Monday, July 31, 2017

Home stretch

Reconstruction of the display pack is almost done. There seems to be a flaky connection somewhere causing the score to go up; this was a VERY common symptom back in the day. If I can find it I'm going to fix it. The helmet needs to be lined, and another polish would be good too. There's some crud to be scrubbed off the boxes and dirt on the plastic shell, and more work to be done on the fabric trim.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Considering the helmet

Time to catch up on posts. First, some reflection on the helmet I'm refurbishing.

The holes in the helmet being reconstructed do not match the one that was on display at the Laser Tag Museum, nor do they line up with my recollection. On the helmet for refurbishment there are two cheek holes; the next LEDs (one on each side) are only a few inches back; and there are no holes on the sides, front, or back for hit detectors.

Side has two LEDs and a light bulb, but no hit sensors.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Star Laser Force's Light Gun

Why are there no photos of people playing Star Laser Force?  You're about to find out.

The only available weapon for the Star Laser Force suit (pack) was the attached light pistol, which was holstered at the left side of the logic box. Unfortunately I don't have one of these for the pack that I'm restoring. However, I was able to visit the Laser Tag Museum and examine both of the available extant pistols for future reference.

Side view of light gun
Pistol on display at the Laser Tag Museum, November 2015

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Project update

More posts coming on the Star Laser Force equipment soon; in the mean time, have a look at Tiviachick's tour video of the actual Laser Tag Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, featuring none other than the curator, Erik Guthrie. There is a different story behind each piece of equipment, and you'll get to hear a small sampling of them in this video. The exhibits are free to visit, by the way, and you can play laser tag while you're there!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Color brochure

The museum site posted a full-color scan of the Star Laser Force sales brochure from 1985, including a full-color copy of the promotional photo that I posted back when this blog first began. Now I can update my sidebar with a decent copy of this iconic image.

Inside a bi-fold black brochure with white text, color photo, and a map

This confirms the original pricing of $3 for a 7 minute game. (The play price was reduced in 1986, after the arrival of Photon in December 1985 ate into sales. According to the Gina Seay article, "member" pricing had fallen to $1.25 per game by summer of 1986.
Text of the brochure follows:

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Front box and logic

On to the logic board inside the front box of the Star Laser Force pack, or suit. I was personally eager to see this system again after so many years, and while it looks exactly as I remembered it, it's actually much more plain in both design and function; memory utterly failed me in several details.

With no computer, no radio, and no networking or communication, Star Laser Force's simple, low-power logic board operated independently, offering up only the player's own score with no way of knowing which of your opponents (or teammates) attacked, or whether you were the careless victim of the Reactor at the center of the arena.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tackling the battery box

The back box of the Star Laser Force pack is pretty much all batteries, which is not uncommon in the industry to this day, although technology has vastly improved since then! Each of the three separate power supplies used conventional NiCd cells.

View of the aluminum box on the rear of the suit, packed with rechargable batteries of various sizes
All hand built, too.
The single remaining AA cell was removed due to corrosion.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Workspace shift

Took two weeks off to set up, play, and tear down laser tag, and one more for a pinball project. Since then I've decided to move the restoration project to another room with better lighting and more space. I'm tackling the battery box next.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Deconstructing the helmet

As hinted in the last post, I have the exceptionally rare opportunity to inspect and clean up one of the Star Laser Force packs for the Laser Tag Museum.  Part of this will involve making sure it's in functioning condition, or at least that it might light up while on display as it once did when it was being used.

A quick inspection shows the helmet to be worse off than the vest, so I'll tackle it first. Besides, it is not ready for polite society. The padding is rotted, the leather is moldy, and the wiring is trashed. There's no ID number, so I can't pull the service logs, but going by appearance it seems to have seen a lot of battles.

Front view of battered red helmet
I was a teenaged Xenon Red Raider.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Megatron 100

It's almost time to blow the lid off this system.

Extreme close up of circuit board with text "Megatron 100  Rev. C copyright 1984 by Lee Weinstein" appearing in solder-coated copper

Hardware geekery to come.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Poster Giveaway!

The Laser Tag Museum seeks to preserve and commemorate the historic foundations of the game (or sport), documenting the efforts of the laser tag pioneers and collecting the original equipment used in those games.

Starting last year, the 30th anniversary of Photon, the Museum issued the first International Laser Tag Day poster depicting the battle gear actually used in arena Photon games.

The new 2015 posters
The 2015 International Laser Tag Day poster honors the 30th anniversary of Star Laser Force with a photo of the newly recovered battle suit of the Starship Blue Force.  Thanks to the Museum I have a limited number of these 18x24" posters to give away to readers.  Here are the rules:

  • First come, first served. Email me at the address on the sidebar to request a poster.
  • If you are in or near the City of Houston, I can probably meet with you and give it to you directly.
  • If not, I may ask you to pay for postage.
It's as simple as that. If this message is still here, posters are still available.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

3rd in order, Hall of Famer

After years of research, the Laser Tag Museum has declared Star Laser Force to be the third indoor laser tag system opened to the public worldwide (after Photon in Dallas and Laser Zone in Chicago). If you were ever at Star Laser Force, that makes you an industry pioneer!

