PINBALL EXPO '90
-A new Decade-
by Russ Jensen
Photos by Sam Harvey
Well, for the sixth year in a row I had the pleasure of attending the
ultimate in pinball shows, Pinball Expo '90. The show was held on November
9 and 10, 1990, and this was the third year that it was held at the Ramada
Hotel, near O'Hare Airport in Rosemont, IL. This is the beginning of a new
decade for pinball (it's seventh) and, of course, the first Expo of the new
decade. The Nineties are starting out as a great decade for pinball, with
the "video craze" of the Eighties dying fast according to people in the
This year there was a "new wrinkle" for the evening before the show.
As is the case with many "collectables" shows, Expo attendees had the
option of paying an additional fee to be allowed "advance admission" to the
Exhibit Hall during exhibit "set-up".
The idea behind this is usually to give people who pay this "premium"
the first crack at purchasing any outstanding items that are offered for
sale. In my case, however, I paid the extra money primarily for the chance
to mingle and talk with other Expo guests and make new friends before the
business of the lectures began the next morning. Many people, however,
chose not to pay the fee and did their mingling outside the door of the
Exhibit Hall. I visited with both groups.
Expo chairman Rob Berk began the Friday morning festivities with his
usual opening remarks. He said that this was the largest turnout of any
Expo (later estimated at around 250) and that there were many "new faces"
present this year, including some visitors from Japan who he said spoke
very little English. The Exhibit Hall this year, he remarked, was in a
larger room than last year. He also informed us of some additional
seminars which had been added since the mailing for the show was prepared.
Exhibit Hall chairman Mike Pacak was briefly called up on stage. He
welcomed us and then told us of an individual who would be selling games in
the parking lot.
At that point a gentleman was introduced who had an auction outfit,
"U.S. Amusement Auctions". He told us that he would hold a special auction
next October on the Sunday of Pinball Expo '91. He then remarked that he
played pinball as a kid in the 1950's and was an operator in the Seventies.
His father was said to have been a doctor and to have obtained old games
from one of his operator patients for home use. He then said that this was
his first Expo, and that he thought the evolution of the game was exciting.
Finally he introduced his auctioneer who he said used to collect wood-rail
pins, slot machines, etc.
Rob Berk next introduced one of the Expo quests from Japan, Horiguchi
Masaya, who gave a short talk. Horiguchi began by saying that there were
quite a few "pinballers" (pinball lovers) in Japan, as well as many
machines. He told us that he himself worked for Data East in Japan. He
then showed a picture of "the first Japanese pinball" which he said he and
his friends made. Horiguchi went on to say that to many Japanese pinball
machines were very beautiful and that pinball was thought to be one of the
greatest parts of American Culture.
He then told us that they had brought to the Expo 20 copies of a book
on pinball that he and his friends had helped write, which would be
available later in the Exhibit Hall. Finally, he said he and his friends
were very excited and happy that they could attend the Expo and thanked Rob
for inviting them. Rob Berk then remarked that another reason why they
were excited about the Expo was that they hoped to bring home the "Flip-Out
'90" tournament jacket to Japan by winning the tournament.
At that point Rob said that Alvin Gottlieb had an announcement to
make. Alvin began by saying that each year Rob wold ask him if he could
attend, and if he had anything new to report. In the past, Alvin said, he
would say he would be glad to attend, but that he had nothing new to
report. This year, however, when Rob asked him he first said "things are
moving along, but I'm waiting for something to happen."
Alvin said it finally did happen and proceeded to tell us to what he
was referring. He began by saying that for years D. Gottlieb and Company
had been "a big player in the industry", that it was sold to Columbia
Pictures in 1976, and that he retired from the business in 1980 and enjoyed
his retirement. But now, he went on, "I'm about to wreck the whole thing".
He then told us that he was going to start "A. Gottlieb and Co." and of a
patent for a new flipper device he had just obtained. He gave a few
details then, but was asked to come back later that day for a detailed
Question and Answer session, which I will report on later.
Rob introduced the speakers for the first seminar, Jim Shultz and Ken
Muszynski of Foremost Plastics, a major supplier of plastic parts for the
pinball industry. Ken then began to tell us a little of the company's
He told us the company was founded in 1961 by his father Peter and his
partner Rob Hauser, both formerly with American Molded Plastics, a company
which had been supplying plastic parts to the games industry since the
1930's. His dad was the engineer and his partner into sales.
Their original plant, Ken said, was located on the Northwest Side of
Chicago, had only two "injection molding" machines, and began doing work
for Bally, Gottlieb, and Williams. The plant was later moved in the late
1960's and had eight presses, having by that time bought out American
Molded Plastics. During the Seventies they made all the plastic scoring
reels for pinballs, as well as many other plastic parts.
In 1976, he went on, the introduction of solid-state pins eliminated
the need for score reels, but at the same time the demand for pinballs
started to grow. In 1978 he said they moved to their current location.
