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Friends turn old-school pastime into repair business

Oct. 11, 2000

'80s arcade dream turns into a reality

By CLAIRE KENNEDY

Reporter

In 1989, when arcades were popular hangouts, Aaron Wegner dreamed of owning his own arcade machines. Among his favorite games was Hard Drivin', a car simulation game made by Atari.

'I used to always want to buy it,' said Wegner, a Jasper junior. 'When I was young, I thought it would be so cool if Dad would go out and buy this huge arcade game, but it was $3,000 when it came out when I was 10 in 1989.'

More than 10 years later, Wegner's dream came true when he and Houston junior Chris Kennedy were able to buy the machine for $300.

Wegner's friend Justin Stichter, then a Baylor student, discovered the game was on sale at Tilt in Richland Mall.

When Stichter told his friends, they decided to buy and repair it.

To fit the 750-pound machine into the back room of Stichter's apartment, they had to remove the doorframe. They immediately started the repairing process. At that time, the game's steering wheel, clutch, brake and force feedback all had problems.

Pat Hynan, the computer systems manager of the department of engineering and computer science, helped supply tools for repairing the machine.

With his aid, Wegner, Stichter, Kennedy and three other friends repaired most of the machine's problems.

'Being nerdy computer science guys, we're interested in that sort of thing,' Wegner said.

After repairing Hard Drivin', the group thought they could probably work on other arcade machines.

Kennedy knew of an arcade repair shop near Denton that had Galaga, a game Stichter wanted to buy.

One Saturday morning, the two students and Dave Adams, a San Diego senior, took Adams' Ford Explorer, rented a U-Haul trailer and drove north with hopes of acquiring the machine.

In addition to buying Galaga, the trio returned to Waco with Paper Boy and Terra Cresta, a game they were given for free.

Wegner and Kennedy took the monitor from Frenzy, another game they got for free, and put it in Galaga, which had a faulty monitor. They repaired the wiring, and Stichter painted the cabinet.

They sold the game for $500 to an Austin man, making a $350 profit. They hope to sell Paper Boy, and they estimate Hard Drivin' could sell for as much as $700 or $800. After selling it, they hope to buy its sequel, Race Drivin'.

While the arcade-repairing process has served as a business, Kennedy said it has been a fun hobby.

'All the games we've acquired are from the '80s,' Kennedy said. 'They're all classic arcade machines. We don't really have a lot of the newer stuff. It's a little more fun because it's kind of nostalgic. We played these games when we were really young, back when people went to arcades.'