Chapter One – Introduction

The rumor was that there was this fighting video game, like Karate Champ, where the harder the buttons were hit, the stronger the attacks were.  It was also said that if you hit a button hard enough, you can knock out your opponent with one hit!  Word was, certain individuals were seen climbing on, and jumping up and down on the buttons of the machine in hopes of making a killing strike.  As a child of the 80s who loved video games, this game intrigued me.

I soon discovered that the game was called, Street Fighter (SF1), and it was made by a company called, Capcom. In my local arcade, it consisted of a large curvy cabinet with two sets of controls to accommodate two players at once. Each player had a start button, an 8-way joystick, and two large pressure-sensitive rubber buttons. This cabinet is now often called the deluxe or crescent cab, and the buttons are often called, bash pads or pneumatic buttons. It looked totally rad!

A blurry picture of the SF1 Deluxe Arcade Cabinet. This is the stock photo from KLOV/VAPS, and was one of the few images of the pneumatic machine available during my initial research.

I recall that the controls were surprisingly stiff. Although the large pneumatic buttons looked soft, they were actually firm, and their outputs were inconsistent. And try as I might to make a super strong killing strike, I couldn’t do it. In many ways, it was painful to play. Maybe there was too much hype from the rumors? Maybe I should have jumped on the cabinet? Maybe there was a better way to play it?

It’s been said that because of complaints of injuries to players, and the high cost of maintenance of the machine, Capcom eventually recalled the old pneumatic controls.  Then they helped arcade operators convert the controls to a now-familiar 6-button scheme that has become the standard for many fighting games today.

Regardless of the control scheme, SF1 was not a very fun game to play for very long.  The special moves were too powerful, had strict input requirements, and were difficult to perform consistently.  Despite my best efforts at precision (which I got pretty good at), most of my games degenerated to mashing buttons while making half circle motions with the joystick, and waiting for special moves to come out.  Pro tip: the game can be beaten this way even on the hardest setting.

The arcade game didn’t keep me or a lot of other gamers interested for long, and it soon disappeared from most arcades.  There was a very cool looking and strangely-named console port, Fighting Street, but a system seller, it was not.  Even my wealthiest and most game-obsessed friends never bothered to buy the TG16/PC Engine CD add-on required to play the game (although, as an adult I have realized how amazing this system truly is).  For me and a lot of folks, Street Fighter was just a pretty cool game that was most useful for video game trivia.

That is until Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (SF2:WW) was released in 1991.

The game changer

SF2:WW was amazing, and I became a huge fan of the game, and its many iterations.  Today, the Street Fighter franchise remains my very favorite game series to play, read, and talk about.  Over the years, my interest in Street Fighter evolved.  As a fan, I did the usual nerd stuff: joined newsgroups and forums, saw the movies and TV shows, and constructed and modded my own arcade joysticks.  Eventually, I started tinkering with superguns and collecting arcade PCBs.  Finally, one day I decided that I needed an arcade cabinet.  Just one.  And I knew exactly which one I wanted: the SF1 deluxe cabinet.

Overall, I knew SF1 was a mediocre game, but its deluxe cabinet was amazing.  To me, it was unique, interesting, and super nostalgic.  It also had a large monitor, and control panel to accommodate most games that I’d be interested in playing.  So, I began searching for an SF1 deluxe cabinet with the misguided intention of converting it into a MAME machine. 

Time passed, and passed.  As I searched for this cabinet, I inadvertently stepped into the arcade collecting hobby rabbit hole.  And I fell in deep.  It was fun, and working on these old games made me happy.  In a way, they were time capsules; self-contained boxes full of old technology and history. I soon realized that one cabinet would not totally sustain my curiosity.  When I finally found an SF1 deluxe cabinet, it was the fifth cabinet I would buy, and it was the 6-button conversion.  By this time, I already owned a Capcom “Big Blue” arcade cabinet, and another 6-button cabinet seemed redundant.  I had a solution for this little problem.

During my search, it also became evident how uncommon the SF1 deluxe cabinet really was (pneumatic version or otherwise). There was also a paucity of knowledge about this machine, and especially about its pneumatic controls. Pictures and parts were scarce, and a video of a working pneumatic machine did not even exist. It seemed that there was so much still-unknown about the original arcade game that launched my favorite game series. In a way, the challenge of gathering this information was motivating—why not try to make a working pneumatic machine, and share (with the interested few) what I have discovered? In any case, my kids would love it. And so began this undertaking, and this website is here to document the process.

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Chapter Two – The Cabinet

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In general, an arcade video game machine has a monitor, PCB (the game), game controls, and power supply. Because these parts are all housed in a cabinet, these machines are fondly called, arcade cabinets.

For a time, arcade games came in what are called, dedicated cabinets; cabinets that were made for a specific game, and had distinctive features. Some of these cabinets have become iconic. For example, a dedicated Pac-Man cabinet is bright yellow with a red joystick, and a dedicated Ms. Pac-Man cabinet is blue with pink stripes.

However, in order to increase profits, arcade game companies eventually introduced arcade conversion kits. These kits, for example, allowed an arcade operator to convert or retrofit a Pac-Man cabinet into a Street Fighter II cabinet. Over time, many iconic arcade cabinets were lost through this process. Some cabinets were outright destroyed. And some survived relatively intact.

This converted Atari Star Wars cockpit has seen better days. Photo credit: m_mcgovern from KLOV.

Arcade cabinet collectors are generally interested in dedicated cabinets, and great efforts are sometimes made to salvage, or restore old cabinets of varying conditions. Some restorations are easier than others. Popular arcade cabinets such as Pac-Man and Galaga, for example, have more easily available parts, and art. For games such as these, restoring an old cabinet or even building an entirely new cabinet from scratch is not unheard of. On the other hand, if a collector is interested in resurrecting a less common game, such as the SF1 deluxe cabinet, things get a bit trickier.

