GENCO'S "7-UP" - AND THE CHALLENGE OF PLAYING "PRE-FLIPPER"
This time I have decided to again describe one of the more
interesting early pingames in my collection, Genco's "7-UP", and
then talk about the fun and challenge of playing such "pre-
flipper" games, using the features of this game as an example of
such machines. Before describing 7-UP, however, I will digress
for a few moments and describe how and why I acquired this
particular game, and briefly tell of some of the work I had to do
in getting it operational again.
As many of you already know, when I was about 11 or 12 years
old (in the late 40's) I was given two pingames by a local coin
machine operator. These were Bally's VARIETY and VOGUE, both of
1939. My VARIETY had a crack in the backglass (in fact it was in
two pieces) which made it less desirable than VOGUE. Well, it
seems that another kid had also gotten a game from this same
operator, but unfortunately he could not get his machine to work,
having little or no knowledge of electrical circuitry as I
fortunately had. As a result of this we made a trade.
I traded my VARIETY, which I had gotten to work, with the
cracked backglass for his non-working game, which turned to be
Genco's 7-UP from 1941. I was soon able to get it working and
discovered it was a very challenging game and fun to play. I had
VOGUE and 7-UP for several years and finally sold them to an ex-
Now, a couple of years ago I was talking on the phone to
fellow pinball collector Rich Grant from St. Louis. Rich told me
he had just acquired a Genco 7-UP and I told him it was one of
the games I owned as a kid and that I would like to have one
again someday. Well, when I went to Pinball Expo '85 last year
I discovered that Rich had hauled his 7-UP from St. Louis, along
with the other machines he had for sale, primarily I believe to
show it to me and to offer to sell it to me. Seeing that machine
after so many years brought back memories of the many hours I had
spent as a kid trying to "beat" that challenging game.
We ended up making a deal for me to purchase it and Rich
eventually shipped it to me upon his return to St. Louis. I
again owned Genco's 7-UP.
RESTORATION OF 7-UP
Upon receiving the game I set out to restore it to playing
condition. The major problem was that a majority of the plastic
bumper 'skirts' were warped, some quite badly. At Pinball Expo I
had discussed this problem with Steve Young and he suggested a
possible solution. This was to heat them in an oven and then
press them into shape. I discussed this idea with a friend,
jukebox/pinball collector Mike Berard, and he volunteered to try
to straighten the bumper skirts for me. I gave them to him and
within a week or two he returned them in quite good and
definitely useable condition. The major 'hurdle' in the
restoration of 7-UP had been overcome!
After re-installing the bumpers (not an easy job for me) I
began with the electrical trouble-shooting. I found two basic
problems with the circuitry. One was that the D.C. power supply
(Genco used D.C. Power in all their machines) did not put out
quite enough voltage to reliably power all the game's circuitry
due to the old selenium rectifier which had deteriorated over the
years. When I replaced it with a modern rectifier the voltage
was too high, causing different problems. After much
experimenting with other power packs, rectifiers, etc, I finally
ended up using the power pack from my Genco METRO and using
another one for METRO, which seemed to work alright on a higher
The other major circuit problem involved the unreliable
operation of the circuitry connected with "multiple scoring" (the
scoring of 1 to 5 thousand points (or replays) when certain
"Super Bumper s" were hit.) After much investigation and "trial
and error" I, with the help of my friend Ron Tyler, discovered
that the problem was due to excessive wear in a small stepping
switch unit. The only cure, short of replacing the entire unit
(a very difficult task considering the large number of wires
which would have to be unsoldered and then resoldered), was to
use thin cardboard "shims" To compensate for the mechanical wear.
This method, although it looks a little "Mickey Mouse" if you
look into the backbox of the game, has proved to be a
satisfactory solution to the problem.
One final note regarding my restoration problems. While
working on the game I discovered that two of the Bakelite contact
actuator plates used on the large relay "trip bank" were broken.
At first I panicked but I decided to try a little epoxy type
glue. Much to my delight it worked, even under the tensile
stress of the application, and appears to have solved this
problem which otherwise could have been tragic, unless
replacement parts could have been located.
