As CRT Supplies Diminish the Classic Arcade Machine is Virtually Dead

Our colleagues at Venturebeat are predicting gloom & doom for the arcade machine of yester-year in their latest report.


The current stock of new 29-inch CRT monitors is dwindling. Online arcade cabinet and parts supplier Dream Arcades has fewer than 30 of those large displays sitting on its shelves. When it sells out of the current inventory, it will never get another shipment in that size again.

“We’ve secured enough [of the other sizes] to get us all the way through next year,” says Michael Ware, founder of Dream Arcades. “After that, that’s it.”

By the way, this also opened up a can of worms in the comments section of  a related Gizmodo article as to defining “originally intended” and how much available technology at the time of development affected the very DNA of the games’ design.

Adds Twin Galaxies founder Walter Day,

“The old arcade games are like aging people, They have old livers and aging kidneys. There will come a day when very few arcade cabinets have original components. Time will wear them out.”

Photo courtesy Ian E. Abbott

As an analogy, guitar amplifier manufacturers traditionally used hand-wired point-to-point circuitry based on analog vacuum tubes that predate sold-state technology. Once that hands-on style of manufacturing became both obselete and cost-prohibitive to continue, boutique manufacturers filled the market niche – but at a cost. Boutique amps cost many times the price of their mass-produced IC counterparts.  Walter Day suggets we are approaching the same scenario with cathode ray tube game machines:

“At that time, [exactly restoring the original units] may become a high-end designer kind of gift that is only pursued by the wealthy,” says Day. “In the very far future, the value of an authentic 1980s arcade game may become so high, that the monetary value will be significant, and all the private sellers might sell their holdings to [museums], which are better equipped to preserve them properly.”

So what makes a CRT monitor so cost-prohibitive to manufacture?

Winding together a CRT tube with its electron gun (the two major components in a CRT) requires a delicate touch. It’s a two-part, by-hand procedure that begins with the laborer painting the inside of the tube as it spins on a centrifuge. The worker must use a dipstick-like brush to coat the depths of the monitor with a conductive substance. Then he must merge the glass of the bulb and the electron gun under a flame that burns at 400 degrees celsius. Any debris or dust that gets into the unit at that point will shorten the display’s life expectancy.

A gloomy future indeed for arcade machines. But not necessarily arcades. Already many arcades are adapting to LCD flatscreens and emulator cabinets to round out their collections of classic games.  Perhaps the future isn’t the past…but in developing new video games on current technology – as in the case of Black Emperor, Killer Queen and The Walking Dead.


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