Because there is little information about the SF1 deluxe cabinet, and parts are difficult to find, I ideally wanted a cabinet that was as complete as possible. After a long search, one day I finally got lucky.

The cabinet

I bought the cabinet from a KLOV/VAPS member named, reddogg. He’s a cool guy, and this cabinet was nurtured in his home for many years. It was a beautiful six-button survivor in working condition. It had an original PCB, and CRT monitor. The cabinet also came with the original marquee, manuals, and back door sheet; all incredibly rare. It even had matching serial numbers for most of the components. There were some minor flaws. It did not come with pneumatic parts (kinda expected). There was some damage on the side art, and the control panel overlay was completely missing. The control panels were both blue (Player 2 should be red), and the decals were incorrect. The black monitor bezel, and the top bezel bracket were also missing. Some of the internal wiring had been hacked in order to play other games, and the small back door was not original. And the coin door was pretty beat up. However, for a cabinet from 1987, it was as good as can be expected. It just needed a bit of TLC.

After I received the cabinet, I did a little bit of refurbishing. New chrome T-molding, and a new coin door was installed. I also made a rudimentary monitor bezel, and put new glass on the marquee. The power supply, joysticks and buttons were replaced. The monitor was rejuvenated, and recapped. It cleaned up quite nicely. It was a very cool, and fully functional arcade cabinet.

Finally home

I also decided to put a 2-in-1 PCB switcher into the cabinet; this allowed two arcade game PCBs to be played on the same cabinet. SF1 remained, and I added a Street Fighter II’ Hyper Fighting (my favorite game) so I can play both games any time I wanted. This was a dream come true.

SF1 and SF2′ HF in the same cabinet. SF1 has a different kick harness than SF2, and a little research was involved in how to splice them together.

With or without the pneumatics, I was content. I reasoned that if I somehow found the missing pneumatic parts, then that would be a plus. And if I can put it all together, and make it work, well that would be miraculous! But, with so many unknowns, and missing parts, where do I even begin?

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Chapter Three – Arcade Archaeology

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In 2006, a user named, warmeister, posted a classified ad on the forum. In this ad, he was looking for the, “Original Street Fighter pneumatic controls”. This post was initially met with confusion, and then a discussion followed.

In this discussion, there were plenty of folks that remembered seeing or even playing with the SF1 pneumatic cab in their younger days, but everyone agreed that an actual working pneumatic cabinet had not been seen for quite a while. At the time, there were no real leads on the pneumatic parts; only vague memories, and urban legends. This discussion seemingly ended after 10 replies, and would have likely have been forgotten. But, three years later, in 2009, warmeister returned to the same thread, and posted a picture.

Probably the very first pictures of actual SF1 pneumatic parts on the Internet

“Found ’em! NOS pads and joystick bezels!”, warmeister wrote. There were congratulations, thread derailments, and talks about reproduction of the parts. Then the conversation died down again. It is currently the year 2020, and we haven’t heard from warmeister since, but I’d like to think that someday he’ll update that post once again.

His picture showed two sets of Pneumatic Controls. Each consisted of a joystick, red or blue rubber bash pads, and two large white cylinders within a metal assembly. There were also decals, and extra pads. On the top left, there was also small box with tubes; if we had the SF1 arcade manual, we would have known that this part was called, the Junction Box.

Schematic of the pneumatic controls (labeled as, “Punch/Kick Control Panel” ). The junction box is pictured on the bottom left.

The arcade manual for the SF1 pneumatic cabinet was not readily available on the Internet until 2014. The manual was provided by a VAPS/KLOV member named, reddogg (the same gentleman I bought my cabinet from), and it had a ton of information.

Looking at the schematics in the manual, it appeared that the game has both a Game PCB, and an End PCB. I had never seen this End PCB before, but I was already somewhat familiar with the SF1 Game PCB.

Schematic of the Game PCB with an End PCB attached.

Through years of nerding around, I knew that multiple versions of the SF1 Game PCB were made, and a very specific one was needed so that pneumatic controls can be used. This particular PCB has special nozzles for connecting tubes (the manual specifically mentions using silicon tubes). When the pneumatic controls were pressed, air pressure would travel through these tubes, to the junction box, and then into the PCB. The PCB would then interpret this signal as an attack; the greater the pressure, the stronger the attack (to a certain extent). This PCB is quite rare, and not many people knew that it existed or what it even looked like. However, those that knew about it called it, the Pneumatic PCB.

There is actually a picture of the SF1 pneumatic PCB, hidden in plain sight, at the International Videogame Museum website. I don’t know how long its been there, but I randomly found it one day. The best way to access it is to go to this page, look for a tiny hyperlinked text marked, “Street Fighter PCB Image“, click it, and then realize that this SF1 PCB is not like all the rest.

A picture of the SF1 Pneumatic PCB. It is somewhat difficult to see the 4 silicon tube connectors on the left.

Except for this picture, I was not aware of another pneumatic PCB that existed. Nor had I seen many of the parts mentioned above. However, I now had a manual to help guide me. If I were an adventurer in a quest to rebuild the SF1 pneumatic cabinet, the manual served as my “Grail Diary” . It seemed that in order to resurrect the fabled pneumatic cabinet, several artifacts were needed: two sets of Pneumatic Controls, the Pneumatic Game PCB, the End PCB, and the Junction Box. Quest log updated! Time to start digging.