Ken then showed us a display of many of the products they had produced
over the years for coin machines. He then told us that their company had
served the industry for 30 years and hopes to continue to do so for that
many years to come.
At that point Jim Shultz began telling us about the processes used to
produce their products. He began by saying that he works in sales, and
works closely with the game designers and engineers.
Jim said that the materials they used were normally nylon or
polycarbonates. He then described the "injection molding" process used to
form these materials aided by a large diagram. Jim then told us that an
injection molding machine cost about $100,000. Finally he remarked that
they could reproduce older type plastic parts if the demand were high
At this point the audience was asked if they had any questions? The
Foremost people were first asked what the minimum economical quantity would
be for reproducing and old part? They answered probably around 1000, but
that it would probably depend on the volume to be produced. The time
required to accomplish something like that was said to be a "set-up time",
plus 2 or 3 hours of "molding time" at a cost of $150 to $200 per hour. In
answer to another question, the cost of creating an entirely new mold was
said to range from about $1300 for a simple tube up to 10 or 15 thousand
dollars for a more complicated item such as a bumper cap.
When asked how many new molds were required for a new game the answer
was usually from none to two. When asked if they kept an inventory of old
parts, the answer was usually not as they tried to sell those to "parts
houses" such as WICO. A question regarding the type of adhesive to use to
repair plastic parts was answered by saying not to use "super glue", but
use an adhesive designed for polycarbonates.
A final question dealt with whether or not new molds were
"proprietary" to one manufacturer. The answer given was that if a
manufacturer paid the tooling costs for a mold then it was "proprietary" to
him. If, however, Foremost paid for the tooling then any company could buy
parts made from that mold. After the gentlemen from Foremost had concluded
their presentation Rob Berk remarked to them "hold on to those molds,
TURN UP THE VOLUME
Rob next introduced two pinball "sound engineers", Robin Seaver and
Brian Schmidt. They started by saying "this is a strange living". The
remark was then made that pinball sound employs "the best speakers $2 can
buy". They said that it usually takes a lot of time to perfect the sounds
for a pinball (maybe as much as a year) and sometimes their work seems in
vain as the volume on a game is often turned down in a bar location.
Pinball sounds were then said to have changed quite a bit in the last five
The audience was then asked why they thought sounds were used on
pingames? The answers given included: for the "attract mode"; voice
instructions to players; to make you smile; to add excitement to the game;
and to provide "feedback" to the player to let him know when certain game
features have been accomplished.
At that point questions from the audience were solicited. When Las
Vegas' Mark Fellman asked why the operator could not have more "selection"
over the various sound features, they replied that "memory space" in the
machine limits the variety of sounds which can be included, and also that
the sounds and music are often "tied together" and eliminating one would
affect the other.
When asked if a game could be possible which could respond to the
players verbal comments, they said "that might be fun", but failed to
elaborate. When questioned regarding the addition of headphones to games,
it was said that it had been tried but players did not use them. Regarding
the use of stereo, the designers said it makes great sound but adds to the
cost of the games.
The speakers were than asked how the design process worked? The
process was said to begin with the game designers and artists selecting a
"theme", the sounds being required to "reinforce" that theme. The sound
designer was said to study the artwork when deciding on the sounds for a
game, the sounds being easier to change than the art. The music in a game
was said to have to be made to also match the "game rules". Finally, the
"speech script", it was remarked, often was used to "direct" the player
during the game.
When asked how much "non-repetitive" sound could be stored in a game,
the designers answered that at one time only about 23 seconds of speech
could be used, but that today it is up to around 2 and a half minutes.
Music, however, can be almost "infinite", it being produced in a different
manner. At that point old time pingame designer Harvey Heiss remarked from
the audience that sometime in the mid 1930's he made a game using sounds
from chimes, but could not remember it's name.
I then asked if the designers composed their own music, and if not, if
they had to pay royalties? They replied that generally they did the
composing, but sometimes had to pay "license fees".
The sound designers then explained some of the techniques used to
produce pinball sound. Speech they said was "digitized" using a technique
similar to that used for "compact discs". Music, on the other hand, used a
"synthesizer" which could play "scores" created by the sound designers.
When asked how many sound designs they could do in a year, their answer was
3 to 5, which usually made for a "tight schedule".
The designers then asked the audience what they would like to see in
terms of sound on future games? The answers included such things as: bass
and treble controls; sounds that appeal to women; separate selection by the
operator of voice, speech, and sound effects; and "reverberation".
The end of the presentation consisted of a short talk by Williams game
designer Larry DeMar regarding the history of "talking pinballs" at
Williams. He said that the speech synthesis system used on their first
talking pinball, GORGAR, was essentially the same as that used today,
except that better "filtering", etc. is now used resulting in clearer
speech. He then said that at the 1978 MOA trade show Williams used a 40
thousand dollar computer synthesis system to demonstrate speech which made
a big hit. He then remarked that almost all pingames today have speech.
