great deal of time with us and who I had a hell of a lot of time for and in fact became a friend and another mentor. Dave was the ‘T shirt’ guru by the way, it was he that suggested we should include them in the cash box for that period! He put me in touch with a fledgling company in Swansea where I went to see the machinery that I had only heard of, bearing in mind this was pre 1980. The machine was an 8080, CPM based, twin 8.5” 128k floppy disk system with a golf ball printer and monitor. The metal box itself, yes the huge blue powder coated steel box was about 600mm x 600mm by 350mm high or about as big as a small kitchen wall unit. It ran Wordstar and Supercalc (like we knew what the hell a spread sheet was!) but Anne Marie and Julia and I stuck to it and we were soon getting things done so much quicker. Anyway given today’s knowledge you will know that cut and paste is a completely different issue Ctrl C - Ctrl V, no mouse! Mail shots were now the push of a button (well several combinations of buttons actually). Friday afternoon’s were taken up creating backups from the master disk to back up discs. PIP A:=B:*.* (god where did that come from) Then on the screen TRWV. TRWV TRWV (Track Read Write Verify) And so on for ages….and ages. Customers address’s were stored and easily reproduced on adhesive backed labels to be stuck on envelopes which became superseded eventually by fan fold envelopes no less. These were shot out and were stuffed with ‘personalised’ mails by the team in periods of fraternal and frantic office origami, not just the secretarial staff. Engineers were expected to join in but then the girls helped with unpacking returns and occasional de-soldering and checking test routines prepared by the engineers. One big happy team multi functional team. So successful was the introduction of the machine that other departments became interested, especially as we had soon invested in an MPM or multi user system. This allowed the guys to have terminals and access manuals and low level, Technical tip ‘batch files’ that I created for them to look at. The JPM Sales administration team and the R+D specification team soon had their own MPM machines and I was seconded to Sales for a few months to learn relational Data base structures to create Invoices etc for the Sales department. This was no doubt as Anne Marie had left Customer Service for Sales and taken our forward thinking ethos with her, but thank God I still had Julia. To be continued......
  11. I have to agree with BF74 and point out that we often had to change pay-out structures during mid production run as it were. Glasses and perhaps bands were ordered and heads were banged on tables trying to figure out how was the easiest way to accommodate the new pay-out not only artwork etc but for the engineer on site. In this instance the little grey cells of BF74 were spot on and the 5 pulse cam was used to drop 2x10 coins, which was never truly optimal as if the switch dwell was slightly too small ( the dwell was what we called the width of the cut out in the cam ) if it were too small the slide would snap back, return too quickly and then clobber a token making it stick in the jaws. By the way Riche100 was kind enough to supply me with a WINNER schematic which I had been after for years and there on the bottom and due to a law change was a new pay-out relay and associated circuit on the schematic, with my handwriting! Now prized possession and framed on the wall !
  12. So here's a question coming back at y'all. How many of you were actually in the industry, just a thought that struck me. Oh by the way I am not a prolific writer even though I am trying to write a book, it's just I documented my life as I knew absolutely SFA about my dad and I felt it was sad so I jotted things down over the years which I am pulling on to make the gist of my ramblings. What am i going to do when JPM, Astra, Coin master and Gamesoft are over with! Good to banter with you guys!
  13. I can understand your view and the 'callous' statement, but we were all looking forward to a better future and we all though that the new guys were going to help us do that. They weren't exactly upstarts but professional managers with proven track records from very large companies in for instance, the Cosmetic industry, a Car component manufacturer and British Steel to name the few that I can remember. Obviously we would all have benefitted from a bigger and better company! It didn't take long for some of us to see through the bullshit, problem was the directors were being lied to and protected, no shielded, from the truth.
  14. Again, in 1982 aged 30 I was running game development (hard and BOM's) not software or electronics or Game dev just arranging prototype development, cabinet population, wiring harness specification, change control and phased introduction and of course latterly SWP. Hands off the actual gubbins and much more of a back room boy until the SWP pushed me back into the forefront again. By the way the job I was given was to replace Toss pot#2, nice raise as well as the nice chair.
  15. It's very difficult to say without any actual diary as such but they were not there that long, I don't think it was years TBH. It was very tedious and at one point I was looking for another job but I didn't really want to leave. These periods were very busy for me as I moved house 4 times while at JPM and my eldest was born in 1980 and the next in 1982 so I was busy at home too. That doesn't sound the way I meant it BTW, you see quite obviously as an ex carpenter and tiler the last thing I wanted was to pay anyone to work on my house, still don't in fact.