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Chapter Four – The Pneumatic Controls

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The SF1 deluxe arcade cabinet has a horizontal surface called, the control pod. The control pod is made out of wood, and has a laminated top with chrome molding. It is large and sturdy, and when placed on its wooden base in front of the cabinet, it is nigh-indestructible against the bare hands of a typical human being. If you look closely, the control pod is essentially a kitchen counter.

The control pod has a laminate counter top, much like a kitchen counter.

Housed in the SF1 control pod are two control panels. The original panels consist of an 8-way joystick, a joystick decal, and two large pneumatic rubber buttons attached to a 1/4″ thick rubberized metal plate. These monsters are fondly called, the pneumatic control panels. Two pneumatic control panels are needed to restore an SF1 pneumatic cabinet. These are somewhat difficult to find.

Before I owned an SF1 deluxe cabinet, I was convinced that the control panel overlays on the old Street Fighter II machines represented static, or “snow” from old CRT televisions. Now, I am more convinced that they are a homage to the SF1 kitchen counter control panel.

The design of this control panel may have been by inspired by a kitchen counter

So, one day, reddogg emails me: “Hey Vince, I just saw an eBay auction for a pneumatic control panel…”. I thanked my friend, and went to eBay. I felt very lucky to have a Street Fighter guardian angel, and game master.

This is the old advertisement for my pneumatic buttons. This is not an eBay link.

There it was! One control panel with a joystick, and two big red rubber pneumatic buttons. Used, untested. Yup. Let’s do this. My fetch quest began.

The control panel was being sold by a company called, Eldorado Games, Ltd. To say the least, they have a long history with the arcade community, and are well stocked on arcade knowledge, and many vintage parts. So, I kindly asked them if they had another control panel available. And, they replied, “whatever this is, we have two more in the back…”.

They offered to clean up the two other control panels, and take pictures. The panels both looked great! I purchased another panel (with blue pads), and left the third for the next collector. They treated me wonderfully, and offered to look for more SF1 parts. I sent them warmeister’s picture, and a picture of the pneumatic PCB as a reference. However, they notified me that there were no other SF1 deluxe parts left in their inventory. I was lucky, but not that lucky it seems. The rest of the parts would need to be acquired elsewhere.

The control panels I received were as expected: big, heavy, and industrial. They seemed to generate air pressure well. However, they had pretty shabby-looking bash pads. The joysticks also needed servicing, and the joystick decals were incomplete. I was glad to have them, and they were great conversation pieces. They just needed a little bit of attention.

By this time, it was already well-known that Mylstar from was selling the rubber bash pads. These were new old stock (NOS), and came in both blue and red. He had a fair number for sale, and I bought several sets. His remaining stock has now decreased, and prices have risen accordingly.

Now, the joysticks are a little unique. It is also a little known fact that Atari designed the SF1 deluxe cabinet for Capcom. As an unfortunate side effect of this, Atari also provided their joysticks for the deluxe cabinet.

The SF1 deluxe cabinet used a pair of Atari Logo “Gauntlet” joysticks with the microswitches, and 8-way gates.

These are commonly called, Atari Logo joysticks because of the prominent Atari logo on the ball top. These are terrible joysticks. They are stiff, imprecise, and their moving parts tend to grind and wear down. Thankfully, they are not very rare, and rebuild kits are available. I was able to acquire a pair of NOS sticks in due time.

Somehow, my friend, Mike also had the decals for the joystick surrounds. He generously provided me with the scans.

A blue Player 1 joystick surround decal. Not pictured is the Player 2 decal; it is red instead of blue.

With all of the above, I considered this particular mission accomplished. However, without anything else, these simply sat on my shelf. Truly untested.

What I really needed were the rest of the missing parts…

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Chapter Five – The Pneumatic PCB

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There is a longstanding thread on the KLOV/VAPS forums titled, Street Fighter 1 Roll Call. This thread was started in 2012 by a forum member named, Biomech011. He is a huge SF1 and SEGA fan who has contributed substantially to the arcade community. The thread itself has an incredible amount of useful information about SF1 from some very insightful members.

In 2016, Biomech011 bought an SF1 deluxe cabinet from another member named, TimothyC. His cabinet was a 6-button conversion, however, it also came with a nonworking Pneumatic PCB! This PCB was bent, and coated in brine; it needed a deep cleaning and refurbishing. After a thorough cleaning, and reassembly, Biomech011 shared a video of the PCB being tested.

The first video of a working SF1 pneumatic board on the Internet

His video showed the pneumatic PCB being tested on a SEGA Blast City candy cabinet. This particular cabinet has two sets of controls, each comprised of a joystick and microswitch buttons. The Pneumatic PCB was directly plugged into an arcade cabinet via its harness. There were no pneumatic controls, and no End PCB.

The game powered up, and played! The joysticks and microswitch buttons worked during gameplay, and both vintage Ryu and Ken can be seen performing their moves. Next, the pneumatic interface was tested. Tubes were placed on the 4 nozzles on the PCB (two nozzles corresponding to punch and kick for each of the two players). Since Biomech011 did not have a pneumatic control panel, he attached a small rubber bulb to the tubes in order to generate air pressure.

Squeezing the bulb resulted with no response during game mode, but in test mode, there was visible feedback when the bulb was squeezed. The intensity of the feedback appeared to be directly related to the force of the squeeze. There was much congratulations and discussion on the forums. It seemed that a functional Pneumatic PCB had been found!

Now, Biomech011 wanted to resurrect a working SF1 pneumatic cabinet. However, he did not necessarily want to do this for himself, but wanted someone to do it because he thought it would be cool thing to do. He knew that the SF1 pneumatic cabinet was my pet project, and he kindly offered me his Pneumatic PCB. I accepted his generous offer, and eagerly waited for the PCB to arrive.

