PINBALL EXPO '87
-It 's The People-
by Russ Hensen
Photos by Sam Harvey
Well, it happened again! For the third year in a row we
were treated to an all pinball show, the Pinball Expo. When the
first Expo was announced over three years ago I thought "what a
great sounding idea, but how could I ever manage to make a trip
to Chicago just for hobby purposes?" Well, as luck would have
it, I was given a cash award at work which was enough to finance
the trip. So I went and had a really good time!
When the second show, Pinball Expo '86, was announced I was
dying to attend. Again more luck, and I was able to go to
Chicago again. Then, last year I received another financial
"windfall" and had the money to go, but no show had yet been
announced. I called show producer Rob Burk every few weeks to
find out if Expo '87 had been scheduled, but each time he was
unsure whether it would come off that year. Then he finally
called to say the show was on! I was sure ready!
Again I enjoyed the show tremendously, and on the plane trip
home I started thinking about what it was that made these shows
so enjoyable to me personally. It wasn't primarily the contents
of the lectures because many of them dealt with the modern solid-
state pins which, as you know, are really not my favorites. This
is not meant to be a criticism of the shows, however, since they
are "pinball shows", not "antique shows", and these new games are
what pinball is all about today.
It was not primarily the games, etc, on display in the
Exhibit Hall, as again (with a few exceptions like the fine
exhibit of 1950's pins this year by Steve Young and Gordon Hasse)
most of these were from the Seventies and Eigthties. What was it
then? Well, I'll tell you, it is primarily the people!
It's John Campbell; who really enjoys playing pinball,
whether it's the latest digital models or the games from the late
Forties he played as a kid. It's Sam Harvey; who can always be
heard in the hall, and who enjoys every aspect of each show to
It's Tim Wolfe; possibly the youngest collector at the show,
who has finally been able to attend an Expo and thoroughly enjoys
the games and the people. It's the Gottlieb boys; who have
certainly inherited the love of the game from both their father
and grandfather, and have a real insight into the industry, both
past and present.
It's Steve Young and Gordon Hasse; who keep the 1950's alive
at all the shows, in addition to offering fine products to aid
the game restorer. It's COIN SLOT's own Dick Bueschel; who has
participated in all these shows and shared with us his brilliant
research and insight into pinball's rich and fascinating history,
even back to "ancient times".
And, of course, it's the industry people, without who's
support these shows would have very likely been a "flop". It's
Dave "mad-dog" Christensen; who's personality and wit are almost
equal to his fabulous artwork. It's Jon Norris; now a designer
for Premier, who got that job through contacts he made at the
first Expo, fulfilling his wildest dream to become a pinball
Nost certainly it's Steve Kordek and Norm Clark; those real
personalities and industry greats who have participated in all
three shows and freely shared their recollections of pinball's
past with all of us. And who can forget veteran designer Harvey
Heiss who added so much to the first two shows but unfortunately,
due to health problems, could not attend this year. I, for one,
will never forget my association with that fascinating
And last, but certainly not least, it's show co-producers
Rob Burk and Mike Pacak; who have given so much of their valuable
time and resources to make these shows a reality. Three cheers
to those fine people!
So for me, primarily it's the people! I enjoy talking to
everyone I meet again each year, getting their ideas about
pinball, and learning of their new acquisitions. I spend much of
my time meeting new faces, renewing old friendships, and passing
on all the pinball history and trivia I can. It's truly a moving
experience for me! Well, enough of that; on with the show!
Before the first talk, show producer Rob Burk introduced
pinball collector and college student Tim Wolfe from New York who
gave a brief greeting to all who attended, and expressed his
extreme delight at finally being able to attend one of these
shows. Then, pinball coil and transformer manufacturer, and
pinball and brochure collector, Donal Murphy was introduced to
present the first lecture on the subject of "Pinball Coils".
Don began by informing us that his company, Electrical
Windings, which was founded by his father, had been in business
since 1936. He said they made all the coils for Gottlieb since
that time as well as some for other companies, such as Williams
and Genco. In addition he said, they made "replacement coils"
which could be used on many games.
Next, he talked briefly about the part numbering system used
on coils, stating that many coil numbers contained two numbers
separated by a dash; the first (two digit) number representing
the size wire used (19 to 35), with the last number indicating
the number of turns of that wire on the coil. (NOTE: The
smaller the wire size number, the larger the wire diameter.) He
then said, however, that Gottlieb had their own numbering system
and mentioned the cross-reference list now available from Steve
Young and Gordon Hasse.
Don then said that most electro-mechanical pins contained 30
to 50 relay coils and some 12 to 15 solenoid coils. He then
mentioned the fact that the "bobbins", on which the coils were
wound, used to be made of fiber, but later were changed to metal.
Next, he briefly described the manufacturing process used by
his company to make relay and solenoid coils. First, he said,
they purchased the bobbins from a vendor and then added the
solder lugs for the connecting wires. He said the machine they
used for winding relay coils had three heads, enabling three
coils to be wound at once, while the machine used for winding
solenoid coils had only two. After the coils were wound, he went
on, they were "dip soldered" after diodes were added (if the
coils were to be used in solid-state games). He then mentioned
the fact that flipper coils had two separate windings separated
by a layer of insulating material.
Finally, Don briefly talked about problems which could face
the person repairing or restoring an older game. He said the
main problem which can damage coils was over-heating. If you
have to replace a completely unknown coil, he commented, as a
last resort you could measure the wire size (with a "wire gauge")
and try counting the turns on it (a sometimes difficult job he
pointed out). He suggested that when restoring a game all
flipper and "pop-bumper" coils be replaced. He then mentioned
that his company made flipper coils which provided a good
The next lecturer was introduced as Ed Schmidt of Bally to
talk on pinball repair. Mr. Schmidt had started with Bally in
1969 and was originally connected with slots. In 1980 he was
transferred to field service where his work involved repair
problems, including pingames.
Mr. Schmidt began his talk by describing the introduction of
"electronic" pingames at Bally. He said that prior to 1976 Bally
was like a "team" and the engineers wore ties. In the period
between 1974 and 1976, he went on, Bally started developing
solid- state technology for pins using a BOW AND ARROW machine
which they converted to solid-state. He said their first
production game to use this new technology was FREEDOM, followed
by EVIL KNEIVEL.
The introduction of electronic pins, he said, "took the
market by storm". Production at Bally increased from 25 to 400
games per day in a period of two years. He said the factory went
through a big change during the conversion from electro-
mechanical to solid-state games. The "electro-mechanical people"
he said were afraid of the "solid-state people", and vice-versa.
Ed then began to talk about service problems involving the
new technology. He first categorized the types of problems which
could occur, namely: power supply, connector, coils, and
microprocessor (which he likened to the "score-motor" in electro-
Next, he discussed problems with soldering. He first
cautioned people to be extremely careful when soldering on
printed circuit boards lest they damage the components from over-
heating. He then described the "cold solder joint" which could
cause intermittent problems in games. He said a cold solder
joint resulted if both the wire and the metal it was being
soldered to where not heated equally.
Mr. Schmidt then passed out a solid-state pingame service
manual to everyone and began describing the two "solid-state
systems" which had been used by Bally in pingames. He said that
between 1976 and 1985 they used the "6800 system" and the games
of that period had up to 60 lamps and 19 coils. Then he said
they switched to the current "6803 system" which could handle up
to 90 lamps and 19 coils. He stated that printed circuit boards
were generally interchangeable between games employing the same
Next he began talking about trouble-shooting and
maintenance. He said that connectors were often a source of
problems, but that the recent introduction of a "three sided pin"
should help. He also suggested using a "jumper wire" as a way of
testing suspected bad connections, a method which, I might add,
has been around almost since pingames were first electrified.
