Jump to content

JPM, my view from the inside. Frank Bird.


Frank Bird
 Share

Recommended Posts

That 10p token reminds me of the great machines JPM were producing that accepted not only that but the 5p tokens too.

The playing card symbols, the coloured roundels with the JPM logo and the JPM embossed start button.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 11/5/2020 at 4:07 PM, Road Runner said:


ive seen these type of takeovers in my professional life.

 

i can just see JPM with R&D budget cuts, rehashing loads of ideas, tight schedules, quantity before quality and all the good staff leaving within 18 months.

 

results = it’s JPM in name only.

 

 

The good staff didn't.... leave!            They were pushed! 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

welcome back frank :) 

and for contributing further and letting us share a insight into what happened and the process youve gone through etc 

happy days

 

p.s cant beat a jpm token randomly found to trigger a memory , amazing how such little things can spark us back up again , i look forward to  seeing and reading more from you 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

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.  HTG97W DOH!

sweeny.thumb.png.f53ab55a646683e1c4f7b6a400a814f4.png

Edited by Frank Bird
  • Like 8
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Electro mechanical to Electronic machines       1978 ?   ish

As I recall, the initial ventures into the future with the new electronic JPM machines used the traditional reel unit mechanics.

Obviously a much lower current than was traditionally used was sent through the static reels mechanism, after the reels had revolved and stopped, and in the case of a win position through the aligned wipers against the studs and shorting the appropriate contacts.

This brought about new issues due to the low power required, variable resistance due to dust, dirt, scratches etc, and other problems  due to the sensitivity of the control circuits and the soon to be antiquated mechanical nature of the reel unit.

To keep the wipers held firm against the studs meant that the motor needed to be held on while the sensing pulse was sent, but any aberration of the drive shaft meant that the wipers would continue moving slightly and the contact would be less than optimum. 

If I remember we called it ‘breathing’, the reels would literally move up and down and seem to separate from each other!

A few machines were constructed in this way and tested in Arcades in local seaside resorts such as Barry Island and Porthcawl but they proved to be unreliable to say the least and demanded regular call outs and attention and the system was deemed troublesome.

One (older) guy working with us, Charles Weekes (who became my mentor and a friend friend) was an old school technician who could regularly be seen scratching his wrinkled forehead with his foul smelling, smoke belching briar pipe.

Charles Weekes (RIP) had worked on Juke box’s, old Bally, Jennings and latterly ACE machines, having run his own operating company in Caerphilly.

Not only that but he had during his National Service days worked on very large scale flight simulators or more correctly as I recall, bomb and anti aircraft training simulators for Lancaster or Wellington bombers. 

I know not which aircraft and I suppose it could have been neither of them but that’s not really the point, they were large scale electro mechanical projects which demanded regular calibration..

It was Charles that explained to me that a ‘bug’ in the system, well at least back in the day, was in fact exactly what it was.

An earwig, moth or similar insect, which had crawled into an open relay or a rotary timer had either shorted out two points or stopped a current or signal from being transmitted from one point to another so you had to find the ‘bug’.

Charles one day, completely out of the blue, suggested that we should be looking at using stepper motors to send the reels to a random position then recognise that position by reading a code from the edge of the reel, a grey scale or grey code I believe it was called.

He also mentioned to me in a conversation over coffee, that this was a proven technology and normal practice on military tank turrets and rotating gun emplacements but I have no way of proving this was the case.

By this time I had moved to After Sales Service and was busy in the field and on the phone but as I was a product of the development department I was always welcomed in to help and give field input or just take a coffee and a Marlboro.

He also mentioned to me over coffee and a game of Backgammon, he always won, that this was a proven technology and was normal practice on military tank turrets and rotating gun emplacements but I have no way of proving this.

Of course the big problem was the gigantic leap to reverse typical current thought processes.

Consider the following..

Randomness in an electro mechanical gaming machine had hitherto always been brought about by the various lengths of time that the reels span and then stopped. 

This in turn was governed by the control motor run time, but this was also interrupted by a, at least on JPM machines, a ‘random’ timer thus allowing the reels to spin for a random period each game

That tried and tested method was about to be turned on its head by sending a reel to a position ‘that was already determined’ by the on board computer.

Although the grey scale method was tried and proved to be effective it became obvious that the drive system itself was proving to be pretty reliable.

Indeed the precise fixing of the grey scale could prove itself to be problematic given production conditions and personnel, so it never got past the initial prototype and research stages but it was exercised as an idea.

Reality was that the drive was so effective, the software only had to check the reels once in a revolution to confirm that it was where it should have been to be reassured that all was ok, or stop and alarm if it was not!

Despite all this the first actual ‘game’ implementation proved to be problematic, but I’ll come to that later 

A great deal of thought and effort went into the process and all the while the realisation that JPM would have to gain the Gaming Board of Great Britain’s approval for such a system.

