The first question we should answer is clearly, “Why are we doing this?”

It all started when Mike got a pinball machine through Kijiji. He picked up what turned out to be a 1985 Wico AF-TOR that was billed as “somewhat working”. That, as it turns out, is a fancy way of saying “broken”. After spending a good 8 hours trying to fix one issue only to come up empty-handed, he decided it wasn’t worth it to continue with the existing electronics – that new ones would have to be constructed.

That’s when he roped in Alan and I (Randy) to work on the project.

We decided it would be fun to build our own control electronics from scratch, and that it might be cool to use CAN. We’d seen some projects that focused on making one monolithic PCB to control the entire machine – standard practice in the pinball industry, it seems – and decided that one huge one-off circuit board was something that we wanted to avoid. So we came up with a modular system so we could use multiple copies of the same board, and save some money on manufacturing costs. Also, given the lack of existing open source projects to do this, we thought that open-sourcing it would be a good idea.

Discussions started at Maker Faire Detroit 2012, likely while drinking. Meetings (for the pinball machine) started in February 2013. Actual work started later than that. From that, we got to where we are now.