30th anniversary honors.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Battle Suits received at the Laser Tag Museum

I'm delighted to report that the Laser Tag Museum has secured three sets of the original Star Laser Force battle gear, or packs, for collection and display. Congratulations!

Battered white battle suit with blue accents prior to cleaning

Edit: New link

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Star Laser Force video

Many thanks to the Laser Tag Museum for permission to mirror this John Davenport report from the early days of Star Laser Force.

Here's a quick overview with commentary:

00:02 - The right-hand building included the offices, waiting area, ticket window, and later the party area; the left-hand building had the playing field.

00:06 - These were the early days. The front entrance opened directly into a small waiting area with a front counter -- a sensible floor plan for, say, a manufacturing company, but for a service business drawing crowds this rapidly became untenable. Parking in the rear became mandatory and you entered the back door of the building, passed through  a tunnel and into a larger waiting area (which included the new ticket window, vending/games, and space for parties).  The former waiting area became what we would now call the briefing room.

00:09 - That was the whole waiting area in the early days. The cameraman is standing in the corner next to the ticket window.  Benches were added later. I had forgotten they once had no place to sit! I sat on that floor, but only on my first visit.

00:11 - Does anyone know her?

00:15 - Ugh!  Those nasty plastic hairnets kept the heat from leaving your head and kept your hair saturated with sweat. Kids, this is why most battle places don't have helmets:  It's just too stinkin' realistic.

00:17 - This sequence would have taken place in the vesting room.
The attendant is holding the gun connector in his right hand and plugging it into the bottom of the bottom of the front box, then handing the gun to the player. This helped people to not get tangled in the gun cable when putting the armor on. Today manufacturers use coiled gun cables.

00:18 - Look how clean the armor was...

00:19 - If you look carefully you can see the gun holster on left side of the front box on the armor.

00:22 - The tech room.

00:28 - That is the gun sound of Star Laser Force.
The long breakaway barrels got knocked off the gun a lot. Eventually they were left off, or shortened. I would imagine it would be dangerous to step on a loose barrel, dangerous to be poked in the eye by one... seems like just an all-around bad idea, except the gun looks like it belongs to Han Solo!

00:30 - Here you can see inside the front box; the display board is visible without the aluminum cover.
Watch and see it start to count up 10 points, the penalty for being hit. Eyeballing the counting speed, it looks like you got only barely 4 seconds to hide before you could be hit again.

00:33 - Soon, all the walls were scratched up like that.  Looks like the snap-on helmet visors were never actually used in the game. I had wondered if they had once been used, but apparently not.

00:35 - Bill Lewis himself in one of the Transporter rooms. The wall treatment, the hatchway (shown) and the transporter sound FX (not used in the video) made the start of the game memorable and immersive.

00:44 - In small games, both teams could fit in the same Transporter and only 1 attendant was needed.

Seems like these helmets do not fit these kids very well... either that or their heads are still sweaty from the last game and they're trying to cool off.

00:47 - The cluster of barrels - there were only a few. What is that glowing thing?

00:52 - Leaving the bridge and turning to go down the ridiculously steep ramp.

01:04 - The final scene takes place on the Bridge, with the Saturn mural/viewscreen in the background.

Although short, this report was a real treat to see.  Thanks to whoever donated it to the museum!

Edit: new link

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Fun summer action

I said that I'd found no mention of Star Laser Force in my newspaper-research sojourn this year, but that wasn't strictly true; there was one article that I couldn't find in the archive, and this one, which I already had.  For the sake of completeness, here are the hours and prices, part of a longer list of things to do during the summer of 1986.

Houston Chronicle
July 6, 1986
Fun summer action for those on a budget
Gina Seay

Most parents struggling to make ends meet will have to tell Johnny and Suzy to put their dream vacations on hold. But that doesn't mean the summer has to be long and boring.

There are lots of indoor and outdoor activities in the greater Houston area that fit within a teen-ager's budget....

Getting to the point...

Star Laser Force, 5810 S. Rice Ave., allows visitors to live out their "Star Trek" fantasies in laser gun duels. Everyone gets a light-sensitive helmet and shoulder pads. Purchase a lifetime membership for $3.50. Games for members are $1.25; for non-members, $4. Hours are 2-11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 2 p.m-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday and noon-11 p.m. Sunday.

In case you're wondering, the other attractions were Fame City, AstroWorld, Water World, Sea-Arama Marineworld, Galveston Island, Armand Bayou Nature Center, The Houston Zoo, The Oil Ranch, Games People Play, The Children's Museum, and Splash Town USA ("scheduled to open in early August").