As a final note on pinball sound, Expo host Rob Berk introduced
current Premier (Gottlieb) designer Jon Norris, who told us about his first
"home design" pingame, TOUR DE FRANCE, and how he used for a sound system a
six minute "endless cassette" tape played by a "boom box".
PINBALL THROUGH THE AGES
Next on the agenda was one of the pinball industry greats who has
attended and contributed to all the past Pinball Expos, Mr. Steve Kordek.
Rob Berk introduced Steve as starting in the industry in 1937, and being
with Williams since 1960. Steve's favorite designs were said to be GRAND
PRIX, SPACE MISSION, and CONTACT.
Steve began by saying that he was happy to hear that Alvin Gottlieb
was getting back into the business. He said that Williams wished Alvin the
best, adding that "good competition was needed in the industry". Steve
then remarked that the people at the Expo were "a much better expression of
pinball" than those who attended the recent trade show in New Orleans.
Steve prefaced his pinball history talk by remarking that he would
cover six decades of pinball starting with the 1930's, adding that if we
were interested in what happened prior to that time we should read Dick
Bueschel's book "Pinball I".
Steve then said that the "birth of pinball" really occurred in the
early Thirties with the successes of the early "table games" BALLYHOO by
Bally and BAFFLE BALL by Gottlieb of which tens of thousands were produced.
These games, primarily designed for Penny play, were said to have often
repaid their initial costs to operators over a weekend.
Continuing with the Thirties, Steve told of the complex mechanical
games such as Rockola's JIGSAW, the invention of the bumper by Bally on
BUMPER, and the introduction of electricity to pinball. Steve said he
remembered when games were first switched from battery to A.C. power that
the location owners were afraid of patrons tripping over the long cords and
suing them. He then told of the introduction of bells and "electric
kickers" to the games.
Steve also told of the switch in the early Thirties from Penny to
Nickel play. He then talked of the over 200 companies which produced one
or more pingames during that decade, adding that only a handful of these
continued in the pinball business after the war.
Steve ended his discussion of the 1930's by remarking that pinball was
almost "destroyed" then because of the wide use of slot machines, the
introduction of payout pinballs, and the adverse legislation which
resulted. He also mentioned the introduction of the "tilt" mechanism
during that decade.
Continuing into the 1940's, Steve said that in 1941 Harry Williams and
Lyn Durrant formed United Manufacturing Co. and shortly afterward Harry
left United and formed his own Williams Manufacturing Co. in 1942. He then
told about the wartime ban on manufacturing pingames, but added that
"revamping" old games became a "land office business" during the war years.
Steve told how the game manufacturers did "war work", saying that
Genco made walkie-talkies for the Marines, among other things. After the
war ended, he went on, only a handful of companies (Gottlieb, Bally, Genco,
Chicago Coin, Keeney, Marvel, United, and Williams) resumed pinball
Steve then proceeded to tell how the invention of flippers in 1947
"made pinball more respectable". He said that the skill involved with
flippers resulted in better legislation being passed, and that these games
were then referred to as "flipper games" to distinguish them from the
pinballs being used for gambling.
Finally he mentioned the introduction by United of the "shuffle
bowling game", which he said slowed down pins for awhile, and the fact that
the "drop-in" coin chute was used on a few games late in the decade.
As far as the 1950's were concerned, Steve first commented that the
introduction of "bingo pinballs", in the early part of the decade, almost
ruined the industry again, due to more bad legislation. He told about the
introduction of "bumper pool" games around 1955, which he said caused a
decrease in pinball sales at that time.
In 1958, he told us, Williams introduced the "disappearing pop
bumper", but due to it's high cost it was only used on four games (GUSHER,
SEA WOLF, METRO and MUSIC MAN). He also told of Harry Williams selling his
share of Williams and moving to California in 1959, and that by the end of
the decade exporting of pins to Europe was on the rise.
In outlining events in the 1960's Steve told us of the introduction of
the automatic ball return, the use of a rotating set of pop bumpers on
Williams' NAGS, and the introduction in 1968 of large flippers. He also
said that in 1962 Seeburg bought out Williams and United and moved the
combined operation to the present Williams location on California Street.
Also he told us that in January 1969 Lyn Durrant died.
Regarding the 1970's, Steve first told of trade magazine publisher
Bill Gersh's campaign to raise the price of pinball play to a Quarter,
which finally was accepted. He then told of Columbia Pictures acquisition
of Gottlieb, and of Sam Stern buying what was left of the old Chicago Coin
outfit and starting Stern Electronics.
Steve than mentioned the introduction of the "drop target" on
Williams' HONEY, and the start of "solid state" pins in 1978. He also
mentioned that pins were re-legalized in Los Angeles, New York City and
Chicago during the Seventies. Also occurring in that decade was the first
"talking pinball", GORGAR, in 1979, and the death of Dave Gottlieb in 1974.
The decade of the 1980's, Steve said, saw the introduction of the
"lane change" on Williams FIREPOWER, and of "multi-level" playfields on
their BLACK KNIGHT. That decade also saw the rise of the "video craze" and
the subsequent downturn for pins. He also told of Williams' SPACE SHUTTLE
reviving the interest in pins, and the purchase by Williams of Bally/Midway
games in 1988.
