Early SS Bally/Stern Kit Builder Worksheet

This document refers to all Bally & Stern Solid State games made before mid-1985. Check this complete list. If your game is listed on that page as being compatible with the Bally/Stern LED Adapter Boards, then you’re in the right place. If your game is not listed, then you don’t need the adapter board, and can follow our instructions for lighting Modern games.

Converting a pinball machine from incandescent bulbs to LEDs can seem daunting. There are more lights than you think in those old machines! Below, we’re going to walk you through how to do it, step by step. Consider this Kit Building 101. We’ll keep it as simple as possible.

Don’t worry about taking notes, we’ve got a worksheet that you can print out.

One caveat of this era of Bally/Stern games is that you’ll need a special board to prevent LEDs from strobing. (This will be discussed at the end). The upside is that with this board ($45-$90, depending on the game), you can use standard LEDs everywhere, and don’t need to learn about non-ghosting bulbs.

Early Solid State pinball machines generally use bayonet bulbs (#44/47) exclusively for General Illumination around the playfield, as well as the backbox. The bulb has a metal base and it twists in and out with a push, locking securely in place. Many games of this era, particularly the early ones, also use bayonet bulbs for the Inserts under the playfield.
There are some games in this era that use wedge bulbs (#555) for inserts under the playfield. These bulbs are the same in every way except that they have a tapered, wedge shaped base, instead of a metal round one.
It’s important to know how many of each type you need. We’ll help you count that.

Inserts are the colored transparent or translucent plastic windows set into the playfield. They come in a variety of colors, and each have a bulb underneath that shines up through them. These are turned on and off to display the status of the game while you play: what to shoot for, how much bonus you have, and more.

Inserts, indicating the current bonus is 1000.

The worksheet has lines for six different colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, white. This should cover just about every game, but if you run into a different color, add a new line to the sheet. Count up how many of each there and write it down. Be sure to note if the bulbs are wedge or bayonet.

Playfield GI
We discussed inserts, now let’s talk about “general illumination”, or GI. These are lights that are always on. They usually reside around the edges of the playfield, under the slingshots, and between rollover lanes. You may even find a few near the middle of the playfield, depending on the layout of the game. These stick up through holes in the playfield, and are then covered with plastics containing the game artwork. The bulbs illuminate the plastic and cast light onto the playfield.

Count up the number of GI bulbs in your machine. Many games have them between the rollover lanes at the top of the playfield - don’t forget these!

This is easy. Just count how many sockets there are and fill it out on the worksheet.

Pop Bumpers
Don’t forget to include pop bumpers in your count. We like to match the color of the pop bumpers, keeping in mind that Natural White usually doesn’t look good under translucent white pop bumper caps. Stick with Warm White in that case.

Coin Slots
Another overlooked spot. You’ll probably have 1, 2, or 3 coin slots that would love to have their hot incandescents replaced with something a little more cool and modern. We like to keep these looking classic and use warm white.

Now, which bulbs do you get?

This is a matter of personal taste, and great debate, but we’ll tell you what we do.

For the bulbs in the Playfield GI & Backbox, we like warm white frosted 1SMD bulbs. Count up how many you’ll need in total.

1SMD bulbs are roughly 1.7x the brightness of incandescent bulbs. This is a great choice for light, but also for longevity.

We use frosted because it’s easier on the eyes, and spreads the light better so you don’t get any spotting on the plastics and backglass. Warm White is our favorite because it is closest to the warmth of the original incandescent bulbs. But, other whites can be a great choice depending on the colors of the artwork in your game. If you want a more blueish, stark white (for games with cold artwork), then choose Cool White. For artwork in between warm & cold, Sunlight is excellent.

If you are feeling adventurous, add a few colors to your Playfield GI or Backbox...but keep in mind that the game was designed with white lighting. In most cases, colored bulbs will wash out the original artwork.

Inserts, the slightly tricky part. Inserts in this era of games will flicker unless you take action. Your options are:
1) Recommended option -> Use the Bally/Stern LED Adapter Boards
2) Use Ultimate Optix (aka Flux) bulbs for all of your inserts
3) Use Yoppsicle Sticks (you’ll need to solder these in)

The Flux bulbs are significantly more expensive (about an extra dollar per bulb), so it’s generally more cost effective (and a better result) to use the Adapter Boards. Figure out which board you need from the product page and mark it on the sheet. There, you’ll find an installation video...it’s quite easy, even if you don’t know how to work on pinball machines.

If you use the Adapter Boards, like we recommend, you can use any standard bulb you’d like. We use 1SMD bulbs with clear lenses, and will match the bulbs to the color of the inserts.

We use:
  • Red bulbs for red inserts
  • Green bulbs for green inserts
  • Blue bulbs for blue inserts
  • Warm White for light orange inserts
  • Pink, yes pink, bulbs for dark orange inserts
  • Sunlight bulbs for yellow inserts
  • Natural White bulbs for white inserts (however if you prefer to match the yellowed look of incandescents, use Warm White)

In summary

  • Get the right LED Adapter Board
  • Get 1SMD clear bulbs for your inserts...matching the colors to your inserts
  • Get 1SMD frosted bulbs for everything else, mostly in whichever white compliments the artwork of your game