He then discussed switch (contact) maintenance. He pointed
out that the switch blade next to the insulator should always be
the one which is adjusted, and then went into a detailed
discussion of why switch "follow-through" (the rubbing of the two
contact surfaces during operation of the switch) was very
important to proper operation of a game. He then briefly
discussed proper adjustment of the contacts used on "slingshot
Mr. Schmidt next gave out the toll-free phone number for
ordering Bally schematics and manuals (1-800-323-7182). He said
there was a $10 charge for schematics for electro-mechanical
games, and stated flatly that no information on "bingo pinballs"
could be provided due to Federal Law.
Finally, he gave a brief demonstration of some of the built-
in maintenance features of Bally games, using a current game, and
then concluded his presentation.
Once again this year Steve Young and Gordon Hasse were
present at the Expo to share with us their special love for the
classic pingames of the 1950's. But this time we had a special
treat in store as they brought with them, for all to see and
enjoy playing, ten of their favorite games of that era. And to
get everyone in the mood, Steve and Gordon gave a slide-show
presentation which they titled "50's Follies".
Steve began the presentation by saying that unlike Gordon,
who had grown up playing pinball, his personal interest in pins
started about 1972, but he hastened to add that he had since
"tried to make up for lost time." Steve next told us some of his
personal reasons for finding games from the era of the Fifties so
appealing. He said they felt "friendly" because they were made
of wood, and that their art was very appealing, including that on
the cabinet. He went on to tell of their exciting play features
and the many ways to win replays on them. Finally he said there
was no "game over" and therefore a player could test the "tilt"
prior to inserting a coin.
Steve next told of the games they had brought to the show,
games from the personal collection of himself and John Fetterman,
which he considered the "best games to play". He described a
special tournament to be played on those games in which anyone
who desired could participate.
Steve and Gordon then began to describe each game, with
Gordon providing a little historical insight into the year of
manufacture of the game, and Steve providing descriptions of the
game's features, sometimes telling how a particular game was
obtained by he and John.
The first game described was Gottlieb's JOKER from 1950.
Replays could be awarded in several ways: high score, "points",
and a "mystery rollover". Steve explained in detail the
complicated "point" scoring system, and the "joker feature"
associated with it, which enabled the player to get extra
"points". The game's "reverse flippers" were also mentioned.
Steve told us that this machine had once been in a museum in
Pennsylvania and later was purchased by John Fetterman when his
girlfriend (now his wife) heard it advertised for sale on a local
Next came Gottlieb's KNOCKOUT, also from 1950. The great
animation on this game (a boxing ring in the center of the
playfield, complete with two fighters and a referee) was
described, as was the "knockdown" point scoring system used as an
adjunct to high score on this game. The "ball saver" gate, which
kept each ball from exiting the playfield until 300 thousand
points had been scored by it, was also described. It was
mentioned that that feature only appeared on six other Gottlieb
pins including MINSTREL MAN, 4-HORSEMEN, HAPPY-GO-LUCKY, MERMAID,
GLAMOR, and WILD-WEST.
The next game was Gottlieb's MINSTREL MAN from 1951, another
very interesting and fairly rare pingame. The backglass was
described as displaying likenesses of Al Jolson (in "black-face")
and Lena Horne. Three "minstrel" drop targets, as well as the
"ball-saver" gate, were mentioned. Also described was a "1 - 5"
bumper sequence which scored "points" when completed and an "A-B-
C-D" feature. Gordon said that he thought that the consecutive
release by Gottlieb of KNOCKOUT and MINSTREL MAN was "the
greatest one-two combination ever delivered in the history of
Then came Gottlieb's HAPPY DAYS of 1952. It was mentioned
that this game was a definite "take-off" of Gottlieb's SCHOOL
DAYS from 1941. We were told that in this game there was no
"drain" at the bottom of the playfield, the ball being
continually played off the flippers until it landed in one of the
9 "trap holes" in the center of the playfield which were placed
in a Tic-Tac-Toe configuration. Free games on HAPPY DAYS could
be obtained by "high score", by completing a Tic-Tac-Toe, or by
one of 2 "specials" at the top of the playfield which could be
lit by completing a "1 - 8" bumper sequence. All in all this
was a very novel and challenging game. Gordon even mentioned the
fact that his parents gave him one of these games for Christmas
Next we had Williams' FOUR CORNERS from October of 1952.
Introducing this game Gordon said that at that time America was
"at the crossroads" as construction of the Interstate Highway
System had just begun, which was to cause a severe decrease in
business revenues in the small towns to be bypassed by the new
highways. Steve then described the game's play features,
including it's "trap holes" which allowed replays to be won by
lighting numbers on the backglass, an idea obviously copied from
the "in-line bingo" games being produced by Bally and United at
that time. The "impulse flippers", which only flipped once for
each depression of a flipper button, were also mentioned.
Finally, Gordon returned to praise the game's fantastic artwork,
both on the backglass and cabinet, produced by the pinball art
great who has appeared at all of the Pinball Expos, Mr. George
The next game to be described was Gottlieb's CORONATION from
November 1952. It was pointed out that the game's theme was
taken from the coronation of Miss America of that year, not Queen
Elizabeth II which also took place around that time. Steve said
this game was one of his all-time favorites, saying it was truly
a game of strategy. He then went on to describe in detail many
of the game's features, including a "million point trap hole",
it's "point" system, and "number sequence". Finally Steve told
how he acquired his CORONATION, which turned out to be the exact
same machine he had played during High School.
Next up was Gottlieb's QUEEN OF HEARTS from December 1952.
Steve described the game's "many ways to win", including a "1 -
6" sequence lighting roll-unders for Special, 4 suits lighting a
Special rollover, high score, points, and the "drop-holes" which
gave from 1 to 7 replays for various Poker hands. Later Gordon
mentioned that this game was the personal favorite of Gottlieb's
famed designer Wayne Neyens. And, at the end of the lecture, it
was announced that Silverball Amusements had produced a ten color
silk-screened poster of the QUEEN OF HEARTS backglass which was
available for $35, and a beautiful poster it was too!
Moving to 1953, the next game was Williams' PALISADES from
July of that year. Gordon began by describing the year 1953 and
saying that this was probably the beginning of the popularity of
"Rock And Roll" music. Stave then described the games's features
including a "1 - 9" sequence, star rollovers, saucer kickouts,
and "auto-flippers" (a flipper device activated automatically
when a ball landed in a shallow hole just above it). Later
Gordon described the backglass depicting a poolside scene of a
rich home in Southern Californias Pacific Palisades area, an area
in which, I might add, Harry Williams himself once lived,
probably at the time this game was produced. Steve also
mentioned that this was the first game he had even owned!
Then came Williams' C-O-D from September 1953. This game's
many features were described including it's asymmetric playfield,
and a Special (located between the flippers) which could be
obtained either by completing a "1 - 8" number sequence (obtained
from a combination of rollovers and kickout holes) or by certain
"trap hole" combinations. Steve said that he originally bought
C- O-D from Expo producer Rob Burk back in 1981.
The last, but certainly not least, game to be described was
from May of 1954, Gottlieb's famous DRAGONETTE. Steve described
the many objectives of the game, such as the "parrot's eye"
Special (obtained by lighting "A" and "B"), the four corner trap
holes for a replay (with an additional one for also getting the
center hole), the "1 - 8" sequence (which must be gotten in
order) and, of course, high score, and "points" (which are given
on this game in increments of 5). Finally, Gordon remarked that
this game was "pop culture, based on pop culture, based on pop
culture"; as it was a pinball game based on a popular TV show
(Dragnet, of course) based on the radio show of the same name.