That decade, Steve went on, also saw the beginning of a push for 50
cent and 3 for $1 play, remarking that today's games cost about 150 times
as much as the pingames of the 1930's which were played for a Nickel. The
decade was also sadly marked by the passings of Harry Williams in 1983, Sam
Stern in 1984, and Sam Gensburg (founder of Chicago Coin) in 1985.
As far as the 1990's and the future of pinball was concerned, Steve
said he saw a continuation of "licensed" games, and a lot of original ideas
from new young designers and artists. He said a combination of art, sound,
etc., would be used to improve future games, a future he was looking
At that point Steve asked for questions from the audience. When asked
how the industry could "broaden the appeal" of games to justify the price
per play increases proposed, Steve answered that the same complaints were
made in the past when price increases were sought, but you must remember
that operators have to get a fair return on their investment. He then
added, "if you provide a dollars worth of entertainment people will pay $1
When asked if Williams planned to re-use "multiple replay awards"
Steve answered "yes". When asked why multiple denomination coin mechanisms
were not used on pins, he said because they were large and expensive.
Finally, Marc Fellman from the audience made the comment that
Williams' RIVERBOAT gives the player a chance to make a "decision" during
the game; which he thought was a great idea which should be used more in
the future. As a closing comment regarding Steve, Rob Berk told us that
Steve would soon celebrate his 80th Birthday.
PANEL DISCUSSION - "GETTING THE WORD OUT"
Rob Berk introduced Sharon Harris of Philadelphia the moderator for
the panel saying she was Chairperson of the International Flipper Pinball
Association (IFPA) of AMOA. Sharon, daughter of long-time operator Stan
Harris, began by remarking that she had never known anything else but
pinball all her life. She then told of her dad saying about his career "it
all started with a ball", referring to the Daval ODD BALL game he bought
back around 1940 and put on location, starting him in the coin machine
Sharon then told of the IFPA which she said was formed the previous
year, saying it was formed as sort of a "celebration of pinball's 60th
Anniversary". She then told us that the association, of which she was to
be President for two years, was set up to do three things: (1) to help keep
pins in the public eye (a "media kit" for the press was designed to help
with that); (2) to hold a National Pinball Tournament (patterned after the
National Darts Championship); and (3) to educate operators to be more
responsible for the care of their equipment.
Sharon then went into great detail regarding the IFPA tournament
system. Local operators would buy "charters" and set up local tournaments
at their locations. The winners of these could then compete in the
National Tournament to be held in Chicago in the Spring of 1991.
Sharon then introduced the panel which consisted of Valerie Cognovitch
of PLAYMETER, Shari Stauch of GAMES AND LEISURE, Ed Adlum of REPLAY, Wayne
Morgan (former publisher of TILT Newsletter), Joycelyn Hathaway of TAVERN
SPORTS, Jeremy Tupper of VENDING TIMES, Jim Haley of Canadian COIN SLOT,
Dick Bueschel of our COIN SLOT, and Roger Sharpe of Williams. She then
said that the format of the discussion was for each person to tell what
they could do in their publications "to get the word out".
Valerie began by saying that Sharon was a very determined person and
that she thought the idea of IFPA was "wonderful". She then told of
recently finding a four inch stack of clippings in her file associated with
the promotion of the 100th Anniversary of the Juke Box, and remarked that
she thought the pin promotion could do as well.
Valerie than said that this was her second Expo and that she enjoyed
meeting the players. She told of Tim Wolfe once writing an article for her
magazine from the player's point of view and invited others to do the same.
Valerie then said that she wants the operators to get involved with
IFPA, and that her magazine offered AMOA a "free page" to use to promote
it. She next said that PLAYMETER would like to publish pictures of the
operator sponsored tournaments. Finally, she remarked "pinballs are
American made and we should be proud of that."
Next to speak was Shari Stauch. She began by saying that her
publication, GAMES AND LEISURE, was originally oriented toward pool room
owners, but had now been expanded to serve game operators as well. Shari
continued by saying they could help IFPA by focusing on the "leagues" and
tournament promotion, etc.. She ended by saying she hoped there would be a
"pyramid effect" with the publicity bringing more operators into IFPA.
Next up was Ed Adlum of REPLAY. He began by saying that most "trade
magazines" don't address the player at all. When he asked for a show of
hands of how many in the audience were in the industry, which turned out to
be about 25 percent, he remarked that the rest of us must be "pinball nut
Ed then told us how he had really been excited about the 100th
Anniversary of the Juke Box, but said he just could not get that excited
over pinball's 60th year, although he said he would like to try to share
Wayne Morgan from Canada then got up. He first told us that when he
put on his traveling pinball exhibition, "Tilt", in 1979 he got a lot of
letters from people interested in pins. He then asked the question: why
hasn't pinball collecting achieved as great a popularity as that of other
antique collectables? When his attempt to answer this question seemed to
run into a lengthy discussion, he was asked to come back the next day to
elaborate in detail. I will report on that later.