SEVEN-UP, like most of the pingames of 1941, had several
ways of winning replays. This use of alternate methods of replay
scoring was a major factor in making these late pre-war games so
The first method, of course, is "high score." In connection
with this I should first explain the game's scoring
characteristics. The basic scores are indicated in units of
1000, ranging up to 77,000. Scores of 1000 can be obtained in
several ways. All bumpers (except for the two "Super Bumpers",
whose operation will be explained shortly) score 1000 if they are
"permanently lit". I say "permanently lit" because some of the
bumpers, connected with the "ABCD" and "Diamond" features, are
sometimes "temporarily lit". This distinction will be explained
All unlit (or "temporarily lit") bumpers cause small lighted
numbers, which are arranged in a circle on the backglass, to
change. There are 12 of these numbers in the circle, each
between 1 and 5, the sequence of numbers being:
"1,2,3,1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4,5." The next hit of a bumper, after the
"5" is lit, causes 1000 points to be scored. The significance of
these numbers is related to the "Super Bumper" Scoring, which I
shall now describe.
The game has two white bumpers, one at the top of the
playfield and the other near the bottom, which are each labeled
"Super Bumper". These bumpers provide the "multiple scoring"
feature which was mentioned earlier. Whenever any of these
bumpers are hit (when they are not lit) they score from 1000 to
5000 points, depending on the lighted number (1 thru 5) in the
circle on the backglass which was just described. If these
"Super Bumper s" are lit (how they are lighted will be described
shortly) they score 1 to 5 replays, again depending on the value
of the lighted number. This is the second way to score replays
In order to score replays with the "Super Bumpers" (other
than by high score) they must first be lit. This is done in
connection with what I shall call the "A-B-C-D feature". On the
playfield there are four rollover channels labeled "A", "B", "C",
and "D" respectively. The corresponding letters are also
indicated by lighted 'panels' on the backglass. Beside each "A"
and "D" rollover is a red bumper, and on each side of each "B"
and "C" rollover are two green bumpers. Whenever the ball in
play hits any of these bumpers (or other unlit bumpers) the
lights in them cycle "on" and "off", first one set and then the
other. This, by the way, is what I meant by the "temporarily
lit" bumpers mentioned earlier.
If a ball goes through one of the rollovers, when the
adjacent bumper(s) are lit, the corresponding letter lights on
the backglass. In the case of "B" and "C" only, when those
letters are lit their corresponding green bumpers become
"permanently lit" and score 1000 points from then on. The
lighting of all four letters (A,B,C,D) causes the two "Super
Bumpers" to light and score replays instead of points.
The third way to score replays on 7-UP is by lighting a
"number sequence". Placed diagonally across the playfield are
seven yellow bumpers labeled "1" thru "7" (that is probably where
the name 7-UP came from). There are two additional numbered
yellow bumpers, "8" near the bottom of the playfield, and "9"
near the top. There are nine corresponding numbers on the
In order to light these numbers the player must hit these
yellow bumpers "in sequence", this is, "1" first, "2" next, etc.
As each number is lit, the corresponding yellow bumper lights and
henceforth scores 1000 points, until all seven bumpers are lit.
When the "7" bumper is lit one replay is scored. After that,
hitting any of the lit yellow bumpers scores a replay (rather
than 1000 points). If, after lighting the numbers 1 thru 7,
bumper #8 is hit five additional replays are scored. Then
hitting bumper #9 lights it, scoring an additional five replays.
Lighting 1 thru 7 "in sequence" is quite difficult, but then
hitting "8" and "9" is almost impossible!
The final way to win replays on 7-UP is the "Diamond
Feature". This is sort of a 'jackpot' feature and works in the
following manner. There are two rollover channels on the
playfield (one near the top and the other near the bottom)
labeled with a diamond. Next to the entrance of each of these
channels is a red bumper which is alternately lit and unlit in
the same manner as the other "temporarily lit" bumpers described
above in connection with the "A-B-C-D" feature. At the top of
the backglass are eight "half diamond" symbols, seven of which
have numbers which show if that diamond is lit.
If a player gets a ball to go through one of these rollover
channels, when the corresponding red bumper is lit, the first
diamond on the backglass lights indicating number '1'.
Additional rollover scoring causes additional diamonds to be lit
on the glass ('2', '3', etc). When a predetermined number of
diamonds have been lit (the number required being preset by the
operator) a replay "bonus" is scored.
The way this "bonus" is scored is somewhat novel. What
happens is that the game's replay counter is automatically
advanced to a preset level (either 20, 40, 60, or 75, as preset
by the operator). If, however, the player already has that many
replays to his credit, nothing happens! I guess the game's
designer felt that you had already "beaten the machine", so why
take the operator for any more.
