Rare "Death Race" (1976) arcade machine photos and videos from the The Musee Mecanique in San Francisco

Bill Loguidice's picture

Luckily, on the last day of our San Francisco trip devoted to filming amazing interviews for the feature film, "W00t!: The Videogame Revolution", Matt and I had a chance to visit the The Museum of the City of San Francisco, The Musee Mecanique. Among the great stuff there was a pristine "Death Race" arcade machine from 1976, which was the first controversial videogame, supposedly inspired by the 1975 cult classic movie, "Death Race 2000". The object? Run as many "gremlins" down with your car before time runs out. The question is, are they "gremlins" or people? Regardless of the answer, hearing the screams as they're mowed down is surely memorable! Check out the casual photos and videos below:

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Comments

clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
Great game

I'm not sure how many of you are as old as me, but I actually played this game when it was still in arcades. Before the gameplay was converted to Demo Derby (gremlins changed to cars, tombstones changed to wrecks). I was waiting, quarters in hand when it was rolled in and fired up the first time. I would swear swear they where people, not gremlins (but i would guess that was assumtion on my part), but at that age I really doubt i read anything on the cab, if there was anyting to read. I do remeber I was more addicted to it then Space Invaders when it cam out. It was one of the first "must play' games for me. its a bit suprising, it had no real goal, no end so to speak. Just a time limit , and I guess a higher score as goal, no bosses, no strategy, unless you where trying to group crosses so you didnt have to avoid them. Suprising to understand your more 'evil" side, I couldnt get enough of this game, yet when it was converted to a demo derby game I had little to no interest. Much like the FPS of today, I enjoy most, but the paintball one held zero interest, is that some clue to our Darkside? Anyways, nice to see the videos (should have played more!!!! and the cab again.

Rowdy Rob
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Joined: 09/04/2006
Clok1966, I'm an old fogey too!
clok1966 wrote:

I'm not sure how many of you are as old as me, but I actually played this game when it was still in arcades.

Clok1966, if your login name is a clue, I may be around your age also, since I was born in 1966.

I also remember Death Race, but I don't recall if I played it. If I did, I apparently wasn't impressed enough to remember playing it heavily. I know that I at least WATCHED others play it.

Believe it or not, America had an "arcade" culture before "Space Invaders" hit big over here. Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota (where I lived at back in the 1970's) had an arcade which featured various videogames (Pong, Breakout, Space War, Sea Wolf, Night Driver, and several other vector games that I forget the names of), plus a large variety of pre-digital pinball games. Death Race, if I recall correctly, was probably among these games.

Death Race didn't interest me like the various other videogames. I thought Atari's "Night Driver" was much more interesting. In fact, it wasn't until I saw Bill's "Death Race" video from San Francisco that I realized "Hey, I remember that game!!!!"

I know I first played "Space Invaders" here in the States before we were stationed to Japan, where it turned out that Space Invaders had taken over the country and pretty much started the arcade industry there. But over here in the States, I remember various mechanical-oriented games, which included a UFO shoot-em-up which featured an actual town built in miniature, with a gun mounted to the cabinet. UFO's would rise over the town (I don't remember if they were mechanical or video), and you were to shoot them. It may have been primitive, but think about the work that went into building these mechanical coin-ops, especially with miniature towns!

I also remember that the "Skeet Shoot" videogames were very popular back then. I played it all the time at Pizza Hut in Minot, along with Pong and Atari Football. In my recollection, arcades didn't begin with Pong.

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
Wow, Minot AFB, 90% of my

Wow, Minot AFB, 90% of my arcade life was spent in the arcade in Town and Country mall in Minot (small world). I live in Fargo currently and used to live about 100 miles from Minot, my father was doctoreing in minot weekly so I was there once a week. The Town and Country mall arcade was my highlight. As for Deathrace I am not sure If i played it in Minot ever (i am sure it was there at some point) I played it in a Mini mart thing (i think i mentioned arcade, incorrect, but was I guess close as my small town got to one). Some of my interest may have stemmed from lack of other games around it. All the gaames you mention i can actually remeber playing (well except Pong, I cant ever recall playing Pong in an arcade, or if i ever even seen one, again I'm sure there was one, but I just do not remeber it). I can remeber blowing off school (when i had my first Drivers licence) and driving to Minot and going to the Old Happy Joes that was converted to a Bum and Tilt (was that the name?) in Minot. Payed $5 to get in and you could play about 100 machines for free all day. We could spend 5-8 hours in there.

As for the first game i really remeber.. Grant track? An race game Looked alot like Indy 500 for the 2600, 2 steering wheels. So I would say around 73-74 was my introduction to video games.

And my last note, I think i said Deathrace was changed to destruction derby, incorrect (yes i did some research after reading this blog). Deathrace was actually after destruction derby, it was created (possilby) to cash in on the DeathRace 2000 movie. SO destruction derby is the original, Deathrace is the knockoff.

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Sprint? Probably as you say "Gran Track"...

clok1966:
As for the first game i really remeber.. Grant track? An race game Looked alot like Indy 500 for the 2600, 2 steering wheels. So I would say around 73-74 was my introduction to video games.

Was this the game?:

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(1976 if I remember reading it correctly)

Or this one: http://www.klov.com/game_detail.php?game_id=7993 (Gran Track 20 was the two player version of Gran Track 10; 1974)

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
one of the two, for sure,

one of the two, for sure, wish i could remeber which (from screens (the part i remeber most)) they look about the same. I remebre playing SPACE WAR too, no idea on year. it had 2 rows of numbers to control the ships, can remebr thinking it was the worst controler i had ever used, but was addicted to playing it. Pretty sure it was 2 player only also, one of the original VS games. Funny how Street fighter always seems to hold that crown (Karate champ should have it long before Streetfighter). But then Pong, gunfighter, Tank, etc where all VS games long before the others.

Catatonic
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Joined: 05/20/2006
Was this game done in

Was this game done in hardware, or is it just new enough to be running on a microprocessor? I'm a bit too young to remember. The first arcade games I can remember are Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Moon Patrol, Dig Dug etc.

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Death Race
Catatonic wrote:

Was this game done in hardware, or is it just new enough to be running on a microprocessor? I'm a bit too young to remember. The first arcade games I can remember are Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Moon Patrol, Dig Dug etc.

Death Race? Pretty sure it's discrete logic with no CPU. Jeri Ellsworth seemed to assume as much as well on Facebook.

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Jeri Ellsworth (not verified)
Confirmed the Schematic
Bill Loguidice wrote:
Catatonic wrote:

Was this game done in hardware, or is it just new enough to be running on a microprocessor? I'm a bit too young to remember. The first arcade games I can remember are Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Moon Patrol, Dig Dug etc.

Death Race? Pretty sure it's discrete logic with no CPU. Jeri Ellsworth seemed to assume as much as well on Facebook.

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

I checked the schematic and I didn't see a CPU. There were cool circuits name "Scream" and "Crash". :)

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Goblin screams and car crashes
Jeri Ellsworth wrote:

I checked the schematic and I didn't see a CPU. There were cool circuits name "Scream" and "Crash". :)

How terrifically literal! If only it were that straightforward today...

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Calibrator
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Joined: 10/25/2006
Scream & Crash
Jeri Ellsworth wrote:

There were cool circuits name "Scream" and "Crash". :)

Were they for sound generation?
I only heard two sound effects in the videos and their names would fit... :-)

take care,
Calibrator

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