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HomeUncategorizedFinding “Discs of Tron” on the Roadside

Finding “Discs of Tron” on the Roadside

We’ve spoken about arcade Tron a few times here on the blog over the years. Specifically, I shared some development documents a few months back here.

For those of you that don’t know, Tron essentially became two games – the regular Tron game with the four stages, and the spin off game, Discs of Tron.

Midway’s Discs of Tron sales flyer

Released in 1983, it was felt that Discs of Tron could stand as its own game, and is the rarer of the two. The game was released as what’s known as an ‘environmental’ cabinet, designed to immerse the player literally ‘inside’ the action.

Bally Midway announce Environment Discs of Tron
A beast of a cabinet, with incredible backlit artwork and graphics, it is a joy to play and is incredibly immersive.

Environmental Discs of Tron (or EDOT for short) is arguably the most complex arcade cabinet of the Golden Age of videogaming. Working examples are hard to come by, and when they do, you can expect to pay handsomely for one!

What sets this game apart, is the thought that went into the cabinet design. Brian Colin (who we interviewed on the podcast a while back here), worked extensively on the game. Have a listen to his recollections of what made the game and cabinet so special.

So, finding one of these glorious pieces is a challenge these days. But can you imagine stumbling across one dumped in the street? Well, that’s exactly what happened to my friend Tim Lapetino recently.

I was visiting my family in the Chicago suburbs recently, when my niece mentioned she saw “some TRON thing” sitting on a curb while she was riding her bike through the neighbourhood.

Of course we jumped in the car to go take a look, as it was just blocks away from where my parents and other family live. As we drove up to the spot, I uttered “What the &*@$?!” forgetting that my niece was in the car with us. And would you believe it – there it was. An EDOT was sitting by the curb

Tim Lapetino

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure I guess….

So remarkably, it seems that this cabinet was owned by a local resident, and it had clearly been dragged down the driveway and left out on the sidewalk with the assumption that the garbage men would take it away. However, it was too large for them to load onto the garbage truck. So it had been sat there for a few days:

The garbage men even left a note on the cabinet advising that it would need to be broken down and dismantled before they could take it away!

Not one to miss such an incredible opportunity, Tim immediately called a couple of friends and asked for recommendations on moving such a large cabinet. He got hold of his buddy who owns the local Logan Arcade for advice on how to safely move a 700lb arcade cabinet!

So, my brother went and picked up ratchet straps and furniture dollies at a nearby store while I waited there, standing in the driveway of a stranger, like a goofball. But there was no way I was going to leave the machine without taking it with me!

Tim Lapetino

While his brother was at the local Harbor Freight store gathering the gear required to move the cabinet, Tim decided to knock on the door of the owner. A woman answered and explained that the EDOT had sat in her garage for many years and she wanted to get shot of it. Tim was welcome to take it away for free, but she didn’t really want to discuss the machine’s provenance – Where was it from? Who acquired it?

Not one to argue, Tim and his brother loaded the cabinet onto the dollies and strapped everything down.

Tim (foreground) and his brother, strapping the game into the dollies, ready for its journey!

With that done, how best to get the thing back home, a few blocks away? There was only one thing for it.

Roll it down the street!

Imagine turning a corner in your car and having to navigate around a slow moving EDOT in your neighbourhood!

The journey took around 20 minutes, but soon enough, our two intrepid adventurers arrived back home and were able to wheel the EDOT safely into the garage:

And here it is. Just about fits!

With the help of another collector friend, Tim was able to check through the whole thing. THe game is all original and in great working condition!

Checking over the power supply…
All the artwork is in remarkable condition
The side art is almost unblemished…
Less than 3000 plays according to the coin counter
A blank test game report sheet was found in the base of the cabinet – perhaps this was an early cabinet put out on test at a local Chicago arcade?
Giving the floor panel art a good scrub up before switching on…
Tim and friend getting things prepped and ready
And bingo! On powering up, the game came to life. Monitor is vibrant and all the illuminated parts of the cabinet work as they should

So not only was this a free game and one of the rarest arcade cabinets you could possibly find, it is clearly in incredible shape and everything looks to be all original!

Just one thing was missing – the large TRON back glass. Tim has ordered a repro and will be searching for an original.

The only missing artwork piece from Tim’s EDOT

Well I’m calling this find of the year! Dumped by the roadside and rejected by the local garbage collectors. By rights this thing could easily have been smashed into a thousand pieces (in fact it shouldn’t have been there in the first place!), but saved by Tim from the jaws of destruction!

Just to add context, this is absolutely my holy grail game! I don’t own any other arcade machines, but being a huge TRON fan and a lover of this game, this would have been my ideal game to (someday) own, and here it was just sitting blocks away from where my relatives live! I don’t really believe in coincidences, and this is an absolutely nuts story.

Tim Lapetino

What a find. And a fantastic result for Tim – I couldn’t think of a safer (and more deserving) pair of hands for this beautiful piece of history to fall into. Nice work!

Meantime, the game is getting plenty of play, not only by Tim, but his two kids too, who have take a real shine to the immersive EDOT experience:

Great to see youngsters playing these early titles!
Cool beans kids – enjoy!

Find out more about Tim and his awesome work relating to videogame history here.

What makes this find particularly poignant and bizarre, is that Tim’s current project is Light Cycles: 40 years of Tron in Games & Film – an exhibition about the film, currently showing in Chicago. Find out more and book tickets here.

And if you haven’t already, do check out his two remarkable arcade books; the best-selling Art of Atari and Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon. I can highly recommend both titles.

Tim is always up to something interesting, with one project or another. If you want to give him a follow – check out @lapetino on Twitter.

Many thanks to Tim for the scoop and for allowing me to share his good fortune here on the blog.

Hope you enjoyed these pictures – what more is there to say? Incredible. This stuff is still out there!

Thanks for reading this week – see you next time.


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