And so the Project began it’s long and tortuous journey.

The initial conversations were conducted and the agreement was to go ahead in principal and develop a prototype to conduct a presentation.

In reality JPM had already begun scratching the surface of the design and development and had enlisted the help of Texas Instruments.

Charles and the dev team had put together the prototype and enlisted the help of a company called Starpoint to build the plastic assembly that would hold the stepper reel in place and allow the free movement of the reel. 

Starpoint were already in the Industry and had supplied various high quality, precision made plastic parts so they were a natural choice and apart from that, the Directors knew each other and already played golf.

Although initially it was a single stand alone unit fixed to a base, it was soon developed as a modular unit that could be clipped together in banks of three or four.

In order to prove to the Gaming Board of GB that the system was infallible JPM had to run the system for, as I recall, 250,000 games.

As each game ended, and with the use of a super 8 cine camera set on single shot, the result of each single game was recorded.

However this would be of no use at all if we did not know what the computer had decided which position the reel ‘should’ have been sent to. 

So as a confirmation we had a 7 segment LED panel mounted by the side of the reel and this recorded the game number as 12,350 12351 12353 etc which was duly recorded on the single shot.

Combined with that a dot matrix printer recorded on fanfold paper, and in a very fine font, the result of the games i.e GAME 12350 Org#1, Lem#3, Bel#1 etc for every one of the 250,000 games. 

That (#) number against the fruit symbol was as a result of their being more than one of that particular symbol on the reel, and it was necessary to prove that the system had selected the correct one.

After being asked to be part of this process, seconded as it were from After Sales, I was asked to check at least 1,000 lines of these results at random from each page of paper. 

Oh the Joy!

This included rolling the cine film to the numbered position to check the result at which point I placed a small tick against the checked result on paper.

There were no mistakes.

The gaming board were once again invited to the factory where they were asked to look over the result and if they wished they could check for themselves that all was in order.

They did actually check the results for themselves and I sat with them for that whole day going over the prints and the video shots and instructing the machine to go to a chosen win line which we did several hundred times.

Starpoint did a brilliant design job of the Reel Unit and the product was released with the first machine being the “Each Way Nudge”.

Previously, electro mechanical machines had used the principle of Nudge or shifting a reel one position forward.

Due to the mechanical complexities it was fraught with problems and proved practically impossible when trying to move a reel backwards.

This brought it’s own difficulty with the first game as I mentioned earlier, you see during the ‘dev test’ of the game software, the machine kept getting out of step and we could not figure out why as it had never happened in any of the extensive tests before the ‘game’ software was introduced.

It was only when we realised that the break of the optic beam by the registration tab on the reel was made by the tab going forward OR backwards and that the tab was ‘x’mm long, that we understood the problem.

As the machine was the Each way nudge, occasionally the tab would break the opto beam as intended, but in the reverse direction.

Realisation was that the software had to look for the leading edge of the beam being broken on forward rotation and the trailing edge on reverse, the problem was solved.

There were problems introduced when differing suppliers of reel bands supplied alternate thickness of reel bands, adding to the inertia of the reel and overcoming the ramp timing which could cause problems, but tighter specifications overcame that as well.

Due to the stepper motor implementation any reel could move in any direction which opened up a whole new world of game possibilities and of course any one of a number of fruit symbols on a reel could be used when the ‘game engine’ decided on a result.

Normally there were 20 symbols so if 4 of these were lemons the chance of a lemon coming up for any on reel (given decent randomness) was 4 in 20, (1 in 5) or 20%.

Thanks to the design it was irrelevant how many symbols were on the reel as the game was run and the reel was told exactly where to go, or to be more exact, which symbol to go to, so there could now be 20 completely different symbols on the reel as the percentage no longer relied on the actual number of the symbol on the reel.

Of course for cosmetic reasons and because of the nudge, there had to be more than 1 of each symbol but the ‘reel’ in the software could be 100 symbols long.

This new method became known as the “virtual reel and as it was buried in the software department I know very little more than that.

As I still worked enthusiastically and closely with the Dev team, my exposure to and knowledge of the product was growing in contrast to my colleagues in After Sales.

This placed me in a good position for the next step up the JPM ladder.

As an aside, the ‘nudge’ feature was actually patented by the Dransfield Novelty company, a facility that I visited and was welcomed to quite often.

This no doubt provided the company with significant income as every machine with the nudge facility had to pay them.

This is quoted from the Dransfield web site…

"The nudge feature, which is still an integral part of most modern gaming machines was developed and patented by Dransfields many years ago and demonstrates its long established pedigree within the industry." 

  • Like 15
  • Thanks 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Frank, Following your great read with interest with working just about right through that era myself.

