On Failures & Perseverance

November 16th through 22nd marks Global Entrepreneurship Week this year – a week of reflection, inspiration, and hope for those who move beyond being consumers, and become the makers. The Entrepreneurs.

As luck would have it, this week also marks an important milestone for Video Games, Cables, & More. This week we launched our most abitious product yet, our Pac-Man to JAMMA conversion board.

If you have the fortune of owning an original 1980 Pac-Man (or 1982 Ms. Pac-Man) PCB, and are looking to connect it to a modern JAMMA wiring harness, I highly recommend you check it out! But, that is not the purpose of this post. Rather, this post is about failures, mistakes, and (finally) success – because, as a leader of any nature, and especially as an entrepreneur, you’re going to have more failures than success. Sometimes we become obsessed with another’s successes, that we fail to realize the failures they encountered along the way – that is what this story is about.

I’d love to say how I envisioned this product, created it, and everything went well. If only things went so smoothly. The design for this started back in September of this year, when researching new products I quickly realized that the offerings for such adapters was limited. Only a single US based seller sold such an adapter, and the quality was horrible. So, I did what any self-respecting entrepreneur would do – I started designing my own.

By early October my initial design was coming along, but I needed something to test it with, so I took to eBay and purchased an original Pac-Man arcade board. Anyone who has purchased anything used off eBay – especially 40 year old electronics – knows that even things sold as “working” can sometimes turn out to be anything but. So, I needed a way to test this Pac-Man board, as otherwise it’d be impossible to tell if my adapter worked or not when I didn’t even know if the Pac-Man board itself worked.

To solve this, I purchased the (then) only US sold adapter. Before I purchased it I could tell the quality was questionable. It lacks gold platting on what should have been the connector edge’s “gold fingers”, it lacked a blank opening along the connector for what should have been the connector’s key, and the board edges themselves looked jagged – have you ever seen a jagged PCB? Nope. These were all things I could clearly see from the item’s photo online – oh joy!

When the Pac-Man board and the adapter arrived I was overjoyed. Honestly, getting to test out some of this stuff is the best part, and having a literal arcade game in my home was pretty slick. I first needed to test things to make sure they worked before I got too far ahead of myself.

Testing the board turned out to be a multiple week endeavor. To save you the drama, it all boiled down to the (questionable quality) adapter I had purchased. To even get the Pac-Man board up and running, I had to first make modifications to what was suppose to be a functioning adapter. Needless to say, my laundry list of features for my adapter increased as a result of this.

With a make-shift adapter in place, I was able to return my attention to my own adapter. Finalizing the design and sending it off for fabrication in mid-October. In a move of blind faith, I ordered 20 copies of this design. Typically first print runs are much smaller, on the order of 5 to 10 boards, as problems are expected with first revisions of hardware. You’re just simply ordering just enough to iron out those problems. I, however, hot on the heels of hacking up someone else’s board, felt like I knew better. So, I ordered 20 and eagerly awaited their arrival in the mail.

Hopefully by now you see where this is going. My 20 boards arrived in late October, and had problems. They just didn’t work. It turns out I had wired them entirely backwards on one cartridge edge, so traces that should have been routed to the top pads of the connector were routed to bottom pads and vice-verse.

It ended up taking me another production revision, and a delay of three more weeks, before I achieved the product I first imagined back in September. The results were worth it, but along the way it was easy to question that. Doubts as to if I could even get this right, doubts as to if this was even worth my time and money. Doubts.

You will have failures, and you will have doubts, but you will have nothing to show for them if you cannot first persevere and overcome them.

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About Jason

Jason is an experienced entrepreneur & software developer skilled in leadership, mobile development, data synchronization, and SaaS architecture. He earned his Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Computer Science from Arkansas State University.
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