After I received the PCB, I promptly tested it with my pneumatic controls. I thought that, maybe, the air pressure required to generate an action may be very specific, and if these two components were connected, the game would play properly.

Unfortunately, when I connected the PCB directly to my pneumatic controls, there was still no response.

I had hoped that this would work, and I was a bit discouraged. But, I hung on to the idea that resurrecting the pneumatic cabinet was still possible. Maybe there is something wrong with the PCB–I hoped not, but I can give it a look. Maybe the pneumatic controls have a leak–one of the buttons seem kinda weak, so I’ll investigate that too. It is also completely possible that the End PCB, and Junction Box are both needed for the pneumatic controls to function properly–maybe these help regulate the air pressure. Off and on, I continued to troubleshoot, and hunt for the missing pieces…

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Chapter Six – The End PCB

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Many early arcade PCBs were encased in metal boxes in an effort to reduce or filter out electromagnetic interference. These Faraday cages would sometimes be topped off with a removable End PCB on the open end of the box. These are also fondly called, filter PCBs, or filter boards for their aforementioned “filtering” powers.

Atari, in particular, made many of these boards. The primary function of these PCBs were to interface between the game PCB inside the cage with the wiring harness(es) outside of the cage. Most did not have any additional function. Indeed, many of these filter boards were removed when things went wrong with the game, and troubleshooting needed to be done (I’m looking at you, Pole Position).

A typical PCB cage with End or filter PCBs. The actual game PCB is within the cage.

In 2016, a KLOV/VAPS member named, TheEnglishTear, mentioned that he owned an SF1 End PCB. He shared a picture. This was probably the first actual SF1 End PCB pictured on the Internet.

TheEnglishTear’s SF1 End PCB, component side.

He stated that he was unsure what it did, since his SF1 game PCB worked fine without it. To many, this appeared to be your typical filter board made in the Atari style.

TheEnglishTear’s SF1 End PCB, solder side. Made by Atari—they loved making filter boards.

In fact, if you looked closely at the solder side of the End PCB, it really was made by Atari! The etching on the board read: Made in USA, Atari Games Corp. (C) 1987, Rev B, 044202-01.

As mentioned above, filter boards are removed for various reasons. After removal, some were boxed up, and maybe even labeled. But, I presume most eventually got tossed into miscellaneous parts bins, never to be thought of again (because that’s what I tend do with them).

If you’ve been in the arcade hobby long enough, you would know that there are many untested, and unidentified boards of questionable quality all over eBay. I wondered if this PCB was maybe hidden among those unidentified boards. So, I did a quick search on eBay. And luckily enough, there it was: Atari Board 04402-01, untested—Make Offer or Buy It Now for $25. Includes shipping!

I immediately tried to purchase it, but a pop up window informed me that I was blocked by the seller. I recalled buying Crazy Taxi parts from the seller some years before. It was uneventful: I paid, got the items, and left positive feedback.  This seemed odd, so I dug around a bit.

After a little research, its seems that it was not too unusual to be blocked from buying or bidding on items from this particular seller. To the confusion of many, they too were blocked for no apparent reason.

No biggie. I texted my wife, and kindly asked her to buy it for me.  She texted back some time later: “I made him an offer for $12”.

As I started to type a response in order to explain the situation, she texted back, “Oh, he’s accepted already.  Will pay for it now.” Well, thank you, that was unexpectedly amazing. As a side note, she has purchased on my behalf from this seller again, and she has yet to be blocked. She insists I must have done something wrong to offend him.

After I received the End PCB, I inspected it. It really did look like a normal-everyday end PCB. Is this tiny PCB truly the key to getting the pneumatics to work? I reasoned that I would need the Junction Box to know for sure. So, I put the End PCB in my spare parts bin, and there it waited.

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Chapter Seven – The Junction Box

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There had been no other sightings of the Junction Box since warmeister’s picture in 2006. That particular picture simply showed that it existed, and tubes are somehow involved. It was truly an unknown entity, and it was speculated that this little “black box” was actually very technically complex. The prevailing theory was that together, the Junction Box and End PCB regulated air pressure so that the pneumatic controls could function properly. The conclusion was that in order for the pneumatic cabinet to function, a junction box needed to be found.

In 2017, a KLOV/VAPS member named, wisenheimr, offered an incomplete SF1 Deluxe Cabinet for sale. It was in rough shape, had a missing monitor, and several other missing pieces. Overwhelmingly absent was the large control pod that housed the two pneumatic control panels. Although it was essentially two-thirds of a cabinet, the price was right, and this cabinet was still very desirable to the right buyer. To sweeten the deal, it also came with several rare parts including one set of pneumatic controls, a working pneumatic PCB, and the End PCB.

A project cabinet

The last picture in the listing highlighted the pneumatic PCB. However, there was another object in the picture with an undeniable presence: off in the blurry background was a metallic component with small colorful dots, and 4 hoses–the Junction Box!

The junction box can be found on the top right of the picture. In the foreground is a pneumatic SF1 PCB.

Save for the solitary pneumatic control panel that was missing, this sale was essentially my entire fetch quest in one package! Within minutes the ad had already garnered some attention. Offers to buy individual parts were sent, but wisenheimr wrote that he wished to try to sell the whole lot first. While this was going on, Biomech011 was already texting me: “Get it done.”

Doing it for science.

Before I could talk myself out of buying another SF1 deluxe cabinet, I offered to buy the entire lot from wisenheimr. There seemed to be a very long period of time where I didn’t hear anything. Posts started to pour in expressing more interest. I realized that purchasing the lot was probably the right decision since I felt anxious about losing out on the sale. Then, finally, after what seemed like an eternity, my offer was accepted. And it was done. The junction box was acquired.