  16. Exhibitions, and one in particular! The first exhibition I ever attended was in Alexander Palace and it was an eye opener for me to be there and to be put up in a swank hotel in London alongside the directors! After Alexandra Palace the exhibition or the Amusement Trades Exhibition went to Earls Court and to Olympia and has since developed to be ICE or the International Casino Exhibition now that the Amusement Machine industry in the UK is a dim shadow of its former self. However around 1982 I believe, the organisers decided it would be a good idea to move the venue to the centre of the country and away from the admittedly archaic building which I guess looking back was not suitable at all because of the fire, and so it moved to the NEC in Birmingham. Unfortunately the organisers overlooked one of the main reasons why so many overseas visitors came to the exhibition and that was simply because it was in London. Fuelled with expenses, they could get from the exhibition hall in minutes, back to their hotel rooms and on the piss within the hour, if indeed they had not cleared out the mini bar before hand. The one thing about the exhibition and the trip from Wales was that we were all housed in the same hotel. Nothing had changed in the basic philosophy of the company and there was still very little us and them, that was to come but not from the original directors. I have to explain. Despite using one of the nicest hotel in London at that time, we were all housed there, the directors the managers the lorry drivers and the production workers that came up to assist with the moving of machine etc, everyone! The NEC was another thing altogether and Birmingham in those days was not the International Metropolis that it is (?) these days and it didn’t fit the industry and so it was that the exhibition was held there just the once. Again we were all in the one hotel, the whole team! Unfortunately and just some time before this historic move to the Midlands and this stage of the companies history, the original directors were trying to put “Names” in managerial positions. I believe this was to ensure that managers in top positions were seen to have pedigree and to prepare for the impending sell off which eventually happened although many years later and to Whitbread. And so along came four guys that we were introduced to over a short period, and who were taking or creating positions that had not really been recognised before and in some cases over individuals that had been with us a long while and that should have had the job. I will not name them here although their names still make me think of bull shit! The guys were all without question, from different ‘Blue chip’ companies and were all time wasting, egotistical toss pots. They were professional, disciplined, experienced ass licker's dropped into a highly flexible yet hugely successful company and they were actually like fish out of water, and their response was? Try and drown everyone else with their ill fitting methodology. I won’t go into the arguments, the show downs and the crap we had to go through or the number of stupid Memos that we started to sink under (no emails yet). I remember getting one that was on pretty, pre printed, letter headed paper and came from “The Desk of Toss Pot #1” (That’s my substitution to maintain anonymity by the way!) Suffice to say that on the morning of this particular exhibition, thanks to their cumulative cock ups and as the ‘Stand Manager’ of the exhibition set up I faced the following scenario. The first lorry arrived and having prepared our stand and that of our distributors I had all my guys bright eyed and bushy tailed ready and waiting as they started trucking in the machines on a procession of sack trucks. A long faced member of the production staff trucked in the first one and I glared at the sheet of A4 paper stuck to the front which went something like:- “The Print supplier had a problem - no reel bands - to follow” “Oh well put it in place we can deal with that later” or words to that affect I guess I must have said as the second machine came towards me again bearing another A4 sheet of bad news. “No Eproms - Programme to follow” Um…. Third one came in “No power supply - to follow” And so it went on. By the time we had unloaded the lorries and taken the machines and furniture etc to our own and the various distributors stands we had 46 machines that had parts missing from the 95 machines we were exhibiting. Just under 50% and the worst of it was that we couldn’t even begin to test some of them. I made it to a phone (no mobiles) and of course being Saturday it was difficult to raise anyone, however I did manage to get hold of Toss Pot#2 and gave him a discrete but fair assessment of the situation and politely requested, with due reverence that he please put every effort into assisting me! Did I buggery; I called him all the snivelling little s**t bags under the sun and told him to get his sorry arse on a train and get up to Birmingham with the missing bits for the poxy machines and as fast as his fat f*c**in legs would carry him. But of course, there was no way he could. The parts that had been delivered, in some cases incorrectly designed, had to be re-made which meant that suppliers would be working the weekend and the parts would be up Monday morning, just before the start of the exhibition and, this was a big AND, hopefully functional. There was nothing for it but to try and swap parts around from machine to machine and by mixing and matching, robbing our own machines for parts and making sure that all the distributors stands were as complete as they could be, we stabilised the situation by isolating and concentrating the problems as far as was possible, rightly or wrongly, to our own stand. Finishing at around 10:00 pm on Sunday night we tried to get a beer but there was not a lot around so we got back to the hotel all ordered room service and robbed the room bars We had already arranged to get back on the stand by 08:00 the next morning as we still had a of of work to do and just over 3 hours before the exhibition started. To say I was stressed is a slight understatement. When Toss Pots numbers #1 #2 #3 turned up they walked in and were all smiles as they felt their job was done. They