I don’t remember exactly how I started working for Vince and Ravi, but it was sometime after the start of grade 8.
I was in grade 8 for the ’85 to ’86 school year.
I would have been 14.
Vincent was involved with swimming at the University of Toronto. I forget exactly what Ravi did. But for the two of them video games were a sideline from their main jobs.
I’m pretty sure that I was working for Vince and Ravi before I even met Bob Becker from Trans American Video Amusements.
I would go and do service calls after school. At first I would call Vince after school and he’d pick me up and take me to the locations that needed service. After a while though Vince got me a pager and a set of master keys for the video games.
During school I’d keep the pager in my locker. Kept it on silent so as not to attract attention. But this was back in the day when the paging service didn’t record the messages, they’d just send numeric messages to the pager. And if the pager wasn’t on you didn’t get the message.
The keys were far too much of a risk to take to school. So I used to keep the keys at home in my basement bedroom. Because of my untreated severe depression and anxiety and habit of keeping to myself I was often a target for beatings at school. And the last thing I needed was to get beat up and have the keys taken away from me.
Vince and Ravi didn’t have many locations. A couple of convenience stores on Yonge north of Sheppard. They had a few locations around Dundas and Bloor near the Junction Triangle. And a few more locations out on the Danforth. They also had games in the “Studio” arcades that were owned by a guy named Andrew. I can’t remember them all, but there was Studio ’84, and Studio ’85.
I had always hoped on getting a Platt toolkit like the real technicians, but I had to make due with a kit that I made up with a kit made from Active Surplus in Toronto.
Carried around with me a soldering iron, a desoldering pump, desoldering wick, a digital voltmeter, a logic probe, some nut drivers, and a couple of screwdrivers.
I learnt then that it was better to carry around the tools that you frequently used as opposed to carrying everything.
I’d also carry a couple of coin mechanisms, some microswitches, some blade switches.
It was fun.
As I said it before was nice feeling like I belonged and that I was needed for something.
I think that’s why I always had jobs when I was a kid.
Looking back, there actually wasn’t a single year since about 1982 that I wasn’t working somewhere.
I quickly got the nickname “the kid”.
Troubleshooting logic problems wasn’t a problem, actually tracking down logic problems was pretty simple back then. Fixing power supplies, video monitors, etc. all turned out to be within my abilities.
I remember the time Vincent insisted that I bring a machine home that I was having trouble fixing. Around 22:00 hours we pull up to the back of the PMQ on CFB Downsview in a white rental van with a Williams Space Shuttle pinball machine in the back.
Richard woke up and he wasn’t too impressed.
I got the machine set up in the basement of the PMQ and worked on it for the next couple of days. Turned out to be a broken wire under the playfield.
I’ve never known to this day why, but I had the playfield up on the prop rod while I was working under the playfield. I don’t know if it was an accident, or if it was intentional, but my brother knocked the prop rod out of place and dropped the playfield on my head and back.
The playfield isn’t light. With all of the solenoids and other hardware on it I’d say the playfield probably weighs about 50 lbs. The power for the general illumination isn’t all that great. 6.3 VAC for the general illumination. The DC power supply for solenoids on the other hand are about +28 VDC. The 28 VDC is distributed to all of the solenoids on the playfield and then the returns from the solenoids goes back to the TIP120 darlington on the logic board.
So that meant that not only was the playfield digging into my head and back with all of the solenoids underneath the playfield, I was also getting minor shocks from the machine as the terminals for the solenoids were cutting into my skin.
Never did get an explanation from my brother.
My father laughed. Said I deserved what I got for not watching my back.
One day I got a series of pages from Vince. So I called him right after school
Vince was furious. Seems the owner of the little hamburger shop on Ridge and Wilson had called Vince stating that a bunch of kids had been opening the machine and taking money out of them and had been playing free games for hours. The owner of the hamburger shop had grabbed one of the kids and grabbed the keys from him. The owner of the hamburger shop threatened to call the police if the kid didn’t explain how he got the keys. The kid, C.C. said that my brother had sold him the keys for $20.
I thought that Vince was going to fire me. Nope. He saw no reason for this other kid to have lied. But he wasn’t too happy that my brother was able to get my keys so easily. Vince said that I’d have to be more careful with my keys. Vince suggested that I should put a lock on my bedroom door. I told Vince that my room didn’t have a door.
That’s when I started to learn how to hide my personal belongings. I’d keep the keys hidden in the exhaust ducting for the dryer or even under the control panel for the washing machine. When I started doing collections at the locations I’d have to keep the money hidden. The money I’d keep hidden in a soup can that I’d hide inside the floor drain in the basement.
The only problem this hiding caused is that I’d have to be very careful that no one discovered what I was doing.
I stopped working for Vince and Ravi when I went to work for Bob Becker.
Moonlighting wasn’t tolerated too well in the amusement machine industry back in the ’80s. It was a very cut throat business with a lot of unsavoury business practices.
So, not too many company owners were willing to allow their technician to work for other companies.
I don’t know what ended up happening with Vince and Ravi.
I doubt that they’re in the amusement machine business anymore. The amusement machine industry was decimated in the ’90s with the advent of home machines that far outperformed the most expensive arcade machine.
But still, I often look back at how carrying around my toolkit and fixing arcade machine at various locations across metro Toronto made me feel like anything was possible.
I guess we’re all allowed to be fucking idiots when we’re young, right?