Pictured: the junction box seems to be a type of ancient IO board

As a whole, the junction box is a U-shaped metal apparatus that attaches to the cabinet. It has round stickers of different colors, and the letters, SFP-20, stamped on it. Upon closer inspection, the business end of the junction box is a solid brick of metal. Each face of the metal brick has 4 holes drilled straight through; you can look into one end of each hole, and out the other like a telescope. These holes are terminated on each end by barbed tube connectors that are also made of metal.

That is it. Contrary to speculation, there are no valves, or electronic circuits, or anything else resembling a complex mechanism. This black box was simply a half-way point (a junction if you will) between the pneumatic control panel and the pneumatic PCB where tubes can be inserted; a type of ancient input-output (IO) board.

I presume that the junction box is in place for convenience as it enables the operator to use shorter tubing, and helps in the maintenance of the machine without disassembling the entire control panel. If one were so inclined, the fabled junction box can be easily and cheaply emulated using common parts from most any tropical fish or hardware store.

Also pictured: the Junction Box IO. Some assembly required

Knowing the above, I had very little hope that the junction box would magically enable the pneumatic controls to work. But, I tried anyway. I installed the pneumatic controls, pneumatic PCB, Junction Box, and End PCB into my SF1 cabinet. My machine powered up, but not surprisingly, the pneumatic controls still didn’t work.

I took a break, and some consolation that I had received an abundance of extra parts with the purchase from wisenheimr. Along with another cabinet (although incomplete), I also received an extra pneumatic control panel, working pneumatic PCB, End PCB, and some more bash pads. I also acquired the original SF1 wiring harness, silicon tubes (of appropriate length), and some rubber washers that I presumed were for the pneumatic controls.

Hidden treasures, or garbage? Maybe both.

Finally, I was also able to salvage some cosmetic parts missing from my original cabinet (a black monitor bezel, top bezel bracket, and back door). I happily placed those parts into my SF1 cabinet, and polished it up. My old arcade cabinet looked so nice and shiny that I decided to play a game via the usual 6-button controls. In the middle of the game my mind wandered, and I realized something: I needed just one last thing to make these pneumatics work.

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Chapter Eight – Resurrection!

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At this point, many people in the videogame hobby have already been exposed to, or even dabbled in emulated games. But, since I am writing to a general audience, I should explain that emulation allows videogame hardware to be recreated via a software program called an emulator (MAME is a popular example). In order to play games, an emulator requires game data.

Videogame data can be stored in a variety of media: cassettes, discs (CDs, DVDs, BRDs, HDDs), SD cards, and so on. But, a long time ago, certain game data were also stored in what were called Read Only Memory chips. Because these chips were commonly called ROMs, the data contained within them became known as a ROM image, and then called more simply as a ROM. Over the years, the term, “ROM”, has been affectionately used to describe all manner of game data regardless of origin.

Thousands of videogame ROMs have already been extracted or dumped from their original media. These are the same ROMs that can be found in the usual places, and used with emulators. However, it is sometimes overlooked that these same ROM images can also be used with their original hardware. Akin to burning an ISO file onto a DVD in order to play it in an Xbox, a ROM file can be burned into a ROM chip, placed onto the appropriate arcade PCB, and played in an arcade machine.

The arcade game community uses ROMs for a variety of reasons. One important use for dumped ROMs is to help preserve data, and help ensure vintage games are not lost (arcade game PCBs in particular are fragile, and prone to failure). Another cool thing the arcade game community does is modify existing ROM data in order add features such as free play, and high score saves. Some modified ROMs are even used to alter game play.

The SF1 arcade cabinet had two varieties: the Deluxe (aka Pneumatic version), and Standard (aka 6-button version)

The above information about ROMs is important to remember since the SF1 arcade cabinet came in two varieties: the Deluxe (aka Pneumatic version), and Standard (aka 6-button version). It was long presumed that the pneumatic PCB contained the code for both the pneumatic and 6-button versions of SF1. This premise gained further support when Biomech011 tested the pneumatic PCB. With this PCB, he showed that not only did the 6-button controls work but, the pneumatic controls also responded in test mode via a software utility within the game. From that demonstration, it seemed that the pneumatic PCB required a set of Pneumatic Controls, the End PCB, and the Junction Box for full function.

All of the above parts had been acquired. However, since the pneumatic controls still did not work, it was time for a reevaluation of the problem, piece-by-piece. Briefly, we discovered that the End PCB and the Junction Box are simple IO boards; both these parts are likely not essential for pneumatic function. It is also safe to presume that at least one of the four plungers of the pneumatic controls work as they all seem to generate air pressure well (and they’re built like tanks!). We have also seen that the pneumatic PCB is able to detect air pressure via Biomech011’s test. With all this in mind, we can conclude that the input from the pneumatic controls is working and being detected. However, we obviously do not get output.

So, what if the pneumatic PCB is able to detect air pressure, but is unable to translate it to an action on-screen? When Capcom recalled the old SF1 pneumatic controls, and helped arcade operators convert the game into the 6-button configuration, were the ROMs also changed? And if the ROMs were replaced, did Capcom remove the code that allows the pneumatic controls to work?

To answer these questions, I needed to find the original pneumatic ROMs. I was prepared to search high and low for a copy of these theoretical ROMs. I thought that I may even need to go to Japan or something. However, I decided to start with a Google search: “Street Fighter pneumatic ROMs”. My first hit showed:

Were these there the whole time!?

Well, wow, that’s kinda embarrassing. It seems that Pneumatic ROMs do exist. The wonders of the internet! I also knew to be wary of random things on the internet, so I wondered if these ROMs were truly any different, or even usable. I decided to consult my buddy, Hyperneogeo.