At the end of their talk Steve and Gordon unveiled the QUEEN
OF HEARTS poster (which I mentioned earlier) and described this
and other items they had for sale. They mentioned that this
poster was the first offering in a proposed series of such
posters. Finally, they gave the rules of their "50's Follies"
pinball tournament in which anyone playing any of the games could
submit their highest score on any or all machines. The "catch"
was that which game would be the "tournament game" would be
decided by a random draw after the tournament. How's that for a
PINBALL ART SEMINAR
Next on the agenda in the Lecture Hall was a panel
discussion, in a question and answer format, on Pinball Art. It
featured five well-known pinball artists of both the past and
present. The first panelist was George Molentin who, as most of
you should know, was quite active from 1935 through 1979 becoming
the Art Director for Advertising Posters, the job-shop that
produced much of the artwork for many of the major pingame
manufacturers since the Thirties. Next came Dave Christensen
who, of course, produced much of the great Bally artwork of the
1970's. The other panelists included Mark Sprenger from Williams,
Tony Ramunni, who has worked for both Bally and Williams, and
Sheamus McLaughlin, having done art for both Williams and Game
Several of the questions asked dealt with the methods of
transforming the artwork to the backglass. It was first asked
why the color/texture of backglasses appeared to change around
1978 or 1979. It was answered that at that time the "4-color
process", introduced by Paul Faris at Bally, began to be used.
It was later asked how the picture was actually printed on the
glass, George Molentin answering that it was done since the
Thirties using "silk-screening". He also mentioned that doing
this on the "mirrored glasses" was quite expensive.
A later question provoked a great deal of discussion. It
was asked how the panel felt about the new type of "photographic"
backglass art, originally introduced by Premier; was it good or
bad? Tony Ramunni stated that Bally was starting to use it, but
was investigating new ways of using photography on glass. Mark
Sprenger next said that Williams will never use it, and Sheamus
then said that he thought it to be "flat and ugly", saying he
"liked backglass art that 'pops'".
George Molentin then said that his only connection with
photography was when he was involved with producing the glass for
CHARLIE'S ANGELS. Finally, a Data East representative from the
audience told of some of the problems and expenses they had
encountered using this technique. He likened producing such a
glass to movie production, saying it required locations, sets,
make-up, and models. He went on to say that it was six to seven
times more expensive than using art. Why do it then? He said
that this was 1987 and the people wanted something different and
Other questions dealt with colors. When asked which colors
were good it was generally agreed that blues, reds, and yellows
were popular colors for backglasses. When asked about bad colors
it was agreed that green was very bad. Black and magenta were
also said to be poor choices. It was also asked why the colors
on the flyer for ROGO were different than on the game itself?
Dave Christensen replied that colors for a game were often
altered, due to adverse comments from game distributors, between
the time the test models were put out and the start of the big
production run for a game.
Other questions dealt with the actual creation of the
artwork, and the relationships between artists and others at the
plant. When Sheamus was asked if he did all the art for a game
he replied "yes", but went on to say that he also worked closely
with the game designer as a "team". He then said that the artist
many times gets involved in the original concept for a game, and
even with the placement of the lights on the playfield and
George Molentin went on to say that he worked with designers,
such as Harry Williams, determining how to layout the score
numbers on the backglass in the old days in order to work them
into the artwork. He also said he did the art for the playfield
and cabinet, as well as the backglass. In general, all the
artists agreed that "teamwork" between the artists and game
designers was very important.
When asked how much time is normally involved in doing the
artwork for a game, it was generally agreed that two to four
months was about the average. It was also stated that more time
was allowed when game sales were good. George Molentin pointed
out that in the "old days" they were usually given only about a
month to do the artwork.
The artists were also asked to name their personal favorite
pinball art. Dave said his favorites were MATI HARI and
GROUNDSHAKER. Sheamus replied his favorite was PHAROH. Tony
named MOTORDROME, and Mark decided on 8-BALL DELUXE. George said
his favorite was probably United's MANHATTAN.
When asked what they thought about the mechanical animation
used behind the backglasses of several games of the 1960's, they
agreed that it was expensive to implement and was somewhat of a
handicap to the artist to work around.
Finally, George Molentin was asked if he missed being in the
business. To this he answered that he "enjoyed it while he was
in it", but also "enjoys retirement".
PINBALL PLANT TOUR
The next item on the Expo agenda was the annual pinball
plant tour. This year it was "a new kid on the block", Data East
Pinball, that was to do the honors. Before boarding the busses
to travel to the plant, we gathered in the Lecture Hall for a
pre-tour briefing by Data East Pinball executive Gary Stern, who
many of you should know is the son of long-time pinball executive
Sam Stern. Sam was once partners with the late Harry Williams in
the 1950's at Williams, and many years later founded now defunct
Stern Electronics by buying out the old pioneer pinball company,
Gary first described the corporate background of Data East
Pinball, explaining that it was a subsidiary of Data East U.S.A.
(a producer of video games) which, in turn, was a subsidiary of
Data East of Japan. He then explained that his company is a
design and assembly outfit, with the parent company doing the
selling and distribution of the games, and producing many of the
electronic sub-assemblies for them.
He then described his plant, which he said has an area of
12,000 square feet, as being divided into separate areas for
cabling, playfield assembly, cabinet assembly, testing and
shipping, as well as design engineering. He said that currently
they are assembling about 20 games a day with a potential of 50
in the future. He also mentioned that his company was started in
November 1986 and moved to the present site on may 12, 1987.
Gary then explained that his company was set up to do
assembly only, for the following reasons: 1) It took only a
short time to get into business; 2) Less personnel training was
required; 3) A relatively small capital investment was needed;
and 4) Outside help was available (when needed) from the parent
company, vendors, and sub-contractors. He then gave the
following reasons why he decided to go into business: 1) he
thought more pinballs were needed and that the demand would grow;
2) he felt there would be more kids in the future to play the
game; and 3) there was a good foreign market.
Finally, Gary described the types of games he wanted to
produce. He said he wanted to combine the "best features of past
games" with new ideas from his designers. He also wanted to use
good stereo sound and speech in his games he said. Just before
leaving for the plant Gary announced that people from other
pinball companies were invited on the tour, in contrast to other
companies who had prohibited this.
While at the plant we first saw the cable forming area and
then the playfield preparation line where drilling and then
assembly of the playfields were performed. Our guide pointed out
how the "material flow" progressed in the plant, starting at the
receiving docks and proceeding through the assembly lines.
After seeing where the backboards and cabinets were
assembled, we were shown the "test line" where completed games
were tested prior to packaging for shipment. In one area of the
plant we all noticed what appeared to be a pinball machine which
was completely covered up. When someone asked Gary Stern about
it he jokingly said "you weren't supposed to see that."
After seeing the plant we returned to the hotel Lecture Hall
where Data East personnel were set up to answer any questions we
might have about their operation or games. The first question
asked was why did they use "type 44" lamps? It was answered that
this was an "industry standard" and compatible with the
operator's spare parts supplies. When asked if their design was
done "in house" or "free lance", the answer was "both".
Someone then asked how long a game was kept in production?;
the answer given was "as long as the game is selling". When
asked if they had a "Union Shop" Gary answered "no", and
continued by saying it was not necessary as they treated their
people well. Gary was then asked about the pay level of his
people, compared to that in other pinball companies. He replied
that in general others paid more, but that this was primarily due
to the fact that employees at other plants had been with the
companies longer, and therefore got higher pay.
Gary was then asked what he had learned from his association
with Stern electronics. He replied, "stay out of videos", and
that "the production techniques needed change". Finally he was
asked why game prices today are about the same as they were
several years ago. He replied that "the selling price of a game
has nothing to do with cost, but is what the market will bear".
