Centipede is commonly regarded as the first arcade game created by a woman, Dona Bailey. She was assisted by Ed Logg who is responsible for another one of my favorite games of all time, Asteroids.
Centipede was one of those games that everyone played, "back in the day". To me it was a perfect twist on the old "Space Invaders" formula where you had to shoot an enemy as it progressed from the top of the screen towards you. The addition of the mushrooms, spiders, fleas, and scorpions is what really gives the game an extra dimension of strategy and skill. Add to that the use of a trackball and Atari had a huge hit on its hands.
My wife is a huge fan of the game (as are many other women). I am not sure if there is a direct correlation between the designer being a woman and its popularity among women, but there sure seems to be strong enough evidence to suggest so. Thus, I was shocked when I mentioned to my wife that a decent-priced Centipede had appeared on Craigslist and she responded with, "I love Centipede, go get it".
The cabinet itself is the "cabaret" variation and I really like the smaller size. Unlike Missile Command, the cabaret version retains the same trackball size as its larger "full-size" variant. Unfortunately, when I went to pick up the Centipede, it was in less-than pristine condition. The monitor would roll every couple of seconds, the game would periodically reset, the trackball barely worked, the control panel had been heavily worn from use, and a large chunk of the cabinet was missing from its left side.
I started my restoration by getting the game up and running reliably. First, I installed a cap kit in the monitor and that eliminated the rolling issue and improved the overall sharpness of the screen. The reset issue of the game was related to the fuse holder and fuses being dirty. The game hasn't reset on me since I performed a quick cleaning. The trackball itself had deep wear marks into the actual "rollers" that were causing it to miss periodically. To resolve this, I cleaned the trackball thoroughly and added some new rollers.
Once I had the game up and running it was on to cosmetic issues. To repair the cabinet, I removed the existing side vinyl. Once removed, I used bondo to repair several deep gouges, fixed up the corners, and rebuilt the chunk that was missing from the left side. Once complete, I applied new wood-grain vinyl to the sides. Unfortunately, it isn't a direct match to the original Atari vinyl, but it looks a ton better than it did previously. To finish it off, I stripped the control panel and applied a new overlay along with stripping and repainting the coin door.
Centipede is one game that I play on a fairly regular basis (at least a couple times a week). William Carlton (from, the "High Score" movie) dropped by to do an interview on my podcast, "Twitch Asylum". During his visit he set a pretty decent score that I am slowly creeping towards.
To date, I have performed the following repairs on this game:
- Installed a cap kit (fixed monitor rolling issue)
- Cleaned fuse holder, replaced fuses (fixed reset issue)
- Repaired several gouges in the cabinet, fixed piece missing from left side (near control panel)
- Applied new wood-pattern vinyl to sides
- Applied new t-molding
- Stripped control panel and added new control panel overlay
- Stripped and repainted the coin door
- Cleaned trackball, replaced rollers