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.

First step was to remove the lining and foam. I found the wiring to be held in place with duct tape, or (most often) no longer held in place, and the tape dull or balled up.

Interior view of battered red helmet showing hideous mess of wires and tape
You volunteered.  Suck it up and get scrubbing, soldier.

Some of the duct tape still holds wire runs down or even sticks bare soldered splices in place so they don't short. Unfortunately whoever built this (or repaired it) didn't use simple heat shrink tubing to slip over the soldered connections. Most splices are insulated with electrical tape, which is holding up pretty well considering its age, but it will all need attention.

Okay, I can see the team color LEDs everywhere, but where are those hit sensors?

Closeup of tiny lamp and LED
T 1¾ size. Ish.

Hmm... there's a peanut lamp on each side of the face. Try as I might, I can't remember these being used in the game... but don't hold me to it.

Extreme closeup of tiny, corroded lamp with leads soldered to base
A real light bulb, with a filament and everything. How about that pile of particulate crud that showered out of the interior when I flipped the helmet over? It's like my dad's ashtray. Actually the light bulb is kind of my dad's era, too, now...

There's a pretty substantial pocket carved out of the Styrofoam in the helmet, a couple of unused holes in the top of the helmet, and four neatly severed wires, so I'm going to assume for now that the helmet sensors are gone... or were they any sensors to begin with? Perhaps a sensor board, or even a speaker? There's not much to go on here. I hope there will be another unit to compare with someday.

There's a 6" harness out the back of the helmet that's in good shape until you get to the interior, where the connections are iffy and the multiconductor cable itself can't be inspected without hacking it up, but it looks like something I wouldn't trust, like a cable that has been abused. I may end up bypassing it and going straight to the pack connector for the restoration.  Besides, I'm looking forward to finding out why the vest plug has 6 connector pins, while the helmet harness has only 4 pins (shield/ground, LED power, and two unknowns).

In the mean time, I've given the helmet a light polish, preserving the battle scars while removing a layer of grunge. The road to polite society has at last been found.

1 comment:

  1. This is wonderful to see Charles. Having been both an avid fan, and for a short time the last owner of Star Laser Force it was rather refreshing to see the old gear again.

    The four holes you mentioned in the helmet were the sensors which were Infrared LEDs. The xenon flash in the gun barrels put out plenty of infrared. The extender tube on the barrel of the guns both narrowed the flash beam to be more like laser guns and provided a bit of break-away which reduced some of the damage to the plastic guns. Without the extender there was short range blasting that would trigger most sensors, but you could not hit a target across the starbridge.