He then said that there was less profit margin today. Gary then
ended by quoting a slogan which they planned to use on future
games; "Built With American Pride By Don Thorne And His Dynamos".
The last thing on Friday's agenda was the annual Designers'
Seminar. The pinball designers (and one operator) sitting on
this year's panel were: Jon Norris of Premier, Joe Kaminkow of
Data East, Steve Epstein well-known owner of New York City's
Broadway Arcade, Dennis Nordman from Bally, Steve Ritchie of
Williams, and the panel's moderator, our old friend Steve Kordek,
also from Williams. This session was again conducted in a
question and answer format with the questions coming from the
The first question asked was whether the cabinet style used
by Bally on their new DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS game would be used on
future pins? Dennis Nordman answered that this was not known at
that time, but that it was a new idea.
The panel was then questioned regarding their views on
various types of flipper designs, including the curved "banana
flippers" which had been used on some games in the past. Jon
Norris commented that he preferred conventional style flippers as
the "main flippers" on a game. Joe from Data East said he liked
his company's new flipper design and added that they are
currently working on a "new ball propelling idea". Steve Ritchie
then remarked that the flipper was the "mainstay of pinball" and
said that the use of curved flippers "takes a lot out of a game's
earning power". Dennis Nordman of Bally tended to agree.
Finally Steve Kordek remarked that the curved flippers were
"exciting" and "popular with women players" and maybe they would
be used again.
The panel was then questioned regarding pingame prototypes,
and how they were constructed. Steve Ritchie replied that the
proposed playfield layout was first done on a mylar drawing which
was then put over a piece of wood. The holes indicated on the
drawing, he said, were then punched through the mylar into the
wood which was then given to a wood-worker to complete. He then
said that prototypes of special devices, such as ramps, etc,
proposed for the game, also had to be made up. After the whole
thing was finally assembled, he continued, it would be played,
and if it turned out to be "no good" would be discarded. Steve
also remarked that in some cases today, prototypes are made using
"computer aided design" (CAD) methods to produce the "whitewood"
(a term used by most pinball designers to describe their
A question was also asked regarding the problem of glare
from the backboard lights reflecting on the playfield and
annoying the player. Steve Ritchie answered that this has always
been a problem and that the only thing which helped was placing
the brighter lights high on the backbox. A later question dealt
with the problems of heat in the backbox, and specifically
referred to the use of a 115 volt lamp in Bally's new DUNGEONS
AND DRAGONS, a practice I might add, which was also used in the
late 1940's. Steve Kordek said the only solution was good
backbox ventilation which took advantage of the "chimney effect"
to dissipate the heat upward out of the box.
The panel was also queried about secrecy within the
industry. Jon Norris answered first saying it was Premier's
policy not to talk about each others companies. Joe Kaminkow of
Data East remarked that everybody knows where the other company's
"test locations" are, and then said that vendors who deal with
more than one company are careful not to spread information about
one of their clients to another. Steve Ritchie remarked that
this type of situation occurs in almost all industries, and that
"proprietary information" was kept as such. Dennis Nordman then
said that information was shared within the company and not
outside. Steve Kordek finally remarked that not many people in
the industry change companies, and therefore not much information
was exchanged in that manner.
Other questions dealt with the use of plastic coatings on
playfields. Jim Patla of Bally said from the audience that his
company had experimented with using a polyurethane playfield
coating, but encountered some problems with it. Joe Kaminkow
then remarked that Segassa in Spain uses plastic coatings, but
said "the ball just doesn't seem to roll the same". Steve
Kordek later said that there were problems getting holes and
slots to line up, which could cause the ball to get held up in a
rollover. Finally Jon Norris remarked that plastic coating to
protect playfields was not necessary if the machines were
properly taken care of in the field.
The age-old question of "3 ball" versus "5 ball" pinball
play was also brought up. Steve Kordek said the "time factor"
(ie. the length of an actual game) was the important
consideration, not how many balls were actually used. In a
discussion of the proper price for a game of pinball which
followed, Steve said he hoped that a good One Dollar coin would
someday be produced, allowing 3 games for a dollar play. Steve
Ritchie then remarked that if the price of pinball play is raised
it is important that "everybody do it at the same time".
A question was asked of the designers as to how the credit
for a design is shared if more than one person works on a game.
Jon Norris first remarked that he worked alone; and anyway, there
was no names on their games. Joe from Data East said they have
one "main designer" with others providing assistance when needed.
Dennis Nordman pointed out that at Bally there were not enough
designers to afford the luxury of two working on one game.
Finally, Steve Ritchie said he "worked with great people" and
does not insist on saying "it's my game". He then added that he
always freely accepts ideas from others.
The panelists were then asked what constraints there were on
their designs? Jon Norris mentioned assembly line efficiency,
ie. "manufacturability". Dennis Nordman said they were limited
to a certain number of switches, coils, and lamps which could be
used on a game. Steve Ritchie then pointed out that cost was of
course a major factor. Finally, Steve Kordek said that serious
consideration had to be given to how much time and money could be
expended to develop a new game feature. He also remarked that if
an idea was very good, and worth including in a game, the price
of the game might have to be increased.
It was also asked how long should it take for an operator to
make back his initial investment in a new game? One of the
operators in the audience answered that 10 weeks gross should
approximately equal the cost of the game. The designers did not
seem to disagree what that.
The panelists were then asked to comment on "wide body"
games. Steve Kordek said they were more costly to build; Jon
Norris then mentioned problems with moving them and the limited
space in some arcades. Joe Kaminkow then remarked that this
might be something that the kids might enjoy, but said he
personally preferred standard size games. Steve Epstein remarked
that these games might be good to justify 50 cent play. Dennis
Nordman then said that they had a lot of potential, but generally
had "too much at the bottom of the playfield". Steve Ritchie
said that it was harder to make them play well. Steve Kordek
finally commented "maybe there will be a place for them
eventually, especially for 50 cent play".
The last question asked of the panel was what each thought
was the "most exciting 1980's game design"? Jon Norris said he
liked the use of "alpha-numeric displays", but did not mention
any specific game. Joe Kaminkow said that SPACE SHUTTLE "helped
bring pinball back"; he also mentioned the "light show" on HIGH
SPEED and the "new dimension in sound" on his own company's LASER
WAR. Steve Epstein named FLASH which he said had a "benchmark"
light and sound package. Dennis Nordman said he thought that the
introduction of "ramps" was exciting, as well as all the "special
effects" which have been used in the Eighties. Steve Ritchie
then commented that there was "lots of good stuff" and said it
was hard to say what was the most important. Steve Kordek
finally stated that he thought that Williams was "responsible for
the resurgence of pinball with SPACE SHUTTLE."
To end the session each panelist commented on what he
thought about the future of pinball. Jon said he really couldn't
comment about the future from Premier since that type of
information was "proprietary", but did mention that "his new
game" would be coming out shortly. (NOTE: the game is called
DIAMOND LADY and was released early this year). Joe Kaminkow
next said that Data East is "striving to make a 'maintenance
free' pingame". Dennis Nordman said that Bally is working hard
in all areas including sound, and new~materials and processes.
Steve Ritchie just said that "it looks exciting".
PLAYFIELD DESIGN WORKSHOP
First on the agenda on the second day of the Expo was a
"workshop" on pinball playfield design. Conducting this session
was pinball designer Greg Kmiec who started designing for Bally
in 1975. He designed many Bally "classics" of the Seventies and
Eigthties such as WIZARD, KNOCKOUT, OLD CHICAGO, CAPTAIN
FANTASTIC, NIGHT RIDER, PARAGON, and XENON.