were obviously happy in the knowledge that they had the answers to the current problems, accompanied as they were with all the parts necessary. They further made their accomplishments known, with knowing smiles and winks to the directors who had also turned up early having gained wind of the problems, from me. Eventually after brown nosing everyone of importance they came over to me and in suitably loud and condescending voices, and looking to the directors, said! “Right Frank, now what can we do to help you and your team put YOUR problems right” like it was my teams fault! MY PROBLEMS! WTF! Without a moments hesitation and I suppose quite improperly in front of all my staff, my colleagues, the directors, staff on other stands and whoever was passing, I practically touched noses with Toss Pot #1, lets not forget, ex of a large Blue Chip Company and shouted in to his ugly podgy face. “F**K OFF - Get off my stand and leave me the f**k alone” Numbers #2 and #3 turned to Ernie Beaver, Sales Director, who simply said… “I really think you should do what he says.” With that I emptied the boxes of parts on to the carpet tiles and issued instructions quickly to my team who took those new parts and fitted and fully tested each machine before moving on to another one. With only a few minutes to spare Adrian and I pushed the one machine that we just could not persuade to work into the back room. As we shut the door the speakers announced ‘the show is open’ and crowds started to pour in. I left for the Cafe after quite loudly giving my notice to Ernie and Jack and, I am ashamed to admit, broke down in tears. Sitting, shaking and weeping over a Coffee is not a good place to be at the start of an exhibition but I had honestly reached the end of my tether. I couldn't continue to fight against these odds, don’t forget this wasn’t the first altercation where they just would not listen to common sense. Whatever happened I could not work under that sort of pressure especially as it was brought about by such a bunch of w**k*rs and that is exactly how I put it to Jack, Alan and Ernie when they eventually came to find me. They pleaded with me to forget what I had just said as they had apparently already done so. They suggested that I should go back to my hotel room and chill reassuring me that things would change and soon. I finished my coffee, went for a walk, had a Marlboro or two and then went back to do my job, running the stand, meeting customers, answering their questions and leading my team. A week or maybe two later, many people went including Toss pots #1, 2#,#3, and #4. As an addendum to this tail. Toss pot#1 had once taken me aside after I had confronted him in an emergency meeting called as it was about product safety which needed immediate answers. I had both questioned, and then proved his judgement to be wrong, in this meeting that was with many of the senior managers and directors. He had said to me, while looking over his shoulder to make sure he was not overheard, that I was a nothing. The words he used were ‘nothing but a jumped up untrained nobody who was actually very clever at twisting the truth’. He told me over his pointed podgy finger and in no uncertain terms that he would see me out of the company if it was the last thing he did. Most mornings thereafter, as I lowered my arse into his comfortable leather and teak chair, possibly the most expensive chair in the building, I couldn't help feeling just a little sorry for him. No honestly. No seriously! 😉
  17. Thanks people, I feel privileged to have been there during those heady days, and grateful you find my ramblings entertaining! That Roulette machine was around 1980-1 as far as I remember, I only know that as it was the last few years of my time in the 'rebranded by me' Customer Service Department. In answer to the 'what was the system', we were looking at video products like poker and Roulette as they were big at the time and JJ (Jack Jones - J in JPM) wanted to break into America and we had tried the America product with a nudge which didn't work very well and poker was seen as a good way to give it another go. You may know this, because I know you guys are so knowledgeable, that JPM had its own Video gaming departure and assembled various early games, I had nothing to do with that venture so I only knew of it from a distance. What I do know are two things. The Roulette machine was quite popular in France and the controller had a separate, single, memory and processor module. At that time a company in France, one Jeutel as I remember, were extremely swift in taking games and back engineering the software and creating their own copy of the product. In order to overcome that it was decided that we would POT the controller in an Epoxy compound that would make it particularly difficult to get at the devices and this product was tested on site in Newport, South Wales in an inland arcade. The product stood up well so we continued and several were sent to France where most of the interest had originally been generated from. There were several venues that were associated with Vinyards as I recall or perhaps it was owners of Vinyards had arcades. Forgive me I was the monkey not the organ grinder. In any case as you may have guessed the temperature in the south of France is a little different to the South of Wales, where it rains lot! Dieu dieu! Quite soon the controllers were cooking themselves and the addition of extra slots in the back door and added fans did little to cool the product down. Can you see the roulette wheel on the video screen? Guess what? That is a printed vac forming with apertures to see the ball rotating beneath it, that is how basic the video was and that vac forming used to deform under heat as well - Nightmare. In any case I had a very pleasant time flying from place to place and driving to the odd one as well, armed as I was with new controllers and replacement vac forming. Not our best effort but the endeavours did open the way for video development and the whole Criss Cross thing. More of that later
  18. You guys continue to astound me, to me it was job, a career, to you it is something else. I have to admit that your knowledge far exceeds mine. I just have memories to you it's something else altogether...