Next up was Joycelyn Hathaway. She said her publication, TAVERN
SPORTS, goes to the industry people and also some players. The magazine,
she went on, publicizes events, etc. (including Event Calendars) and also
has feature stories. A pinball column was also said to be forthcoming.
She ended by saying that her publication will help in letting the locations
and operators know about IFPA.
Jeremy Tupper, editor of the Music and Games Section of VENDING TIMES,
next told of a column they were starting highlighting current pinball
designers. He also told of a "guest column" in the current issue written
by Sharon Harris. He ended by saying this was part of their effort to
increase the profile of music and games in VENDING TIMES.
Next was Jim Haley from Canadian COIN SLOT who told us that his
magazine was similar to PLAYMETER and REPLAY in this country. He then said
what they do is find out what's happening in the industry, passing the
information on to the operators. Jim then added that they also provide
"marketing tips", and act as sort of a "go between" between the
manufacturers and operators.
The next panelist to speak was COIN SLOT's own Dick Bueschel. Dick
began by introducing himself as a "collector and writer" and saying that he
would like to make two "quick points". First, he said, since people like
Sharon Harris and Roger Sharpe got involved in publicizing pinball that
pinball, in his opinion, has never had greater press and that the word "IS
Dick then explained his "second point" which he said was that what we
need is to "get the word IN". He explained this remark by saying that the
manufacturers have to talk to the "consumer" (the player). As an example
he said that he had heard that Williams, for instance, was eliminating the
"match feature" from their games to satisfy the European market. This he
said he thought was wrong because it was against the interest of the
At that point the audience was asked if they had any questions? The
first question was what "standard game(s)" were going to be used in the
IFPA tournament? Sharon answered saying there would be no particular games
used, but that they had devised a special scoring system using "point
values" derived from actual game scores.
When asked if there would be any "handicaps" or "sanctioning of
players" used, Sharon said not for the current tournament, but maybe in the
future. She also told us that the tournament entry fees would be $25 for
adults and $10 for those under 21.
Sharon was then asked if the tournament would be on National TV? She
said that she hoped to get "some very good coverage". Roger Sharpe told of
a pinball tournament a few years ago which was on TV. Sharon then told of
a "spot", shown recently on cable's MTV, in which her and her father Stan
Harris were interviewed and some of his collection of old coin machines
were shown. Incidentally, several friends of mine saw that and said it was
Someone from the audience then asked the panel what could be done
about magazines which would not accept articles from collectors? Sharon
answered "send it to me, I'll get it published". Valerie then told of an
article on backglasses recently published in PLAYMETER, remarking that some
of the glasses were "gorgeous".
Ed Adlum next asked the question: what do players today want; simple
or complex games? One of the operators in the audience answered that most
people today like complex games, and they are the ones that make the most
money. Sharon then remarked that there were some locations where older
people liked the simpler games, adding "it's whatever works in your
Roger Sharpe of Williams then commented from the manufacturer's point
of view. He said that he personally disliked "shooting, punching, kicking,
fighting games", but that kind did earn money. He then commented, however,
that manufacturers have to supply what the market wants in order to
survive, adding that pins once were "almost dead" but are now "reviving".
Roger was then asked what he thought about "license games"? He
replied that Bally was the first to prove they could work in the Seventies,
but some didn't work however, citing DOLLY PARTON as an example. He then
added that right now we are "going through a phase", and license games seem
to get the players, citing THE SIMPSONS as a current example.
At that point Valerie told us that prior to 1988 Roger wrote articles
for PLAYMETER from the player's point of view. Roger then remarked that he
has learned that the industry must "stay in touch with the players". He
then commented that he thought there should be five times as many people at
Roger next remarked "we have to reach out through our games". He then
commented that the people at the Expo should help get operators more
interested in pins. A few minutes later Dick Bueschel reinforced that idea
saying that we have been given an "assignment" to get to the operators and
locations and try to "promote pins".
Someone from the audience then commented that younger kids should be
able to learn to play pins, but many of today's games are so complicated
that kids can't understand them. He suggested that a "rating system" be
set up to indicate what ages could understand each game. Sharon then
remarked that a large percentage of pingames are in small locations, such
as convenience stores, and available to youngsters.
The final comment of this panel came from Ed Adlum of REPLAY who said
that the recent trade show in New Orleans was definitely "a pinball show",
adding that video games are the "stinkers" today.
After a quick lunch at our friendly diner across the road, we boarded
busses for the trip to the Data East Pinball plant. After we arrived we
discovered we had to stand in line outside (it was a might chilly too!) to
wait our turn to go inside for the tour. I had to wait almost 45 minutes,
being near the end of the line.