Greg said the subject of his presentation was how a pinball
playfield was designed, "engineering wise". He then gave a brief
"chalk talk" regarding pinball design philosophies. He began by
saying that there were two primary approaches to designing a
game, namely "form" and "function". Form design, he said, was
designing around the playfield parts of a game without
consideration of the game's "theme". In this design approach he
stated that the designer concentrated on the physical reaction of
In designing by "function", he went on, the idea or concept
of the game (ie. "theme") determines the playfield layout. This,
he said, is how most designs are created today. He went on to
say that this gives the designer the luxury of starting with a
theme concept and designing the game's "form" around it.
As a sidelight, he told how the original theme ideas for
some games ended up being changed before the design was complete.
He said that CAPTAIN FANTASTIC started out as "Super Shooter",
and that the original idea for WIZARD was a magician, like
"Merlin". He told us that PARAGON, his first wide-body design,
was originally to be called "King Midas", with the bonus spelling
the name; but since the bonus required two more lights, they
finally changed the name to PARAGON. He said many games today
could fit other themes. He also showed us the preliminary
playfield design he had made for a game that started out to be
"Starship", but ended up as SST. He remarked that this required
changing the names of several areas on the playfield.
Greg next pointed out that no matter which design philosophy
you are using several things should be considered in your design.
He said you should rely on past experience and history, but also
consider the contemporary market, ie.. "what is 'hot' today". He
then said that the designer should often try to look for a "new
twist" and "one-up" the other manufacturers.
Next he talked at some length about things to keep in mind
during the actual design process. He said that a "skill shot" is
very important to a game, and gave as an example of this WIZARD's
buttons at the top of the playfield which flipped over targets.
He next told of the importance of making sure there was no place
on the playfield where a ball could "hang up", even if the leg
levelers were badly adjusted by the operator.
Greg than talked about the importance of "action" in a game.
He said a game should always have an "action spot", which usually
involves Thumper Bumpers. He said the spacing of these bumpers
was extremely important for proper action, stating that 2 1/2
inches between Thumper Bumpers was usually about right. He said
in the older electro-mechanical games the AC operated bumpers
were slow, but that the use of DC power in later games speeded
them up. He then mentioned the fact that in Bally's solid-state
game FIREBALL CLASSIC, the bumpers were deliberately slowed down
to simulate an older game.
As far as flipper action was concerned, he said that flipper
to target spacing was important and that 17 inches was about
right between flippers and "side targets". He then said that the
"angle of attack" should always be considered to determine where
the ball will go when hit by a flipper. He added that you should
make possible flipper shots that can send the ball back to the
top of the playfield.
Finally, he mentioned two other important design
considerations. First, do not "kill" an area of the playfield
(or a game feature) such that if you get the ball there a second
time nothing good for the player can happen. He then talked
about the importance of "last ball suspense". He said that the
further into the game the player gets, the easier it should be
for him to score.
After concluding his "chalk talk" on design philosophies and
considerations, Greg began to create an actual design with the
aid of the audience. He got out a 20 by 42 inch sheet of white
cardboard and drew in the top and bottom arches of a playfield.
He then proceeded to go from person to person in the audience
asking each a question regarding the characteristics of the game
This question and answering process, with Greg drawing out
the resulting design on his "playfield", went on for over an
hour, quite a bit longer than the entire session was originally
scheduled to last. The audience's choices covered such things
as whether the game should be "multi-level", "multi-ball"; the
placement of the flippers, slingshots, eject holes, etc; and many
other aspects of the game, including the characteristics of the
"action area" on the playfield. When this session finally ended,
the drawing was chocked full of information, and everyone in the
audience, I am sure, had a much better feel for all the various
aspects of design which are required to create a modern pingame.a
The second session on Saturday morning's agenda featured
fellow COIN SLOT author Dan Kramer with a presentation titled
"Atari Pinballs, Innovators of a New Age". Dan was introduced by
Rob Burk as an "incurable pinball romantic" who, he said,
obtained and restored games as well as writing articles for
Pinball Collector's Quarterly and COIN SLOT. It was also noted
by Rob that Dan had worked at Atari between 1980 and 1984.
Dan began by asking for a show of hands from the audience of
how many owned Atari pins, but not many hands were raised. He
then passed around a paper for people to use to list what Atari
items they owned. While this "survey" was going on we were all
treated to a tape recording of the Country and Western song from
around 1950, "Pinball Millionaire".
Dan then started his talk by remarking that "everyone tries
to make money from pinball". He said players make "side bets"
and sell their replays; operators try to find "good territories"
so they can make better profits from the games they purchase;
repairmen work hard for a "service fee"; and collectors spend
time and money on games, and sometimes make a little money
selling a game or two. He said, however, the "big stakes" in
pinball are in the areas of design, manufacturing, and sales.
He next told of the rise of the pinball industry, beginning
in the early Thirties, when some companies started out with
pingames, while others, who manufactured other types of coin
machines, added pingames to their lines. Chicago, he said,
became the "hotbed of game manufacturers" and by the early 1940's
housed some eight to ten major pingame manufacturers (such as
Gottlieb, Bally, Exhibit Supply, Genco, Chicago Coin, Keeney, and
Stoner) plus a few smaller outfits such as Baker and Success.
World War II, he went on, curtailed pingame production
(except for a few "conversions") but did spawn United and
Williams. Then in 1947, he remarked, the introduction of the
flipper started pinball designers designing their games around
these new action devices. Dan said this brought about new play
features and game strategies in the games of the Fifties and
The introduction of the "long flipper" in the 1970's, he
continued, resulted in a whole new action environment of
increased ball speed and power. But, this pushed electro-
mechanical pinball technology to the limit, he said, and the
manufacturers began to realize that technological changes in
pinball design were needed, so development of solid-state pinball
Dan then shifted the "locale" of his discussion from Chicago
to the area now known as the "Silicon Valley" in California,
which he referred to as "the home of the microprocessor and the
land of the entrepreneur". This he said was a "hotbed of young
minds and of risk takers". In this area new products, he
remarked, turned small companies into large ones; companies such
as Hewlett Packard which started in a garage and today is one of
the larger computer and test equipment manufacturers in the
Dan next told of Nolan Bushnell who he said was responsible
for the video game industry. He showed us some pictures of
probably the earliest video game, called "Computer Space", which
he said had complex play features and was difficult for players
to learn. He then showed the pioneer video game, PONG, which
Nolan designed using a simple theme (that of Ping Pong) which
could easily be understood by the average person.
He said that Nolan originally wanted to call his new company
"Syzygy", but due to legal problems with that name, finally
settled on "Atari", a term used in the ancient Chinese game of
"Go" Shortly after the introduction of PONG, Dan continued,
Nolan introduced a line of home entertainment products, which he
called "board games", including a home TV version of PONG and
also "Video Music" which played music accompanied by color
patterns on the TV screen. He then remarked that Nolan always
had many things going on at one time at Atari.
Dan next told us that in 1975 pinball was "the king of the
coin-ops", and that production runs of 20,000 games were
possible, compared to runs of a few thousand for video games.
So, he went on, Atari decided to get into the pinball market. He
said at that time Atari conducted a "think tank" in the small
California mountain community of Grass Valley where they kicked
around new ideas. He said Atari took a Williams STRATO FLIGHT
pinball and developed a solid-state system for it, including
The first Atari production pinball, ATARIANS, was next
discussed. Dan said there was "lots of fanfare" connected with
the introduction of this game, which had a futuristic space theme
and was the first "wide body" pingame to ever go into production.