Hey Hyperneogeo,

I had a question for you. So I have a Street Fighter 1 pneumatic PCB that I just can’t get to work with pneumatic controls. I’ve tried to troubleshoot here and there. But then I just realized that maybe the current ROMs on the board do not support pneumatic controls anymore (since my PCB works with 6 buttons). If you recall, the original SF1 ROMs were designed for pneumatic controls, but then later switched to the 6-button layout that we’re now familiar with.

I don’t know anything about ROMs, but I was wondering if you’d be able to check the different versions of the SF1 ROMs for me. Are there separate versions of the ROMs? And if there is a separate version for the pneumatic version, would you be able to burn those for me? Please let me know. Thanks again!


Hello, there are separate versions of the ROMs for pneumatic and regular, can you provide a picture of the ROMs at 2a, 2c, 3a, 3c, 4a, 4c (these are the CPU ROMs). Thanks.


You’re awesome-thank you sir! Seems that this is probably the right track. Since the labels for these ROMs are written by hand, and not stamped like the other ROMs! Note that 2a = 19, 2c = 22, 3a = 20 3c = 23, 4a = 21, 4c = 24. Thanks again!

SF1 CPU ROM chips found on my pneumatic PCB. Three of these are not like the other.

Unlike the rest of the nicely printed labels on the SF1 Pneumatic PCB, we noted that the CPU ROMs located on chip sockets 19-24 had handwritten labels. I sent the CPU ROM chips to Hyperneogeo for analysis. He noted that these ROMs were unprotected, and that a simple ROM swap was all that would be needed. He returned my old chips, and supplied me with new chips. I swapped the chips into the pneumatic PCB, and eagerly tested the pneumatic controls. I was so excited that I didn’t even bother to attach the pneumatic parts properly. But I did take a video:

Now that’s something I haven’t seen in a while.

I pushed the pneumatics, and Ryu threw a punch, then again, and again–it worked! The pneumatic controls have been resurrected!

When I found some time, I properly reassembled the pneumatic cab. And then I played a game.

A video of my fully functional SF1 Deluxe Pneumatic Cabinet. The kid in this video was about the same age I was when I first played this game—I also remember having a hard time bashing the buttons.

The game plays pretty much how I remembered. When playing, I usually give an initial effort at precision, but more often than not the game devolves into mashing buttons while making half circle motions with the joystick, and waiting for special moves to come out. However, mashing buttons is quite a bit harder with the pneumatic controls.

Most people who have not played the pneumatic SF1 game are curious how the buttons feel. The rubber buttons have small pistons that need to be compressed so they can push air out. But, most of the resistance comes from a large thick spring in the assembly. As a result, the pads are firm, and you’d have to strike the pads fairly hard to get compression, and to get a response. And that’s what most people try to do. Most kids (and adults), for example, can’t consistently get an attack to come out because they mostly slap the buttons, and not much air pressure comes out. However, there is actually a way to just push the button down, and be much more consistent; almost like one-handed CPR. Most of these “techniques” are featured in the video above, but, whichever technique is used, the game is a workout!

At this point, I’m decent at the game. Even on the hardest setting, the game is not too difficult, at least initially. However, the difficulty and unpredictability of the computer AI suddenly ramps up once you get to the last two characters of the game: Adon and Sagat. And I must say, SF1 Sagat is one of the hardest bosses to ever grace a fighting game: he hits like a truck, blocks everything, and is generally only vulnerable to a shoryuken at point blank range. In short, the endgame can get frustrating if you’re unprepared, and it’s difficult to express this feeling into words. Luckily, I ran into an excellent video below that helps illustrates this frustration. It is of some dude (with fighting game experience) attempting and struggling to beat the SF1 single-player game with non-pneumatic buttons (warning: language).

It’s true… all of it…

I think the above video properly conveys some of the joy, and pain most of us felt while playing our first SF1 game. What the video is missing, however, is the physical strain and fatigue felt from using the pneumatic controls, and the feeling of defeat as the machine takes your quarters away, one by one. And then, finally, after struggling for so long, landing that very last shoryuken with the force of your own hands. Truly one of the most genuine arcade experiences ever, and it cannot be emulated.

That’s going to leave a scar.

Despite it’s faults, I enjoy this game probably more than anyone has any right to. However, while I certainly appreciate the gameplay, I probably enjoy the pneumatic cabinet more for its history. In the end, the SF1 Deluxe Pneumatic cabinet stands prominently as trophy in my home arcade. It reminds me proudly of my quest to resurrect it, and is an amazing representation of my fondness for the Street Fighter series. And, seriously, it really isn’t that bad of a game.

My SF1 Deluxe Pneumatic Arcade Cabinet is displayed in my home arcade. It stands as a proud reminder of my quest to resurrect it.

So, that’s it, and thank you for reading! I mainly wanted to document what I’ve found before I forgot it all. In the end, the problem was not all that complex, but I thought it was an interesting enough journey to share. I also appreciate how the whole process allowed me not only to reflect on the history and development of Street Fighter, but also on my own personal experience with the videogame series that I enjoy the most.

Finally, I am also glad that I was able to contribute a bit of knowledge for the preservation of this old videogame. I think a big part of preservation is sharing information. My hope is that the information I am sharing can be a resource to help others better appreciate SF1, and maybe resurrect a few more of these pneumatic beasts. To that end, the next chapter is a reference page for those who want more information about SF1, and in particular, the workings of the pneumatic cabinet. Be warned, it is a bit technical. Thank you all.