While we were waiting outside a Data East representative told us a few
things about the company. He said they employed about 175 factory workers,
plus about 30 office workers and engineers. He ended by saying that Data
East Pinball Inc. was "the best there is". When we finally got to the
front door we noticed a SIMPSONS backglass mounted in one of the front
windows, which of course, was the game currently being produced.
When the tour group I was in got inside the plant it appeared we had
no guide so we just followed the group ahead of us. We first passed a
cable testing area followed by an area where cables were being formed on
large vertically mounted sliding panels. When several of us made comments
and asked questions of the girls doing the work we seemed to be ignored.
At first I thought maybe they were told not to talk to visitors, but then
it dawned on me that quite possibly they could not speak English.
The next areas we saw were where playfields were being drilled and
parts were being installed on them. The people working there were
apparently doing there jobs quite rapidly. We next went by an area where
completed playfields and back boxes were being tested.
Finally, we saw the final test area where completed machines were
being checked out. It was here that I noticed the interesting "comic book"
art on the game cabinets. A company person, who had joined the group by
now, told us that the backglass artwork was made using a "12 color
That ended the tour. We were then given a free soft drink and
doughnut and boarded the busses to return to the hotel.
After returning to the hotel we went to the Lecture Hall where Data
East representative, and long-time pinball industry worker, Ed Cebula ask
if we had any questions?
It was first asked if there would be an episode on "The Simpsons" TV
show featuring the SIMPSONS pinball? Ed's answer was "it's a possibility".
When later asked if doing "license games" created many problems, Ed
answered that BATMAN was somewhat of a problem, adding you always have to
send your proposed artwork to the "licenser" for approval. It was also
asked why they haven't tried "national heros" (sports figures, etc.)? Ed
replied that they had tried to get Michael Jordan.
When asked if they paid a "royalty" for each licensed game produced,
the answer was sometimes, but in some cases they paid a "flat fee" instead.
When asked about a game which was hidden behind a curtain at the plant, Ed
replied only that it was a "future game", adding that BATMAN was coming
soon and also CHECKPOINT which he said was a "driving game".
A question was then asked regarding the average time between the
"inception" of a game and it's final appearance on location? The average
time was said to be about 9 months, but that BACK TO THE FUTURE was done in
only 6 weeks! A question regarding the expected production run for
SIMPSONS, and also what percentage of their games were exported, was then
asked. Ed replied that the run would possibly be about 5000, but that you
really could not tell because it depends on sales. Regarding export he
said that about 30 percent of their games were exported to France, Germany,
The final question asked was how much does the Japanese "parent
company" have to say regarding the Chicago operation? Ed answered
"nothing, as we are making good games".
At that point Data East's Ed Cebula, assisted by Expo Chairman Rob
Berk, proceeded to give a demonstration of how pinball cables were tied in
Ed had a sample "cable board" made up for the demonstration which had
a "main branch" and several "break-offs" which are used for attaching
plugs, connectors, lamps, etc. in the game. He said that nails were
originally used to hold the wires as they were added, the ends of the wires
then being cut, stripped, and soldered to the terminating components.
Ed then commented that in later days pins were put onto the ends of
the wires by machine, these pins then being inserted in the terminating
components. Today, he went on, "mass termination" of connectors is used,
with modern "cable ties" used to tie cable bundles.
Ed ended by saying that in the old days they had women "lacing" the
cables, and that some of them could do it as fast as today's machines. He
then performed a demonstration of this hand tying technique using the
previously mentioned "cable board".
PINBALL WIZARDRY SKILLS
The next item on the Expo agenda was a demonstration of advanced
pinball skills presented by player turned designer Jon Norris of Premier.
Rob Berk introduced Jon as "the king". The machine he used for his
demonstration was none other than the "whitewood" prototype of his latest
Premier design, VEGAS.
Jon began by telling us that he had been a pinball player for many
years, and that he would try to show us some of the techniques that have
helped him to play a better game. He then said that the techniques he
would demonstrate were intended primarily for "intermediate level" players,
adding that he would draw diagrams to aid him in the demonstration. A
video camera was set up so the audience could see what Jon was doing on the
Jon first told us that he was going to show us three main things. The
first, he said, was that you should not always use the flippers every time
the ball hits them as many players do, but in a lot of cases the player
should let the ball bounce off one flipper to the other. Secondly, he said
he would show how to "catch" the ball with a flipper before flipping it
toward some playfield objective. He then said he would also demonstrate
the "save down the middle", which he then proceeded to do.
Jon started by drawing an illustration on a large sheet of paper
showing two flippers in their "at rest" position, "fully energized"
position, and the position halfway in between where they are both
horizontal. He then said that in both the extreme positions the separation
between the tips of the flippers was approximately enough room for two
balls to go through. In the "midway" position, he told us, there was
barely enough room for one ball to pass.
He then said that the "center save" technique consisted of operating
the flippers at just the right time for the ball to reach them when they
reach that horizontal position where the ball can barely pass between them.