  19. Oh my god, I have just had the little grey cells motivated at the mention of "a couple of blackjack or poker type video machines" I remember driving around France changing memory cards on Video Roulette machines. That will be in a future post which will now be a little bigger ....
  20. Well, I didn't get the chance to speak to 'the man' but he did answer my text. It seems that current thought at that time was that club machines were "more like a serious gambling machine than an amusement product" and so it wasn't included. If I remember correctly to add weight to the thought, we did have an arcade on the board walk in Atlantic City where we tried to put product into the states. They had nudge included but we had to remove them because the average American punter at that time couldn't deal with the concept and we had floor walkers trying to explain! As well as all that the team were very busy with constantly kicking out new games for the AWP market which demanded a new game every 8 weeks. Club machines tended to have a longer life. So in answer to your question I am afraid I don't really know! I know that early 82 I was put in charge of the Development team (not software or graphics) just the hard stuff, BOM's and the pricing, and it was during that period that the SWP came about. More of that later.
  21. Good questions, no club and AWP went through the same dev teams there were no segregation there, and a for the nudge question....hmmmm. I don't have an answer but I know a man who will and this gives me a reason to speak to him! Watch this space.
  22. Your knowledge of the machines astounds me, I was so busy with the maintenance of or the development of the 'product' that I hardly bothered with the games themselves. It was the introduction of new components and the control of change that I was involved with at the time or perhaps in fact the start of the Project Management of the SWP departure? In 1982 I had my 30th birthday which was a blast and will be in a story soon and I know I was managing the development team (not software) having been transferred from Customer Service to take that problem area.
  23. Of course as well as the progress made in gaming machine technology by the manufacturers themselves there were also huge developments in the components that were purchased to go in them. One of the more obvious products to receive such progress was the coin acceptor. Traditionally the coin acceptor was a metal mechanism dedicated to measuring the circumference, width and solidity of a coin. It also had a small magnet to detect Ferrous fakes. One of the new players in the marketplace was Mars, I believe an American company, that introduced their Injection molded Mars mechanism, or Mech. Obviously it was in their interest to make sure the technicians from the various manufacturers could repair or recognise problems with their product. So 40 years ago I was invited to Mars in Winnersh triangle in Reading for an introduction to the product. What I saw there blew my mind. Although JPM by this time were ensconced in a new building and the materials we used were modern, we still employed the more traditional manufacturing procedures of stores stock holding, stock issue, and handling and transportation of materials to the staff. Not at Mars. If you asked the store's manager at Mars exactly where a component was in the stores, he didn't know. If you were to ask him to get a component he couldn't. No Bin cards here! The stock holding area was a series of racks, and these were, as I recall some 20 or perhaps even 30 ft high, around 2 ft wide each, with perhaps a 3 foot gap between them and around 100 feet long. Negotiating and populating this area were a series of computer-controlled robotic stock controllers, a sort of very small telescopic forklift on rails. As stock arrived it was entered into the computer and then loaded onto plastic bins designed to fit perfectly within the racks. Not all components in the same bin, it really didn't matter because the computer knew where they were. Once the stock was loaded the computer decided where a suitable space was and took it to its destination, not necessarily next to similar items that we're still in stock. Similarly to issue stock you simply typed in what you wanted and the controller would go off and bring you your item, after which you would update the quantity and send the remainder back. It didn't stop there. Buried beneath the carpet tiles around the workshops were metal tapes and these formed a route that branched off to individual workspaces. Stock for an individual worker was loaded onto to a battery powered flatbed truck the size of a pallet truck with a flashing light and sensors all around. The guy loading the truck would choose a destination press the button and off would go this little truck, quite slowly, less than walking pace, and often in convoy with other similar trucks. Once at their destination they would politely chirp to be unloaded and once commanded to return, they made their way back to the stores. There were other aspects of modern technology their regarding staff access and time keeping etc, but honestly I don't remember them, however the store and stock control stuck in my mind and I thought you guys might be interested. Don't forget this was 40 years ago!
  24. Yes I knew, but what a lot of people don't know is that Robert and i grew up next door (literally) to each other!
  25. Hey daveo, to answer your question properly, we did have our own operations that was ostensibly to quietly test our gear and more importantly the machinery inside rather than the games, after all a canvas can have any picture painted on it and a system can have any game dropped on it! But After Sales supported the engineers in the field and our number was in the cabinet and on the manuals and schematics as I remember (?) no matter what company they were with. We we would take calls from techs to assist them in their endeavours and many remained friends over the years.
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