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Chapter Nine – Bonus Stage: The Appendix: The Receipts

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This is a reference page for those who want more information about SF1, and in particular the workings of the pneumatic cabinet. Be warned, this is a bit technical. Be also warned that despite my best efforts, I may not know what I’m doing, and some of this information may be inaccurate (but I will gladly fix the error if you inform me). Please, also let me know if you have any questions, or anything cool to add.

The SF1 Manual is frequently referenced in this chapter. I would also like to mention that there is a wonderful article on SF1 by Matt Leone from Polygon called, Street Fighter 1: An Oral History, which describes the history of SF1 from interviews with the original developers. It is a worthwhile read, and some of the information below also references it.

The Arcade Cabinet

In the US, the SF1 arcade cabinet came in two forms: the Deluxe (aka Pneumatic version), and Standard (aka 6-button version). According to the interviews by Polygon, the Standard version was made after the SF1 Deluxe cabinet failed to sell well.

The Standard version of SF1 was housed in a Dynamo HS-1 cabinet (this cabinet was used in many other dedicated Capcom arcade cabinets in the 1980s). In the 6-button cabinet, the attack strength of the buttons decreases as you go from left to right (see picture below); the order was reversed in it’s sequel, SF2.

SF1 Standard CPO reproduced by Biomech011.

There may be a cocktail version of SF1. According to the Game Machine’s Upright / Cockpit Videos list in October 1987, “A cheaper cocktail table version of the game went to #1 on the Table Videos list in January 1988“. It is unclear if this quote refers to US or worldwide sales. Therefore this quote is possibly referring to a Japanese SF1 cocktail table found in a flier, or erroneously to the Standard version of SF1. Sometimes arcade fliers advertise prototypes, and it is currently unclear if a Japanese cocktail cabinet was ever actually produced for the public (as there are no actual pictures of one available). It would be wonderful to see an actual cocktail cabinet if one were to ever surface.

Advertised are Japanese SF1 arcade cabinets in Deluxe and Cocktail versions. Picture provided by DonPanetta

There are also several European variations of the SF1 cabinet distributed by Electrocoin. These include a Deluxe cabinet that looks similar to the US and Japanese versions, but they also made several versions of the 6-button cabinet. One version is highlighted in this thread, and pictured below (it is most excellent).

A European SF1 cabinet distributed by Electrocoin

There are an unknown number of SF1 cabinets sold, as no official numbers exist. The numbers quoted below are based on interviews, and may represent a mix of US or worldwide sales, and outright guesstimates and exaggerations. So depending on the source (who may or may not be biased), the deluxe pneumatic cabinets were estimated to sell 200 units, but possibly up to 1000, and maybe even 3000 units. The dedicated six-button version (standard and/or cocktail) was estimated to sell around 10,000 units, or maybe even tens of thousands of units. One of those interviewed speculates that, worldwide, up to 50,000 SF1 PCBs were sold, including bootleg PCBs. Take these numbers with a grain of salt. For some perspective, it is estimated that SF2:WW sold ~60,000 “machines” (but then again, SF2:WW was a conversion kit, and so this number is also ambiguous).

The Main PCB

The SF1 Pneumatic PCB

The SF1 Main PCB consists of 3 boards stacked on top of each other, and connected sequentially via a Molex connector, and 3 ribbon cables. The topmost board is designated A, the middle B, and the bottom C. This may seem a bit counter-intuitive, since the CAPCOM’s CPS1 and CPS2 board sets have their A-boards at the bottom of the stack. But, what is consistent from these Capcom boards is that the A-boards all contain the JAMMA connector.

Through this whole process, I have acquired a collection of SF1 boards in both the pneumatic, and 6-button configurations. From my small sample of boards, I have found that there are two different versions of the SF1 PCB composed of 3-board stacks. Unmodified, the SF1 board stacks labeled, 87120-X (X = A, B, or C), can only use the 6-button scheme. On the other hand, SF1 board stacks labeled, 86116-X-2, can use both the 6-button, and pneumatic controls. Most 86116 boards were converted from pneumatic to 6-button controls via a ROM swap. Some 6-button conversion 86116 boards were distributed from the factory, and some of these came without their pneumatic hose connectors (Biomech011 calls this the Mark II, or the Neutered PCB).

The Mark II, or the Neutered PCB per Biomech011. These are 86116 board stacks, but note the empty PCB sockets where the pneumatic connectors should be.

The 87120 board stack is technically JAMMA+ (and resembles MVS or CHAMMA), because buttons 4 and 5 for P1 and P2 are located at pins 25/c, and 26/d, respectively. The 87120 A-board also has 3 pins at CN5 to connect button 6 for both players. There are also 4 pins at CN6 that allow for two sets of speakers to be connected for stereo sound!

The kick harness pinout for the 86116 A-board when using the 6-button configuration

The 86116 pneumatic board stack has pins at CN6 for stereo sound. When used for the 6-button configuration, the 86116 board stack becomes similar to the 87120 set, but it is a bit different. Instead this board set uses the one connector (CN6 pictured above) for both stereo sound, and for buttons 3 and 6 for P1 and P2.

The easiest way to separate the A-, B-, and C- boards from each other is to remove the 4 screws on the corners of the A-board, and then remove the 4 PCB feet on the bottom of the C-board.

The B-boards from each set look almost identical. However, the A- and C-Boards from the different stacks look very different. The A-boards have been mentioned above. The 86116 C-boards contain two identical daughtercards labeled, 86116-E-X (similar to the cards found in Capcom’s 1943, and I presume other Capcom games of the era); these are absent in the 87120 C-boards.