He said the game's score displays were located at the front of
the playfield and that it's "double flippers" were controlled by
a "rotary solenoid" which, he said, tended to wear out. Dan also
remarked that the game used "proximity switches", which they
called "star sensors", to detect the ball passing over them, but
that these could be cheated by a player using a magnet, a problem
which Atari designers apparently did not foresee.
Dan went on to say that all of the electronics for the game
were located in the cabinet, with the backbox being only a
lighted display used to attract players. He also mentioned the
fact that Atari designers included built-in diagnostic and
bookkeeping features in the game. Dan then said that this "new
image" was important to Atari, and that they thought artwork was
very important; so much so that they had their own Art
Dan then proceeded to discuss each of the succeeding Atari
pingames in chronological order, showing slides and talking about
their unique features. TIME 2000 he said utilized cabinet art
with a "multi-dimensional effect" and a live model was used for
the picture on the backglass. He described some of the game's
features such as it's "am-pm bonus clock" (with two separate
bonus "build-ups"), it's novel double flipper arrangement, and
the fact that some drop targets were used for a special "teaser
AIRBORNE AVENGER, he said, was the first pingame to be
designed by Expo guest Steve Ritchie, who started working at
Atari in the early Seventies as a mechanical assembler. He
remarked that the brochures for this game were very innovative,
were designed to attract operators, and promoted pinball as an
"adventure". Dan then showed us Steve's "whitewood" for this
game and described it's special features including a "messenger
ball", star buttons, and "ball-saver gates" on the additional
drains. Finally he remarked about this game's realistic
The next game Dan discussed was MIDDLE EARTH, which he said
was originally to be called "Lost World" but had to be changed
due to Bally using that name first. The promotion for this game,
he remarked, included such items as t-shirts and posters. Dan
then described it's features including a "2-section" playfield,
staggered flippers, and special flipper shots enabled by the
increased trajectory angles made possible by the wide body
design. Dan then remarked that each new Atari game was an
improvement over the last one.
Next, he said, came SPACE RAIDERS which again had a
futuristic theme. He told of this game's improved bookkeeping
and "coin options" which aided the operator. An important
feature of this game, he said, was it's "triple captive messenger
ball layout" with drop targets in front of each of them.
The next game Dan mentioned was PIPELINE, with a Surfing
theme, which he told us was never released. He then showed us a
photo of it's backglass which had been loaned to him. Dan then
told us a sad story of him once learning about an ex-Atari
employee but not looking him up right away. When he finally
visited the man he told Dan that three weeks earlier he had taken
all the parts necessary to make a PIPELINE game to the dump. He
did, however, give Dan one "hang ten" drop target.
The next game discussed was probably Atari's best pingame,
SUPERMAN. Dan first showed us two promotional items for the
game, an announcement from the San Francisco game
distributorship, Advance Automatic Sales, and also a postcard
promoting the game. Dan then said that SUPERMAN was "a big
winner for Atari". He remarked that the company at that time was
owned by Warner Communications who had the rights to the Superman
comic book characters which were very accurately displayed in the
games's artwork. Dan then said that the game was designed by
Steve Ritchie, and then described some of it's features,
including it's new "sound package" and excellent bumper action.
Dan said that he saw the game in a test location when it first
came out and played it for two hours! He said he thought at that
time that Atari should continue making pins. He then told us
that Steve Ritchie left Atari after he designed the game.
Atari's last production pin, HERCULES, was next mentioned.
This huge machine, which Dan said was more of a "novelty arcade
game" than a pin, used balls the size of billiard balls. Dan
said he only played three balls on HERCULES and walked away, but
went on to say that it was a good "novelty" on location and that
some are still being operated. He also told of a "marquee" put
out by Atari to be placed on top of the backbox which read: "Play
The World's Largest Pinball Game".
Finally, Dan talked of Atari ending pinball production but
"still fooling around with pins". He showed photos of a
prototype of the never produced game ROADRUNNER. He told of the
great artwork showing the two famous cartoon characters ("the
Roadrunner" and "Wily Coyote") and told of the great sound
effects developed for the game. He then described two other
prototype games, ALIEN SPACE and MONZA. Dan also talked about
NEUTRON STAR, the never realized Atari pin, the prototype of
which Dan now owns, and which he displayed at last year's Expo.
He ended by reading excerpts from an internal Atari company memo
which he said was responsible for "putting pinball on the back
burner" at Atari, from which it never resurfaced.
The last item in the Expo '87 lecture series Rob Burk
announced as a question and answer session involving the design
engineers from the industry. These people, he said, designed the
actual mechanisms used in pinball machines. When this session
started only one of the three engineers scheduled to participate
was present. Rob introduced him as Irv Grabel from Bally, who
Rob said had been responsible for such designs as the multi-ball
release mechanism on CENTAUR, the "disappearing kicker" on
SILVERBALL MANIA, the "in-line drop target", the "fly-away
target" on SPEAKEASY, and the "two-way kicker" on FLASH GORDON.
Irv was first asked why the multi-ball mechanism from
CENTUAR was not used on other games? He replied that he did not
know saying "you'll have to ask the game designers". He then
went on to describe his working relationship with the game
designers. He said he worked directly with the designers, and
when they had a "crazy idea" he, as the engineer, developed it.
He then remarked that the designers liked it that way. He went
on to say that he also likes this sort of relationship because he
can give the game designers his ideas for game features for them
Irv next told us how he got started in the pinball industry.
He said back in the Sixties he was an unemployed toy designer
looking for work and that he put an ad in the paper. Wayne
Neyens at Gottlieb saw the ad, he said, and ended up hiring him.
He designed three games at Gottlieb, he remarked, but they were
After his start at Gottlieb he said he went over to Bally as
a circuit designer for electro-mechanical pins, until around 1975
when they began solid-state development. At that time he told us
that Norm Clark asked him what else he could do and that he
replied he liked mechanical design. He was then put to work in
that area where he has remained.
When asked what was the first game to employ his "in-line
drop target"?; he replied he could not remember. Someone in the
audience thought it might have been DOLLY PARTON. He was next
asked if he thought a drop target could be designed which could
be hit from either side, but Irv just laughed. Someone also
asked if he thought it would be possible to design a miniature
thumper bumper, about half the size of a normal one? Irv replied
that it was probably possible. He then went on to say that
someday he would like to try to improve the design of the thumper
bumper, making it more "efficient" (ie. less costly to produce
and easier to maintain).
At this point two other engineers joined Irv on the
platform. One was John Lund from Williams and the other a
gentleman from Data East whose name I was never able to
John Lund was then asked how long it took to design the PIN-
BOT mechanism. He replied that design of the actual mechanism
took about 3 weeks, but that finding the right materials for it
took much longer, maybe 6 to 8 weeks. An operator in the
audience then asked if the ball feed problems he had been
encountering with HYPERBALL were common, or was it maybe only his
machine. John replied that others had the same problems. He
said he had just started at Williams at that time but remembers
this as being "somewhat of a nightmare".
Another person from the audience said he had a lot of
trouble changing Bally drop targets and asked Irv if there were
any plans to make them more serviceable? Irv replied that he
agreed it was somewhat of a problem, but that he believed that
they could be taken off without dissembling them. He went on to
say that he was not directly involved with that problem. At that
point, someone else in the audience remarked that he didn't think
Bally was so bad in that area, but said Gottlieb was much worse.
The next question asked was if there were any special
engineering problems involved with designing multi-level
playfields? The answer given was that most of the problems
involved making them serviceable, because it was hard to get to
the parts on the lower level. It was then said that in the
future designers should be more careful regarding the
serviceability of their designs.
