Our cinematic archaeologist and consultant on the Chariot build, Chris Pappas, gives us more insight into the finding and restoration of the most important missing components to make our Chariot complete.
A year ago I would have never imagined that we would have not one, but more than 40 Burroughs 220 light units in hand. I’m still amazed! I know John feels the same.
This past weekend at the Northeast Comic Con there was a lot of interest in the vintage 220 light unit we had on display with the Chariot. I thought I’d share some of our plans for the 220s, as well as the process we’re going through to achieve them.
As many of you are now aware, the main components of the Chariot’s dashboard were light units from a Burroughs 220 computer produced in the early 1950s.
There are four major light unit variations on the 220 and many sub-variants. All units are the same height, but there are four different widths. Within these four, there are more subtle differences; button color combinations, blank buttons or buttons with text, particular lights or buttons not present by design, etc. The Chariot requires a total of twelve light units. Last year when the Chariot was being built, there was only limited information available about the dashboard, but there was enough to determine which major variations of the 220 light units went in which spots. We built twelve 220 replicas based on this info. Over the past year, more information has become available, not the least of which was the Blu-ray release. With this new info, we can now get down as far as the button colors and, in some cases, the text on the buttons.
Currently I’m assessing all available pictures and scenes that show the Chariot dashboard. This coupled with the recent acquisition of the more than 40 vintage original Burroughs lighting units, it’s possible to figure out exactly which unit variants go where and bring the Chariot to a level of accuracy that we didn’t even know would be possible a year ago.
Since the components are now more than 60 years old, there is quite a bit of care and cleaning that needs to happen before they’re ready for installation in the Chariot. There is dust, dirt, surface coatings (possibly nicotine), many of the push buttons have seized, and the steel parts have some rust.
The first unit I restored, which took many hours, came out better than I could have hoped. It literally looks new. All the buttons move smoothly again and we have light! The process included removing the main board, every button and spring and cleaning each piece individually. Some tiny internal metal parts needed to be replaced and I custom modified tool to do the job. Because of the tiny parts, the process was very tedious and I felt like a watchmaker hunched over with a magnifying visor.
The results are spectacular! This is just one of the Chariot upgrades planned for this winter.