A daughtercard found on the 86116 C-Board

Boards from both the 86116 and 87120 stacks can be physically plugged into each other, but as they are, mixing the different board sets are not compatible with a functional game. As mentioned, the B-boards from both sets look almost identical, and when swapped, the game will boot, but then crash (at least on the 3 board combinations I tested). I presume it’s possible to modify each board so that they can be compatible with each other. But this is not currently within the scope of this article, nor the skills of this writer.

SF1 CPU ROMs found on the C-Board. Note the handwritten labels.

Located on the C-board are SF ROMS chips 19 through 24. These contain the game ROM data. The original ROM chips are labeled 27c512. The SF1 Pneumatic ROM file is called, Street Fighter (World, Analog buttons); it is labeled as,, and can be found in the usual places.

The End PCB

Schematic of the End PCB

The End PCB is electronic, and has no interface for the pneumatic hoses. It was included in the Pneumatic cabinet, and contains pins to connect power, video, sound, coin, and controls for Player 1 and Player 2 (abbreviated in the document as P1 and P2, respectively). The connectors for the End PCB are summarized in Sections 3-6, and 4-24 of the SF1 arcade manual and pictured above.

The connector for P1 and P2 buttons 5 and/or 6 are on the Main PCB, and not on the End PCB. The 56-pin connector on the End PCB is strictly JAMMA with 3 action buttons per player, and does not include traces for pins 25/c, and 26/d which correspond to P1 and P2 buttons 4 and 5, respectively. Therefore, the End PCB is not compatible with a 6-button PCB without modification. Notably, two of the three End PCBs I have seen have been modified so that pins 25/c, and 26/d function for their respective buttons.

As mentioned, the SF1 End PCB was made by Atari. Jamesv833 pointed out that the SF1 End PCB looked similar to the End PCB found in the Atari game, Rolling Thunder. The Rolling Thunder manual confirms that these End PCBs look identical, and are both labeled, A044201-01. Rolling Thunder came out in 1986, and SF1 in 1987. Atari likely repurposed the same End PCB to use in SF1. This may explain why action buttons 1-3 for P1 and P2 were wired for the SF1 End PCB even though these buttons were not used on the pneumatic cabinet.

A more modern and functional End PCB

Jamma Nation X produces a type of End PCB for the 6-button version SF1 that is compatible with the CPS kick harnesses. Different configurations will be required depending on your SF1 board version (86116 vs 87120). Interestingly, the pinout for SF1 board stack 87120 is very similar to Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game.

The Junction Box

Close up of the Junction Box

The junction box is a U-shaped metal apparatus that attaches to the cabinet. It has round stickers of different colors, and the letters, SFP-20, stamped on it. Upon closer inspection, the business end of the junction box is a solid brick of metal. Each face of the metal brick has 4 holes drilled straight through; you can look into one end of each hole, and out the other like a telescope. These holes are terminated on each end by barbed tube connectors that are also made of metal.

According to the SF1 instruction manual (Section 3-5), the pneumatic controls use silicon tubes. The silicon tubes that I received from wisenheimr came in two lengths: 11.75″, and 23.75″. Either length can go on either side of the Junction Box, but I use the longer tube on the Control Panel end as this helps with installation and removal of the Control Panel. The tubes have an outside diameter of 0.25″, and an internal diameter of 0.125″ (I used a simple fuel line tube as it is red in color and pretty).

The pneumatic connectors are color coded on both the Pneumatic PCB and Junction Box for consistent installation. Player 1 Punch and Kick correspond to the Blue and Black dots, respectively. Likewise, Player 2 Punch and Kick correspond to Red and Green dots, respectively. These colors are arbitrary designations, and can be mixed and matched.

The Pneumatic Control Panels

The top of a pneumatic control panel has a large 1/4″ thick black rubberized metal plate. This surface has one large opening for a joystick, and two other openings for the pneumatic cylinders. The tops of the pneumatic cylinders are capped by two rubber buttons (officially called bash pads), and black rubber padding.

A pneumatic control with one bash pad removed. This exposes the white pneumatic cylinder. Note the rubber padding.

Each white cylinder is made of thick plastic. The top of the cylinder (streaked in black) is mobile and compressible. When compressed, air is expelled from the tube connector at the base of the cylinder. Also note one visible spring coil near the base that provides resistance and recoil when the top of the cylinder is depressed.

The pneumatic cylinder stares back at you

The white cylinder is held together by four large screws around its center. Inside the cylinder is a spring and pneumatic piston.

Exploded view of the pneumatic cylinder.

The pistons within the Control Panel pneumatic cylinders are still manufactured by a company called, SMC Pneumatics (Yorba Linda, CA). The complete pneumatic piston (Part number: CQ2B32-01-56670) was made custom for Atari/Capcom. It is unavailable, but a representative at SMC states that the configuration can be easily reproduced if the correct measurements are made, and compared to the dimensions of their new standards found in their catalogue. If you know what a “stroke” is as it refers to pistons, then you may be able to help recreate some pneumatic controls.

The pneumatic cylinder and piston topped by a mobile floating joint. The pneumatics produce a somewhat pleasing sound.

SMC Pneumatics still makes the floating joints (Part number: JA20-8-125), and seal repair kits (Part Number: CQ2B32-PS) for the pneumatic pistons. The floating joints are useful as spares, but they are industrial strength, and unlikely to break with regular use. However, the seal repair kits are easy to use, and are very useful to refurbish inconsistent pneumatic controls.

The pneumatic piston and O-rings in need of refurbishment

The following gallery gives detailed pictures of the pneumatic controls, and its components. The pictures may be helpful if you wish to disassemble the pneumatic cylinder and replace the O-rings, attempt to make a reproduction, or are just curious about how things work.


Thank you for reading, and please let me know if you have any questions. Now, let’s see some resurrected pneumatic cabinets!

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