You must, however, slightly nudge the machine, in one direction or the
other, such that the ball hits one of the flippers instead of passing
Jon suggested that a person practice this technique on their own game
with the glass off, manually placing the ball above the flippers allowing
it to roll down. He said this saved a lot of money over practicing in an
arcade. Jon then demonstrated the technique using the video monitor so we
could watch him.
Jon next demonstrated what he called the "non-flip flip" or "bump
over". He told us that most people usually hit the flipper buttons every
time the ball goes near a flipper, but that if you don't move the flippers
the ball usually bounces off the flipper it hits to the other one. Holding
the other flipper up, he said, will "catch" the ball most of the time. Jon
then added that holding up the flipper toward which the ball is heading
will often result in the ball rolling up that flipper and over to the
The next technique Jon demonstrated was a very skillful move called
the "tap pass" which he said was a "high risk move" and quite hard to
learn. It consisted of lightly tapping one flipper button to cause a
flipper to "tap" the ball over to the other flipper.
When Jon was about ready to end his talk Rob Berk asked him to
demonstrate a special type of ball save which he knew of. Jon recognized
what Rob was talking about as what he called the "bang back". Jon said
that this usually did not work very well on Premier games but often worked
What this consisted of, it was explained, was that after the ball had
"drained" to the bottom of the playfield, and was rolling along the card
holder, to hit the cabinet so hard as to cause the ball to bounce up above
the flippers and back into play. Jon tried to demonstrate this on his game
with limited success; after all, it was a Premier game! He then remarked
that using this technique could result in tilting the machine, or even in
getting you kicked out of an arcade.
DESIGNING A PINBALL
As was done at several Expos in the past, some industry people
participated in a "fun session" where people from the audience designed a
pingame. This year it was veteran Williams designer Steve Ritchie who Rob
introduced as our "design coordinator". Steve came up on stage dressed in
a "cap and gown" acting like a professor. He then introduced his
assistant, Doug Watson.
Steve began by taking nominations for the game's theme.
Recommendations from the audience included: "Married with Children",
"Honeymooners", "Pinball Expo", "Desert Shield", a "singles" theme,
"Monopoly" (which would be a "license game"), "Universal Studios Fire",
"Video Rental Store", and "Tesla". When the audience later voted
We were next asked for suggestions for the configuration of the
playfield devices. It was decided (again by vote) that the game would have
3 "thumper bumpers", a bank of 3 drop-targets in the center of the
playfield with an eject hole (representing "Go To Jail") behind them, and 4
lanes at the top of the field. It was also decided that the game should be
a "3 ball Multi-ball", have an extra flipper in the upper half of the
field, and be "replay" or "add-a-ball" selectable by the player.
We were then asked to suggest a "special device" to be used on the
game. The devices recommended included: a "corkscrew" loop-the-loop; a
strobe light; two magnets which suspend the ball in mid air; a flipper
which must be "qualified" to work; a "death ray"; a "trap door" through
which the ball drops, with three places it could reappear; and a horizontal
"wheel" into which the ball enters and you don't know where it will come
out. Voting on these resulted in both the "corkscrew" and the "trap door"
devices being chosen.
A playfield template was then put up and Doug placed the components we
voted for on it. The flippers at the bottom were already shown on the
drawing, causing Doug to remark "the position of the flippers is the only
thing a player can depend on". That ended our design for Pinball Expo '90.
ALVIN GOTTLIEB - CONTINUED
As I mentioned earlier, Alvin Gottlieb was invited to speak late
Friday afternoon and continue the discussion of his new outfit, "A.
Gottlieb and Co." and his invention. Alvin began by introducing his
grandson Stephan, his sons Joseph and Michael, and his associate Jerry
Armstrong, all of whom are associated with his new enterprise.
Alvin then presented what he referred to as a "brief scenario" of the
events leading up to his formation of the company. He first said that when
Gottlieb designer Harry Mabs invented the flipper in 1947 he originally
intended it to be "automatically actuated", but finally switched to using
player controlled buttons. A little later, he went on, Dave Gottlieb
decided to put out their first "multi-player" game, SUPER JUMBO.
Still later, he remarked, when he was in the Engineering Department at
Gottlieb, the department together designed the two player game CHALLENGER
in which the two players faced each other and had separate playfields,
adding that he always thought the idea had merit. Finally, he continued,
one day not so long ago, while sitting poolside in Hawaii, he started
thinking about a new kind of flipper which incorporated a "sensing device"
which sensed when the flipper came in contact with a ball.
Alvin then said he made a sketch of his idea, made up a prototype when
he returned to Chicago, found a Patent Counsel to help him, and applied for
a patent, which had recently been approved. He then told how he planned to
utilize his invention.
His idea was to build a two-player game which would automatically
switch scoring between the players; each score being credited to the last
player whose flipper hit the ball. He said he couldn't give much more
detail since he still had patents pending. Alvin then said he planned to
call this idea "simulplay" , and would probably get a Trade Mark for that
He then remarked that he thought this concept would enable them to
build a two-player pingame which could really make some money. Alvin ended
by saying that they are now in a "design mode" and were working in
conjunction with Premier.