Someone from the audience then remarked that he had a great
deal of difficulty changing the five inch rubbers at the back of
Williams' HIGH SPEED, and asked if there was "an easy way"? John
Lund answered "no", and went on to say that game designers
generally do not have sympathy for operator's problems, such as
disassembly, etc. But he said occasionally some designers try to
help with problems learned about from operator feedback. He
ended by remarking that designers must stay within cost
guidelines or games would have to be too expensive for operators
Rob Burk then asked the engineers if they had any final
comments. John Lund said that if anyone has problems with
Williams games they should contact Tom Kayhill at the plant. The
Data East engineer than gave out their toll-free service number
(1-800-KICKER). He then told us not to think that mechanical
engineers design assemblies to be as cheap as possible, because
if that were true, he said, we would encounter many more failures
in a game than we do.
Saturday night was banquet night at the Expo. This year we
were in a good-sized hall, when the pre-banquet cocktail hour
mingling began at 7 pm. Shortly after Eight we were served a
delicious steak dinner which I believe was "Filet Mignon"; not
the usual "banquet fare" that one is used to hearing about.
After that we settled back in our seats for the after-dinner
speech presented this year by none other than COIN SLOT's own
Dick Bueschel; a speech which he titled "Where We Came From, and
Where We're Going".
Dick began with "what a wonderment!", saying that we were
all there "in honor of our host - a little silver ball." He
continued by remarking "that of all the millions of people that
knew this ball, there are only a hand-full that honor it - those
in this room."
He next talked of the economic side of pinball and the
willingness of people to "pay to play". He said "we can talk of
art and aesthetics, classics and nostalgia, talent and skill,
history and playability; but unless there is profitability, it
all ends." He then talked about the thousands of pinball type
games that have been made in the past two centuries.
Dick next took us back in history to 1777 and a party given
for young Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette by his brother
at his new chateau which he dubbed, "Chateau D'Bagatelle". A
highlight of this party, Dick said, was a new type of game table
which he named "Bagatelle" after his chateau, and which Dick
described as "an elaborate table on formed legs on which the
player used long cue sticks to shoot ivory balls up a channel, to
have them trickle down a slanted playfield filled with scoring
pockets and troughs." Dick remarked that after that "pinball
had it's playfield."
He then told us how this new game, Bagatelle, became "the
rage of France", and was particularly popular with the french
armed forces who brought it to America during the Revolutionary
War. Dick went on to tell of similar games being manufactured
and used in this country throughout in 1800's.
Dick next told of a young Englishman, Montegue Redgrave, who
had settled in this country and began manufacturing Bagatelles in
Cincinnati in 1869. in 1871, he said, Redgrave got a patent for
"improvements in bagatelle" which included the use of a "spring
shooter" and a bell on the playfield. He then told us that
Redgrave's patent model is now on display at the Smithsonian in
Washington D.C. He also said that Redgrave continued to
manufacture games until 1927.
He next briefly described many pioneer pinball type games
that were produced in this country and abroad between the 1870's
and the early 1930's; games such as LOG CABIN, a version of which
was on display at the first Pinball Expo. (Author's Note: for
all the details and fascinating history of these early pinball
ancestors you will have to read Dick's first pinball book, which
hopefully will be out by the time you read this.)
Dick next commented that, over the years, "individuals in
the industry have responded to the dual challenges of getting the
commitment of a coin and delivering an entertainment value that
would bring players back for more." He went on to say "we're
only just beginning" and that the question to be asked by
designers is "what's the next idea that hasn't been done?"
Finalizing his discussion of pinball's past, Dick said that
we have been left with three "axioms". First, Harry Williams'
comment that "the ball is wild!"; second, Ray Maloney's statement
that "our best game is our next game"; and finally coin machine
publisher Bill Gersh's comment "there will always be pinball".
For the "finale" of his talk Dick presented his audience
with three proposals. First, he proposed the establishment of
"an International Pinball Hall Of Fame and Museum". He suggested
that "artifacts" be collected for the museum, and gave us a wild
list of examples. He said that this idea should result in "good
press for our game".
Secondly, he recommended that the industry nominate Montegue
Redgrave to the National Inventor's Hall Of Fame as "the creator
of the uniquely American game of pinball". He explained that
this award is given annually by the national council of patent
Finally, he proposed that the Pinball Hall Of Fame establish
annual "Montegue Redgrave Awards" with perhaps four categories; a
pinball pioneer, a living Hall-Of-Famer, an historical game, and
a current game. He remarked that this should be "a platform for
complementary press". He also said that the industry should try
to promote the game to the national press as an "entertainment
Dick then concluded his talk with the following thought:
"considering the past, there is more creativity, more knowledge,
more young talent and more seasoned experience in this room
tonight than at any time in the history of the game of pinball.
That alone promises another "golden age" for pinball; and yet
another followed by another. All we have to do is make the game
worth the money. That's our challenge. Just as it always has
Following Dick's talk a few shenanigans took place, and
finally veteran pinball designer Norm Clark was called to the
stage and seated in a chair. Following this, a string of his
friends and former business associates were called upon to honor
First up was designer Greg Kmiec. Greg said he was going to
give "Norm's philosophy of life". He said that Norm "did not
know the meaning of the word ego; or the word anger; or the word
selfish." So, he said, I bought him a dictionary so he could
look them up. Greg ended by remarking that he had never heard a
discouraging comment about Norm. Norm then said jokingly that he
was amazed how fast Greg designed a complex pingame during the
"workshop" that morning, adding that when Greg worked for him it
always took several months.
Artist Dave Christensen next took the podium. He first
remarked that he was probably the person that gave Norm his
ulcers. He went on to praise Norm's work at Bally saying that
during that time pingame production runs increased from a few
thousand to 20,000 games. Dave ended by talking about the great
Bally parties in those days, saying that one Christmas party was
"the greatest Roman Orgy the world has ever known". Finally he
said that it was a "wonderful era" and that Norm was "truly a
Next, one of the people from the Bally Sales Department (I
didn't catch his name) got up and made some "tongue-in-cheek"
comments about Norm. He ended up by saying that Norm had "a
sense of innovative creativity and an uncompromising drive for
product excellence". He then said that the entertainment
industry sure misses Norm now that he has retired.
Last, but certainly not least, Norm's long-time friend, and
co-worker at Williams, Steve Kordek got up to pay tribute to
Norm. Steve began by remarking that this was his chance to get
even with Norm for last year's "roast" of him. He then started
talking about he and Norm's favorite subject (next to pinball, I
am sure), that of golf.
Steve first remarked that even though he was older, Norm
never gave him any "strokes", except, he said, when he knew Steve
would not be able to play. He next told a story about them once
playing golf on a very cold day and taking a sip of brandy at
each tee. He said at the 8th tee he saw Norm swing at the ball
several times but never hit it. When asked about this Norm was
said to have replied that he "saw several balls and just hit at
the wrong one".
Steve next remarked that his years with Norm at Williams
were "great years", and that when Norm left to go to Bally he
bought a lot of Bally stock because he knew what Norm could do.
He next read a letter of tribute to Norm from Bally executive
John Britz who was in Europe and could not be present.
Steve then gave a slide presentation showing the brochures
for the many games Norm designed while at Williams, including
such great games as EAGER BEAVER, MOULIN ROUGE, MAGIC CITY, A-GO-
GO, APOLLO, DING DONG, LADY LUCK, JIVE TIME, GOLD RUSH, SPANISH
EYES, GULFSTREAM, and OXO.
Steve next introduced Rob Burk so he could present his
tribute to Norm. Rob said that Norm was "a terrific individual,
was always glad to be your friend, and always a cordial person as
well." He next praised Norm's accomplishments during his 32
years in the industry. Finally, Rob presented Norm with several
gifts, including a golf club with the Expo logo on it, a tee, a
stack of pinball flyers, some fishing gear, and an Expo jacket.
