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.

Interior of front aluminum box showing main circuit board with seven chips, ten transistors and wires attached to terminals on the edges
Behold the power of TTL discrete logic.

On the front, with the lid on, only the 3-digit score display, the amber status light, and one opto sensor for hits were visible.

Behind the logic board were two sound modules that appear to have been removed from other devices. The smaller one generates the gun "shot" sound while the other makes the noise when you are hit. The Star Laser Force gun was adapted from a noise-making toy, and I assume either one or the other sound board came from that product - who knows, maybe even both.

A peek under the main circuit board showing two smaller boards wrapped in yellowing adhesive tape
The hidden recipients of signal GUN and signal BOOM from the logic board.

The "duck box," as previously explained, resets the pack to the initial score of "000". This step was, at least in my memory, performed in the Transporter room during the "journey" to the playing field. If your pack's sensors were hit by a flash beam from another player, your pack would play the "hit" sound and count up 10 points against you, after which you could be hit again. Judging from the video that was posted, this took about 4 seconds; all the pack's lights flashed during this time to indicate that the player was hit. I haven't determined whether the gun was disabled during this time.

The pack also received a "shot" signal from the gun and triggered the "shot" sound effect. I don't have a gun so I'm not sure what sort of hacking was done to make this work.

Main circuit board on a desk showing score of "000" and surrounded by tools
Bench test.

The main board still seems to work perfectly. For display purposes I went ahead and unhooked the main filter cap (date coded 1973?!) and substituted a modern one.

I will post a technical discussion of the logic when time permits.

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