by Russ Jensen
This is the fourth in my series of articles describing the
pingames in my personal collection. This time the game is
Stoner's ELECTRO which came out around March of 1938. ELECTRO
has some quite interesting artwork, both on it's playfield and
backglass, as well as fairly sophisticated scoring circuitry for
The game's manufacturer, Stoner Manufacturing Co. of
Aurora, IL, began producing pingames as early as 1933. They soon
began using the slogan "The Aristocrat Line" to describe their
games, a slogan which appears on the front door of ELECTRO.
Stoner machines were always well crafted and very 'stylish'. In
fact, a cabinet style they originated sometime in 1937 (a 'single
unit' cabinet with the backbox part of the playfield cabinet) was
emulated by other manufacturers of that period.
Stoner continued to make pingames up until the start of
World War II, but did not resume pin production after the war.
They did, however, produce other coin machines, such as candy
vendors, after the war.
My ELECTRO has the original instruction card at the bottom
of the playfield. The wording of this card is interesting and
worth quoting. It reads:
ELECTRO is purely a skillful high score game. Each
bumper contacted adding One Hundred in the Mill
Wheel on the left. Balls dropping into holes give
the player an addition in the amount shown at the
top of the board at time of contact. Thousands
show on the right hand side of the backboard.
The wording of this card will become clear as the game's features
The 'theme' of ELECTRO is 'Hydro-Electric Power' and its use
in an electrified metropolis. The game's outstanding graphics
portray this theme well.
At the left hand side of the backglass can be seen a large
water-wheel (the 'Mill Wheel' mentioned in the instruction card).
This wheel is a major part of the game's 'light animation' which
will be described shortly. In between the spokes of the wheel
are shown the 'Hundreds' scores.
The rest of the backglass graphics shows large waterfalls,
and a Hydro-Electric power plant with the skyline of a large city
in the background. At the top of this picture is a 'modernistic'
electric train which is also a part of the game's 'light
The playfield graphics illustrate these same features, less
the 'Mill Wheel'. The bottom half of the board shows the large
waterfalls and Hydro-Electric power plant in detail. The upper
half of the playboard shows the large city's buildings. The
electric train is shown in the foreground running on an elevated
platform. All in all, the graphics, both backglass and
playfield, are excellent and show a much greater detail than most
games of this period.
The 'heart' of the mechanism of this game is a motor driven
'contactor' unit which runs throughout the course of the game,
and provides control of the game's 'light animation' and variable
scoring features. There are two 'light animated' sections on the
backglass. The first, the 'Mill Wheel', uses that technique to
simulate a constant rotation of the wheel. Both the spokes of
the wheel and sections of the wheel's rim are lighted
sequentially, giving the appearance of the wheel's rotation. The
effect is quite remarkable.
The other 'light animation' area is the electric train. The
eleven windows of the train light sequentially displaying
potential scoring values of zero through 1000. This sequence
continues over and over during play of the game.
The scoring of points during a game can occur in two ways.
The first is by hitting the bumpers on the playfield, and the
other is by a ball dropping into one of the playfield holes.
Hitting a bumper scores 100 points, but a ball dropping into a
hole may score anywhere from zero to 1000 points.
When a ball drops into one of the holes on the playfield,
the rotating contactor mechanism temporarily stops rotating. The
number of points (0 to 1000), shown by the lighted train window
on the backglass at that time, is the scoring value of that hole,
those points being scored in increments of 100. After the
scoring is complete the contactor again begins to rotate. The
ball, however, remains in the hole until the end of the game.
This was a very novel scoring idea and is somewhat akin to
variable or 'mystery' score bonuses which were used on games many
years later, and even today. A few other games of that period,
however, used similar scoring techniques. A game called DUX,
made by Chicago Coin in 1937, used a motor rotated wheel
displaying a picture of a wild duck which moved across the
backglass. The position of the duck at any given moment was
linked to the amount of score received when a certain bumper on
the playfield was hit.
The player's score on ELECTRO is displayed in two areas of
the backglass. The 'hundreds' are displayed between the spokes
of the 'Mill Wheel'. The 'thousands' are displayed in a 'tower
like' structure at the right hand side of the glass. Last, but
not least, the ominous "TILT" sign is in the center of the 'Mill
All in all, Stoner's ELECTRO is a fascinating pingame and
very imaginative for the period. It's superb graphics, it's
highly developed 'light animation', and it's novel 'time
dependant scoring' feature all combine to form a truly 'classic'
pinball game of it's era.