Zoltan Fortuneteller

 
Zoltan is an electromechanical fortuneteller game from Prophetron using a Cousino endless loop tape cartridge, made in the late 60's through the early 70's.  After depositing your coin, you would press the button corresponding to your Zodiacal sign, hold the telephone-style receiver to your ear and hear a fortune read just for you.  In reality, of course, all of the Zodiac buttons are wired in parallel so it makes no difference whatsoever as to what your fortune may be.  Pressing any button triggers the tape player to play one segment of the tape containing a single "fortune".  The tape that I have archived here contained 14 individual fortunes, which would play in order and then repeat.  Each fortune is approximately 1 minute long.

Zoltan used the same Cousino tape loop cartridge as the Williams Peppy the Clown puppet game, however the start/stop mechanism is different.  In Peppy's case, the game played until the game circuit detected silence on the tape for at least four seconds.  Zoltan's player relies on a simpler method.  It detects short conductive splices attached to the magnetic tape during the pauses between the fortunes.  It's possible that later Peppy games were set up this way, and/or earlier Zoltans may have been made to detect the blank audio gaps as well.  More info on Zoltan is available at Clay's website.

I was loaned an original Zoltan tape which unfortunately was the victim of an attempted repair at some point in the past.  The cartridge had been broken open and the tape unspooled into a tangled pile.  After a couple of hours of re-spooling, I was amazed to find that the tape was almost completely undamaged - the loop was not even broken.  I re-spooled the tape onto an empty 1/4 inch tape reel, which was then mounted on a Teac reel-to-reel deck for playback.  The audio output of the Teac deck was digitized (24 bits, 192 kHz sample rate) and then pitch corrected and sample rate converted to the more typical 44.1 kHz sample rate.

Below is a 128 kbps MP3 file of all 14 Zoltan fortunes.  It's 14 minutes, 36 seconds long.

Zoltan.mp3 (14:36 duration, 13.69 Mbytes)

The Cousino tape cartridge player used in Zoltan is a now-obsolete piece of hardware which is often missing from the game or broken.  The tapes share a similar fate since the motion of the tape inside the cartridge will eventually cause it to wear out.  Blank tape cartridges are unavailable as is equipment to record them, although it's theoretically possible to replace the worn tape inside an old cartridge with new 1/4 inch tape recorded with the proper sounds.  The additional conductive splices would also need to be added to the gaps between each of the 14 fortunes. 

I'm planning on building a solid-state audio player for Zoltan and other tape-based arcade games.  It will be based on the MP3 player technology used in Pinball Pal's GSound board.  The GSound board is for Gottlieb System 1 and System 80 pinball machines specifically, but this future yet-unnamed "universal" version will provide similar capabilities to Zoltan and many other EM arcade games.

 

Let Zoltan Tell Your Fortune!

Now, for your entertainment, Zoltan speaks.  Just click on your Zodiac sign on the panel below, and Zoltan will tell you your fortune.  We guarantee that this fortune will be just as accurate as that of a real Zoltan machine.

The Zoltan simulator will launch a new window that will automatically play a random fortune.  Play again and the fortunes will be played in the same order as on the original tape.

In order for the MP3 files to play automatically, Internet Explorer users will need to have Microsoft Media Player version 9 or higher installed.  Mozilla/Thunderbird users will need the Apple QuickTime plug-in installed.  If you don't want to be bothered with any of that, just use the "Download this file" link in the new window to save the MP3 file locally and use your favorite MP3 player to hear your fortune.

 


Click on your Zodiac sign above and hear Zoltan tell you your fortune

Many thanks to John Gray for the loan of his original Zoltan tape and for the use of his Zoltan photos.

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