RIP Leon Borré 5/9/1939 - 12/5/2012

The pinball world lost a great man. Leon was the person behind the website www.flipper-pinball-fan.be and created the 'Leon test eproms'. Eproms that he wrote himself to help people troubleshoot various cpu problems.

Leon Borre

Leon and I met eachother 12 jaars ago. He started to post on the usenet newsgroup rec.games.pinball nieuwsgroep, I was happy to contact someone from Belgium between all these Americans.. A few weeks later I bought a Stern Lectronamo project and he would repair the cpu.

We met at his house, in the centre of Ghent. The door opened and Leon introduced himself. He was very pleasant. He didn't stop talking, he was very passionate about pinball machines and other amusement games.
Proud he showed me his collection. Vintage jukeboxes, mechanical pinball machines, even more amusement machines.. Finally we arrived in the back where his electronical pinball machines and workbench were. No spot was empty, everything was filled. On his website you can still find his own presentation with pictures of many of these machines.

Especially the first years I often visited him. I had just started my homepage about pinball machines (which evolved into this website) and he did the same, also to share his (repair) knowledge. I translated his first articles into English. He helped repairing my Lectronamo pinball machine and taught me the basics of pinball troubleshooting. Just the basics, like how to use a logical probe. I never got further than that. Leon was the master who could repair anything, almost effortless.

I was always amazed how easy he could fix a cpu. Almost immediately it was hooked up on his testbench and he was checking out all signals with his oscilloscope. Often he would find the cause after a few minutes, sometimes without even having to look at the schematics, as he knew how Bally cpu boards worked. Impressive.

Leon Borre

As a retired technicion of mainframe computers (the ancient kind that used lamps), repairing electronics had become a second nature. Any problem was a challenge for him. Not only would he look for a solution, but he would try to understand how something worked and try to make tools that could help him.

A Bally solenoid/lamp driver tester (a pcb with leds and a switch box to operate it) was one of the first repair tools he developed. I built it myself, and even used it a few months ago. I was amazed that it had been in the year 2000 that I had printed the operating instructions from his site.
I also remember that on one of my first visits he proudly showed me that he was working on his first Bally test-eprom. He held a long sheet of paper with handwritten assembler instructions. Line beneath line, instructions such as 'MOV xxx', it was cut and a piece was taped where he had added some code, and the next lines had been renumbered..

Things like this made me understand Leon was not just an average pinball repair person. How many people in this world know that well how a cpu works that they can write the instructions for it on paper ??

Leons website expanded over the years. He added additional information once he designed new test tools and eproms for new systems, or improved older designs. He was also one of the first that experimented with creating new plastics or making parts using molds. When something was required to repair a machine, he would investigate it and share his new knowledge. Large projects like a complete restoration of a jukebox were also documented in detail.

The 'Leon test eproms' became world famous, everyone started to use them to repair broken cpu boards.
Leon must have spent an incredible amount of hours behind his computer, answering the uncountable amount of emails with technical inquiries.. Always he'd think about it, trying to find a solution.
He enjoyed doing this, he learned about it himself. No challenge was too big. While other repair persons don't work on the less popular games like Zaccaria and Nuova Bell Games, he would, and document what he found.

Leon also visited all local pinball shows. It was always great to meet him again. Everyone in Belgium knew him and he was friends with everyone. Sooner or later you'd end up at his door with a broken pinball machine. If you had a machine with an issue you couldn't solve yourself, you knew not all was lost. There was always Leon as final solution. Leon could fix anything, everyone was welcome.

A few years ago his health became worst. still he did not give up and continued what he liked doing: working on pinball machines. He informed everyone that if it took a while he replied to an email we shouldn't worry, we'd hear back from him when he was better. His mails were always positive, looking forwards. That's why the news of his death was such a great shock for everybody. Most people had contacted or met him very recent, up to a few weeks ago. Everything was fine. Leon would always be find, Leon seemed immortal.

Not only his local friends in Belgium were sad because they lost a close friend. Also worldwide on forums people reacted sad to this news. Now it became clear how many friends he had online. How many people he had helped by email to repair their game. How many used his test eproms.

It's obvious that because of Leons work and dedication, many pinball machines have been repaired in all these years.
His website will continue: in januari he had arranged with Hans Balk to have a mirror of his site at http://leon.flipperwinkel.nl/www.flipper-pinball-fan.be/index.html
A part of Leon also remains in his test eproms. Hopefully they'll continue to be used to repair many pinball machines in the future, and will he be remembered through every machine he helps to repair that way..

Bye bye Leon, wherever you are now. Thanks for your friendship and all you have done to help pinball.

Leon Borre