NVRAM – The Board Saviour?
As discussed in many places and many times over, looking after the batteries on your boards is so important. Many people have a traditional day when they methodically change out the batteries on their games to ensure that there isn’t the slightest chance of battery leakage.
Batteries leaking on a game can cause damage to the boards, manifesting in some weird and wonderful issues, or ultimately the game completely failing. The other issue being that you may well lose your high scores if you don’t swap-out with the game still on, or if you get a duff set of batteries and they lose charge between your swap-out routine. It may not be very common, but both of these are a risk I am personally not willing to take on older games. Modern Stern games (S.A.M onwards) that I have owned, I have replaced easily the watch style battery and these are much less likely to leak, unless water damaged, they also last a very long time in games.
It is important to note that through the installation process however, you will lose your high scores.
NVRAM installation falls into two categories, those that can be installed with no soldering and those that require soldering. On a board that requires no soldering, there is already socket on the board that allows the chip to simply be pulled with an IC extraction tool and replaced with the NVRAM chip. On a board that requires soldering, the old chip is waver soldered into the board – so will need careful removing of the old chip and then soldering in the new chip onto the board. Further to this, some board modifications may be required also.
Boards that Require No Soldering:
- BALLY 6803
- SEGA/STERN WHITESTAR (Where certain factory RAM dictates)
- DATA EAST (except Laser War)
- CLASSIC BALLY
- CLASSIC STERN
- ZACCARIA GENERATION 1
- ZACCARIA GENERATION 2
Games that Require Soldering and potential board work:
- WILLIAMS SYSTEM 3-9
- WILLIAMS SYSTEM 11
- WILLIAMS WPC
- GOTTLIEB SYSTEM 80
- GOTTLIEB SYSTEM 3
There are other options available that can be made at home, or bought – I have seen capacitors used on certain Williams system games, which essentially charge the capacitor and leak the charge over time, or a battery pack that can be situated off of the board, or even a “daughter board” that sits off of the main board in case leakage happens. Whilst all semi-viable solutions, I personally prefer the NVRAM route. With capacitors, over time they can fail as on boards, so this puts doubt in the mind once again. With a remote or daughter board battery pack, it still needs changing at some point. NVRAM takes a little more effort to install, but takes away the need to worry in the future.
Personally, I think that the NVRAM module should be installed on all games that it can. If you are competent and have the required tools (I would suggest an IC extraction tool, a desoldering station, a soldering iron, and a multimeter) I would install a NVRAM on any of the games above, and flip without worry. A nice, simple mod with bags of added value for little cost. 5 out of 5. You can see an install of NVRAM in a Williams WPC MPU here.