This concludes the discussion of the many features of this
very challenging and technically sophisticated pingame. This
game is typical of the interesting pinballs manufactured just
prior to World War II temporarily halting production of all new
amusement devices "for the duration."
"PRE-FLIPPER" PLAY APPEAL
Most flipper pinball players seem to believe that playing a
pingame without flippers would be extremely dull and
unchallenging. This, I believe, is primarily due to the fact
that they have never played one. The fact is the lack of
flippers makes the game more challenging because it is harder to
"beat". There is still a great deal of skill involved in playing
a pre-flipper game, maybe even more since the player does not
have flippers to aid him in his conquest of the machine.
The two main areas of skill required to play (and "beat")
one of these games are plunger shots and "gunching". These
skills are also used in playing flipper pinball, but are relied
upon to a lesser degree with emphasis being put on flipper
action. Another form of "skill", although not manual, is the
mental skill in deciding which of the game's replay scoring
features to concentrate on to try to win replays. I will attempt
to give a little personal insight into the uses of these three
factors in playing a pre-flipper pingame, using 7-UP and its play
features as a typical example.
In playing the game the first action to be taken is of
course the initial plunger shot. Before shooting the first ball
you would probably want to decide which of the game's replay
scoring features to go for. Probably the "1 thru 7" feature
would be chosen since that is the "theme feature" of the game.
If that was your choice you would try to "aim" your first
ball at the #1 yellow bumper at the upper left of the playfield.
If the number on the backglass indicating the value of the "Super
Bumper s" was at a high value, say 4 or 5, (incidentally, it does
not get reset at the start of a game) you may try to hit the top
"Super Bumper" first, scoring some extra points, and then try to
get the ball to bounce off it and hit #1. After lighting '1' you
would try, by a little "gunching", to hit additional numbers of
the sequence (2,3,etc), since with only five balls you must light
more than one number per ball whenever possible to succeed in
lighting at least seven numbers.
Now, during the play of the first ball you may have
succeeded in other things, besides lighting one or more numbers.
You may have lighted the "C" and/or "D" letters, or you may have
gotten some good score by hitting both "Super Bumpers" for
multiple points. In any case, what you accomplished on the first
ball will usually determine your strategy on the next shot.
If you did well on your original plan of lighting 1 thru 7
you would probably continue with that strategy. If you did not
you might decide to try for a different goal, maybe lighting all
the letters (if say, you lit both 'C' and 'D' on your first
shot), or going for "high score" if you did well with the "Super
Bumpers". This, I believe, is where a lot of the "mental skill"
comes in, making a decision to either continue with your original
course of action or "switch horses" for a "better plan".
This "strategy switch" may also be unwise. It may be better
in the long run to choose a goal and stick to it even though your
first shot failed, as far as your original goal was concerned. I
sometimes believe that one reason the designers of these games
used several methods of scoring replays was so that a player
would often be tempted to switch from his original goal and thus
possibly decrease his chances of "beating the machine". This
would help satisfy two of the major design objectives of any
game, namely 1) to provide challenge and interest to the player,
and 2) to decrease the chances that the machine will be "beaten"
easily, which could reduce the operator's profit. The decision
to change, or not to change, his strategy during the course of
the game is up to the player and this "mental skill", I believe,
is of utmost importance in beating any of these games.
As I said earlier, "gunching" (nudging the cabinet with the
palms of the hands, to influence the path of the ball) is of
utmost importance in playing pre-flipper pinball. Without
flippers the player must make each ball hit as many "targets"
(bumpers, rollovers, etc) as possible. This is, of course, where
gunching comes in. Part of the skill in gunching comes from
hitting the machine hard enough to influence the ball, without
'tilting' the machine. The player must first get the "feel" of
the tilt setting of a particular machine by trial and error. The
freshness of the rubber on a game is of course a big factor in
the effectiveness of gunching. If a game has "good rubber" it is
amazing how far a ball can sometimes be deflected by a slight
push of the cabinet. Needless to say, if you dont have flippers
to cause the ball to be redirected up the playfield to strike
additional "targets", you must rely heavily on gunching (a real
'art', I might add) to make the most effective use of each ball.
I think the above discussion should give anyone who has
never played a "pre-flipper" pingame (especially one of the
1940/1941 vintage) some insight into the fun and challenge of
playing one of these fascinating games. It should also
illustrate the various "skills" (both manual and mental) required
to play, and "beat", one of these games. So, if you flipper
players have never tried a "pre-flipper", find someone who has
one and "try it; you may like it!"