ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Arcade Manuals —

Entry written on August 10th.

If you were saying to yourself “Now, where can I browse over 1,700 arcade manuals in PDF format?“, your prayers were just answered. This is over three gigabytes of manuals, schematics, and general information about arcade machines, scanned in by an anonymous army of dedicated people, and going back up to 30 years.

My collection was previously at around 300, but that initial collection was from a different source, and the filename structure isn’t compatible with what I got in my latest set. So I’ve knocked it to a separate section from the main collection. They are likely doubles, and I’ll deal with that in the future.

The collection is one I got from usenet newsgroups months ago, and I just hadn’t gotten around to throwing it onto the site. I now have scripts that deal with this sort of stuff quicker, and so here we are. The filename structure of the current set is in what’s called “TOSEC Format”. TOSEC stands for “The Old School Emulation Center”, but at this point TOSEC format covers a ton more than just old-school game ROMs, which is what it was designed for. Here’s the document explaining TOSEC format, and since it’s not handled by any standards group in the typical fashion, it’s subject to some modifications, but also isn’t overloaded by nerds trying to break the thing in half to satisfy commercial interests.

I find the TOSEC format really easy to understand. If a filename says “Mario Bros [Schematics] [English]”, you know what you’re getting. Most of my stuff is in “8+3” format, that is, eight characters, a dot, and then three more characters. I wish TOSEC was available for this other stuff as well, but we do what we can with what we have.

Arcade manuals are this fascinating thing to me; as a kid I can count on one hand the times I came into contact with one, and somehow I thought they held all the secrets to the game. If I could just understand what these crazy schematics meant, I’d beat the game handily, truly master it.

I can even remember my first manual. You never forget your first manual; mine sits on a shelf just behind my head in my office. It was for Asteroids, and I swiped it out of an abused, dying, broken Asteroids machine at a dude ranch my dad brought his kids to. The back of the machine was open, agape, and I saw the little book on the floor of the machine and thought there it is, the key to mastering this machine. So somehow I got it into my jacket and home in a suitcase without dad noticing.

Now, of course, one merely has to grab the manual off my site; the dude ranch has been completely stricken from the equation.

What shocked me, going through the manual back then, was how it was possible to set up the coin return for different currencies, and the fact that you could manipulate dip-switches on the machine to make it run differently. This should have been obvious, but there you go, it blew me away at the time.

Enjoy the manuals, watermark free, ready to go. Now let’s make those games work!

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  1. Robb Sherwin says:

    CLUTCH! I was actually going to quite selfishly send you the Gyruss manual, because your previous archive did not have it and because trying to find a manual on the Internet is an enormous pain in the ass. It is quite handy to simply go to your archive and pick them out that way.

    There are three times when the average collector needs that manual:

    1) When you first get the game. The previous guy never has the dip switches set to how you want them (which is fine) so you need to go digging around the PCB to find the area where the tiny switch “box” is and set it right. This also requires a trip to the Twin Galaxies website to see what the competition dipswitch settings are. I suffer from the delusion that one day I am going to set a high score on one of the cabs I own, so I have to be extra sure that the settings are right. It’s preposterous and I would have more fun if the game were on an easier setting, but there’s no logic involved. The reality is that, far from setting a world record, the BBS Documentary guy will visit and, within a half-hour, crush your personal Ms. Pac-Man high.

    2) When the game breaks completely. Luckily, of the six I own the only time that’s ever happened was a simple big blue capacitor replacement. Unluckily, it was on a cocktail game and I honestly am not sure how anyone other than Mr. Fantastic can reach their hands inside to replace it. The capacitor is $9, renting the unshielded spacecraft to soak up those cosmic rays is really what make this hobby so expensive.

    3) Some little thing that has been driving you crazy makes you snap and you need the manual to figure out how to open the control panel and dive in. If Houdini were alive in the 80s he would have had “Escaping from a Xenophobe” be one of his tricks.

    The usual process to get a manual is to go to one of the many sites that have them and be forced to register (always a pain when you are already by definition irritated), use a shitty search engine to locate the manual (they never work) and then decypher the file name for the right game. Oh, you also get to deal with Acrobat and how Acrobat deals with the “screenshotted PDF page.)

    So thanks for doing this. If I can be of any help in further organizing it or whatever just let me know.

  2. Random Dude says:

    Dude, I wish you would put up a mirror of con videos and mp3s. It would be totally awesome to have a complete collection of DefCon, ToorCon, Notacon etc. Do it!

  3. I agree with (the other) Rob; these manuals are invaluable to cabinet owners. One of the first things I like to do when I get a game is set them up for “free play” which, as Robb stated, invariably involves searching Google and weird off-the-path sites in order to track down which switch needs to be flipped in which direction.

    I use them for repairs too, and I can tell Robb obviously buys games of a higher caliber than I do. At the “$200 and under” price range, my games tend to need at least some (if not a lot of) work. Again, these manuals are great for building custom harnesses, tracking down weird ground points or troubleshooting funky wiring problems.

    So amen to you, brother. Time to cross reference my list of games with your directory and see what all I’m missing!

  4. Random Dude says:

    Yeah, I guess that’s a start. But could you put up videos too? Use torrents or something…

  5. Droogie says:


    I work at an arcade, and alot of the games no longer have their manuals. It’s a pain in the ass trying to fix them too, blindly.

    I shall bring this up to my boss and see if we could use a few.

    This is awesome!

  6. Justin says:

    PLEASE hurry and tell me where I can find a printable foodfight cocktail manual!! I need it for a gift for somebody.


  7. Rosewater says:

    Are these copied from Just wondering.

  8. Stellarose says:

    Please tell me where i can find a manual for Jamma tabletop arcade machine 1000+ games.

    • Jason Scott says:

      As I find manuals I put them up, but obviously there’s a lot of manuals out there I don’t have.

  9. I am looking for a trophy hunter: Bear and Moose manual/schematic. I can not seem to locate the second gun input. I think i need to change the connectors that are on it but need to make sure of where it goes. Would also love to put it into free mode as leaving the doors open inevitably will result in extra damage.

  10. Damn! Out of 1,700 pdf manuals, no Atari Super Sprint!

  11. I need to know where the dip switches are located on the cpu so i can put it on easy, 5 wrenches, and free mode.

  12. Raymond says:

    How does a person get a manual to you? I have a copy of Konami’s Super Basketball manual and you only have the schematics on your site.