He then presented Norm with a plaque commemorating his years in
the industry and his participation in the Pinball Expos.
Norm thanked Steve and then left us with these words. He
said "as a designer, after you design a game and it's on the
market, the judgement of it is the amount of cash in the
cashbox". He went on to say that "players appreciate a game for
what's in it" and that "you fellows are what makes it all
Next Rob Burk praised Steve Young and Gordon Hasse for their
participation in the shows and called Steve up to the stage to
present the prizes for his "50's Follies" pinball tournament.
Steve had Wayne morgan from Canada randomly pick the tournament
machine, which turned out to be DRAGONETTE. The first prize of a
QUEEN OF HEARTS poster went to a young man named Dan Frank.
Second and third prizes were also awarded, as well as small
prizes for the top scorers on the other machines.
Following this, Rob again came up, this time to praise the
various pinball manufacturers who participated, including Data
East, Williams, Bally and Premier. He then called our English
guest Gary Flower up on stage and announced that it was Gary's
Birthday, after which we all sang Happy Birthday and Gary was
presented with a gift. Rob then presented gifts to the people
who had traveled from other countries to visit the Expo. These
included Gary and his friend Jerry Sigman from England and Wayne
Morgan and three other people who came from Canada.
Rob next presented awards to the people who assisted him
with the show, and a "Best Exhibit Award" to Steve Young and
Gordon Hasse. He then presented special gifts to Dick Bueschel
and his co-producer Mike Pacak. Following that the door and
raffle prizes were awarded, including two new pinballs, which
were both won by Tim Arnold from Michigan due primarily to the
fact that, as usual, he had purchased about 90 percent of the
The last thing on the banquet agenda was the playoffs in the
Flip-out '87 pinball tournament. The "mystery game" used in the
playoffs turned out to be the never-released LOCH NESS MONSTER by
Game Plan. Playoffs were conducted in two categories, one for
manufacturers, and one for other people. After the grueling
encounters with the "monster" were concluded the victors were Jon
Norris from Premier for the manufacturers, who was awarded a
large trophy, and Dave Hegge who received a brand new LASER WAR
THE EXHIBIT HALL
This year, as in past Expo's, there was a large Exhibit Hall
full of machines and other miscellaneous goodies for sale and
display. The first thing you noticed upon entering this area was
a large, almost deafening, amount of noise, primarily generated
by the large number of new solid-state pins which were in
operation with their various "sound effects". I coined my own
name for this area, "the din den". This made conversation
somewhat difficult, and I found it to be a good idea to leave
every once in awhile to give my ears a rest. I even saw one
small baby in the area several times and wondered if it's little
ears could have been damaged by the high sound level.
Several booths featured pingames for sale, but, with the
exception of two games from 1932 and one HUMPTY DUMPTY, no games
made before the early Sixties. There was one dealer from the
Chicago area who had a large number of machines, including
several "Add-A-Balls" and the two early games I mentioned. Don
Murphy, of course, had some beautiful 1960's games for sale, also
including many "Add-A-Balls".
The game manufacturers, of course, displayed their current
games. Bally with it's DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, Williams with F-14
TOMCAT and FIRE!, Premier displaying ARENA and SPRING BREAK, and
Data East with their exciting new game LASER WAR. Game Plan was
also present and was selling backglasses from some of their
earlier games for very reasonable prices.
There were also a few dealers selling parts. Wico was again
present displaying their line of parts and game maintenance
items, and there was a plastics company selling some items.
Steve Engel from New York also had a selection of miscellaneous
game parts and schematics for sale.
Expo co-producer Mike Pacak was of course also present;
buying, selling, and trading pinball brochures. On the last day
of exhibiting Mike also had on display a Bally BOW AND ARROW
which had been converted at the plant for solid-state operation
as was mentioned in the talk by Ed Schmidt on the first day of
the show. Rob Burk also had his usual booth containing various
Expo souvenir items for sale.
And of course, as I mentioned earlier, the highlight of the
Exhibit Hall for all us fans of pingames from the past was the
display of 1950's wood-rail pins by Steve Young and Gordon Hasse.
These beautiful wooden-legged beauties were certainly a marked
contrast to the modern electronic pingames seen throughout the
hall. These games were almost constantly in use, partly due of
course, to the special pinball tournament in which they were
used. In addition to these games, Steve and Gordon also had on
display, and for sale, their beautiful QUEEN OF HEARTS poster,
which I previously mentioned, plus their many other Silverball
Finally, there was the Flip-out '87 pinball tournament area
containing four brand new Data East LASER WAR games. Except for
Sunday, these games were only available for use for tournament
play and were kept extremely busy.
To round out my description of the Exhibit Hall, here is a
chronological list of all the pingames to be seen in the hall:
GAME MANUFACTURER YEAR
BALLYHOO Bally 1932
PLAY BALL Exhibit 1932
WHIZ BANG Gottlieb 1932
HUMPTY DUMPTY Gottlieb 1947
JOKER Gottlieb 1950
KNOCKOUT Gottlieb 1950
MINSTREL MAN Gottlieb 1951
CORONATION Gottlieb 1952
FOUR CORNERS Williams 1952
HAPPY DAYS Gottlieb 1952
QUEEN OF HEARTS Gottlieb 1952
C-O-D Williams 1953
PALISADES Williams 1953
DRAGONETTE Gottlieb 1954
GIGI Gottlieb 1963
SQUARE HEAD (AAB) Gottlieb 1963
PALOOKA Williams 1964
SKI CLUB (AAB) Gottlieb 1965
HURDY GURDY (AAB) Gottlieb 1966
FUN PARK (AAB) Gottlieb 1968
HEARTS & SPADES (AAB) Gottlieb 1969
BATTER UP (AAB) Gottlieb 1970
CARD TRIX (AAB) Gottlieb 1970
MINI-CYCLE Gottlieb 1970
2001 Gottlieb 1971
ASTRO (AAB) Williams 1971
CHALLENGER Gottlieb 1971
ZODIAC Williams 1971
POP-A-CARD (AAB) Gottlieb 1972
NIP-IT Bally 1973
BIG SHOW Bally 1974
BON VOYAGE Bally 1974
SATIN DOLL Williams 1975
BOW & ARROW (DIGITAL) Bally 1976
EIGHT BALL Bally 1977
EVIL KNEIVEL Bally 1977
WORLD CUP Williams 1977
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS Gottlieb 1978
FLASH Williams 1978
PHOENIX Williams 1978
SUPERMAN Atari 1979
ALIEN POKER Williams 1980
BLACKOUT Williams 1980
FIREPOWER Williams 1980
GROUND-SHAKER Bally 1980
SILVERBALL MANIA Bally 1980
FLASH GORDON Bally 1981
MR. & MRS. PACMAN Bally 1982
LADY SHARPSHOOTER Game Plan 1985
ARENA Premier 1987
DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS Bally 1987
FIRE! Williams 1987
LASER WAR Data East 1987
SPRING BREAK Premier 1987
CYCLOPS Game Plan 198?
LOCH NESS MONSTER Game Plan 198?
Well there you have it, the story of the third very
successful Pinball Expo. And, as I write this, I have it on
pretty good authority that Pinball Expo '88 will be a reality.
That's great! I hope they will continue for many years to come
as they provide a chance for all who, as Dick Bueschel put it,
"honor the silver ball" to learn a few new things, see what's
going on in the industry, and just get together and talk to old
and new friends. Because, after all, when all is said and done,
"it's the people" that make Pinball Expo the great show that it