Can I ask you a question on the electro mechanicals and especially on JPM club machines.?

Considering the already randomness of the electro game. What are your thoughts on the Jackpot control.?

If the jp control timer switches were switched in the correct position they would keep the number two reel solenoid activated through the wipers and studs just enough make the jackpot symbol 'skip' past the win line.?

As number two reel is crucial to a three way win left to right, right to left and indeed all four reels, this control did seem very dubious.

I found this when trained at Bell Fruit where the same setup was used on all their club machines too.

Although the variator was already in place to stop the reels from sequencing, I was never in favour of the jackpot control units as an added % control. Always seemed like cheating the player.

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Brilliant read as per usual frank and looking forward to more .what an exciting  time it must have been at jpm and other fruit machine companies .the  first production mpu used was SRU but you didnt mention this by name so wondered if this eachway nudge machine used this sru board or jist a prototype which hadn't been named ?

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, first of all, I can't tell you what a relief it is to hear, unprompted, that you find it interesting.

It was an incredibly interesting time to be in the industry and with such a  great company and bunch of people, many of  whom still meet now.

Stegarv66, consider that we were 300 people and often the 'game' itself was down to 10 or 15 people, so although we would have seen it, in answer to your question no. Also we tried to get a new game out of the door every 8 weeks so for us it was always looking to the new machine!

sulzerned, you are dead right and forgive my oversight, the SRU (stepper reel unit) controller was the controller in the EWN and you have just (by coincidence) introduced the next chapter or are you hacking my machine..... ha ha.

BF74, I never did like that very crude % control. Apart from anything else, unless it was dead right you could hear the double flick of the solenoid arm as well. It was also an unfortunately simple method to keep the PO% down.

Bit like cutting a stop off the old reel stop disk to make sure it never landed on a particular symbol.

 

BTW I still have SWP's, Astra, Coinmaster and Gamesoft to go yet! ( but I'm not sure if they should go in here? )     

Again, thanks people.

    

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

48 minutes ago, Frank Bird said:

Well, first of all, I can't tell you what a relief it is to hear, unprompted, that you find it interesting.

It was an incredibly interesting time to be in the industry and with such a  great company and bunch of people, many of  whom still meet now.

Stegarv66, consider that we were 300 people and often the 'game' itself was down to 10 or 15 people, so although we would have seen it, in answer to your question no. Also we tried to get a new game out of the door every 8 weeks so for us it was always looking to the new machine!

sulzerned, you are dead right and forgive my oversight, the SRU (stepper reel unit) controller was the controller in the EWN and you have just (by coincidence) introduced the next chapter or are you hacking my machine..... ha ha.

BF74, I never did like that very crude % control. Apart from anything else, unless it was dead right you could hear the double flick of the solenoid arm as well. It was also an unfortunately simple method to keep the PO% down.

Bit like cutting a stop off the old reel stop disk to make sure it never landed on a particular symbol.

 

BTW I still have SWP's, Astra, Coinmaster and Gamesoft to go yet! ( but I'm not sure if they should go in here? )     

Again, thanks people.

    

Definitely interesting Frank, look forward to reading this. Thank you.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Frank Bird said:

BTW I still have SWP's, Astra, Coinmaster and Gamesoft to go yet! ( but I'm not sure if they should go in here? )     

Again, thanks people.

    

No, thank you for going to the effort of doing this!

I'd be interested to hear about these companies, particularly Coinmaster, as I must be one of the few people who still owns any Coinmaster boards.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting stuff Frank, thanks for going to the trouble of typing it all out.

Playing machines is not my thing and I get totally lost when folks quote all the names of the games and nod to each other.:lol: My interest is in the technology and it's so great to hear it from the horses mouth, if you'll excuse the saying.

Bob

  • Like 2
  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

59 minutes ago, midibob said:

Interesting stuff Frank, thanks for going to the trouble of typing it all out.

Playing machines is not my thing and I get totally lost when folks quote all the names of the games and nod to each other.:lol: My interest is in the technology and it's so great to hear it from the horses mouth, if you'll excuse the saying.

Bob

Frankel 😌

Link to comment
Share on other sites

14 hours ago, midibob said:

Interesting stuff Frank, thanks for going to the trouble of typing it all out.

Playing machines is not my thing and I get totally lost when folks quote all the names of the games and nod to each other.:lol: My interest is in the technology and it's so great to hear it from the horses mouth, if you'll excuse the saying.

Bob

Or the Bird's beak.... in fact a real tweet!!  (Sorry.     Leaves the room!)

Edited by Frank Bird
  • Haha 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Frank Bird said:

Or the Bird's beak.... in fact a real tweet!!  (Sorry.     Leaves the room!)

What machine did Jpm produce the most of? 
nudge double up deluxe I’m going for.

Edited by niftynudger
Grammar
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...