Obsessions: Pinball

Video Game Generation
I grew up in the video game generation. I remember Pong. I remember the video arcades. I remember Atari 2600. I have very fond memories of all of that stuff. But, if I had just one quarter in my pocket and it was between playing the latest video game or playing the beat up old pinball machine at the ignored end of the arcade, I always chose the pinball! To my child's mind then-and my questionably adult mind now-there was just something much more visceral, much more real about Pinball. I loved that the pinball was physical. It had weight, it had dimension. It had wood and steel and tin and glass. It wasn't a cartoon like the other games. Even when I didnt have money to play I still got enjoyment out of looking at the artwork and the layout of the playing field. I liked video games but I've always LOVED pinball machines.

How ironic it is that today I have dozens of pinball machines at home. I play them quite often-tonight, as a matter of fact! The only thing about my pinball games now are that they're made out of ones and zeroes instead of wood and glass and tin. It got me to thinking about how much things change over the years. Even Pinball.

I decided that since I've loved pinball from early childhood and since it's given me so many hours of entertainment over the years I'd stop playing long enough to poke around the interwebs and find out a little more about the life and times of PINBALL.  Here's what I discovered:

Pinball is a descendent of the game bagatelle [bag-uh-tel] and is a French word meaning "trifle". Bagatelle itself was a game invented with the intention of bringing outdoor games such as croquette and shuffleboard inside.

"A competition Bagatelle table is of a similar form to a Billiards table, slate bed, cloth covered with cushions and measuring 6 - 10 feet long and 2 - 3 feet wide.   The first major difference from a billiard table is that one end is rounded instead of square.  The second diversion is that instead of pockets around the edge, the semi-circular end features nine holes (in the manner of Bar Billiards), one in the middle of the semi-circle and the rest surrounding it evenly in a ring.  The hole in the middle is numbered nine, the others are numbered 1 - 8 in a semi-random order.  Rather like a Billiards table, Pool table or Darts board, a variety of games can be played with it but all involve the players standing at the square end of the table and hitting the balls with a cue towards the holes at the other end." -TAKEN FROM http://www.tradgames.org.uk/games/Bagatelle.htm
The game was highly popular in England and Britan in the second half of the 1700's through the mid 1800s. The size of bagatelle shrank to accomodate parlors and pubs-and children. Here is an example of a table top bagatelle game.

"In 1871, British inventor, Montegue Redgrave was granted US Patent #115,357 for his 'Improvements in Bagatelle'. Bagatelle was an older game that used a table and balls. Redgrave's patented changes to the game of Bagatelle included: adding a coiled spring and a plunger, making the game smaller, replacing the large bagatelle balls with marbles, and adding the inclined playfield. All common features of the later game of pinball." -TAKEN FROM http://inventors.about.com/od/pstartinventions/a/pinball.htm

So, I guess you could say that Montegue was the Great Grand daddy of pinball, eh?

The first "modern", mass produced pinball machine was the BINGO, produced by the Bingo Novelty Company in 1931.  It's interesting to note that the original Pinball machines had no legs! It was a countertop game. Another interesting fact: The name "PINBALL" wasn't even used in association with pinball machines until 1936!

The first coin operated pinball machine was the Bally Hoo in 1931.

That was followed by the first battery powered pinball machine in 1933 and the first electrical pinball machine in 1934.

The pinball bumper was introduced in 1937 in a game appropriately titled, BUMPER.

Something I found very interesting was the fact that the FLIPPER wasn't introduced until 1947! It was first used in the Humpty Dumpty Pinball machine. How odd! I would have thought the flippers would have been there from the onset. Shows ya how much this blogger knows. Anyways, the Humpty Dumpty had six flippers, three on each side and they weren't at the foot of the game where flippers are most commonly found.

Pinball Outlaw

Up until the early 40s Pinball Machines would pay out for landing balls in certain holes which caused a great debate over whether pinball was a harmless amusement or a means to gamble. In fact, in 1942 Pinball was outlawed in New York City as a gambling device. In 1950 the Johnson Act made it illegal for insterstate shipping of certain pinball machines. The ban, although seldom acted on, lasted until 1976.

Pinball makers responded by removing the payouts and replacing that with free games. They also argued that since the advent of the flipper in 1947 that that made playing pinball more of a game of skill than chance.

Biggest Selling Pinball Machine of All Time: ADDAMS FAMILY

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