Alvin next asked if we had any questions? The first question asked
was if Alvin's new company would be separate and independent from Premier?
He answered that it is a separate company, adding that they planned to
contract Premier to build their first games. Alvin then remarked "we will
just take things as they come". He then told of his father once buying the
rights to a "Rotary Trading Post" machine which he thought would be a "gold
mine", but that the idea "died".
When asked if the price of his proposed game would be about the same
as today's pins, he answered "it looks like it will be comparable". When
questioned regarding his "time table" for the project Alvin answered that
it would probably be out sometime in 1991. Alvin was then asked if he
thought he could keep people from stealing his idea? He answered that he
thought U.S. patent law was very good and mentioned the large patent
infringement suit won by Polaroid against Kodak.
Alvin was next asked if Harry Mabs' original flipper was patented? He
answered "no", saying that it was said to be covered by "prior art", that
being the "bat" used on coin-op baseball games. Alvin then told us that
copies of his patent (4,931,323) would soon be available. He then
described the mechanics of his invention in a little more detail,
referring to it as a "smart flipper".
When asked if his proposed game could also be played by one player,
he replied "yes", adding that it even "played itself" in the "attract
mode". He was next asked if the two players would be playing "end to end"
or "side by side"? Alvin's answer was that there were several variations
of the game "in the hopper".
When asked if he eventually planned to have his own factory, Alvin
replied that he didn't know yet, adding that running a factory was "a big
pain". Finally he was asked who would be doing the artwork for his new
game? Alvin replied that Tommy Grant of Advertising Posters had
recommended someone and that they were "starting at ground zero" and would
just "take their time".
Alvin's presentation ended the Friday seminars. That evening the
Exhibit Hall was opened officially for the first time, but more about that
The Saturday morning festivities began with a short presentation,
which was one of the several not on the Expo program originally
distributed by mail. This was the playing of a promotional video tape,
produced several years ago by Gottlieb, which Expo Exhibit Chairman Mike
Pacak discovered in the Gottlieb "archives".
The tape began with an introduction by Alvin Gottlieb giving a brief
summary of highlights in the company's history. He began by saying that
the company was founded by his father David Gottlieb in 1927, and "had a
heritage of unparalleled success".
The historical presentation began with the narrator saying that it
all started in the late Twenties, while the background music played
"Charleston". It was then said that motion pictures were "the first
popular form of mass entertainment", but in the 1930's and 1940's pingames
also acted as such.
Dave Gottlieb was then said to have been born in Milwaukee, and as a
young man went to Texas and became a traveling salesman who was always on
the move. This "super salesman" was then said to have traveled in a Model
T showing silent movies in all the small towns. A gimmick he used at that
time was to have the piano player play "The Star Spangled Banner" at the
end of each show. The audience would then applaud and people outside
would think it was because the movie was so good.
Later Dave was said to have moved to Chicago where he opened a small
factory on Kedsie St. and manufactured a coin operated "grip testing"
machine. Then, in the Fall of 1931, he developed a small pingame which it
was said "turned his company into the first successful pingame
When the narrator started describing the 1930's the background music
played "Brother Can You Spare A Dime". During the early Depression period
pingames were said to take in a "flood of Pennies", provide Americans with
"a lot of fun", and to "sweep the country faster than the Stock Market
During these early years Dave Gottlieb was said to have put much
money into his early "counter games", and eventually move his factory to
4318 W. Chicago Ave. His early success, BINGO BALL, was described as
being "overwhelmingly popular", the story being told of games thought to
be malfunctioning but actually too full of coins.
In December 1931 Gottlieb released their famous BAFFLE BALL which was
a huge success and said to be "the first mass produced, mass marketed
pingame". The game was then described and it was noted that 55,000 were
made, Dave having to subcontract some of them to other factories. BAFFLE
BALL was then said to often "pay itself off" in a single weekend!
Gottlieb was said to have produced thirteen more games in the next
two years, and in October 1933 to have moved to 2736 N. Paulina St. The
company it was said was really flourishing. Two important Gottlieb games
of 1932/33 were said to be SPEEDWAY and PLAYBOY, the first of their games
with a "playing card theme". Another important Gottlieb game of the
1930's which was mentioned was 1935's CYCLONE with an "automatic ball
For 1936, the addition of electric clocks to some of their games,
plus the use of a "3-dimensional" backglass, was described. It was then
remarked that by the end of the 1930's Gottlieb had "standardized"
playfield size on pingames. The 1930's was then said to be "the first
'Golden Age' of pinball".
The description of the 1940's Gottlieb achievements began with the
playing of some ominous music, probably representing the war, the narrator
mentioning "Pearl Harbor". He then told of the plant being moved to
Kosner Ave., and of the wartime ban on pingame production, the Gottlieb
plant going into production of "parachute hardware" and other war related
The invention of the flipper by Gottlieb designer Harry Mabs in 1947,
and it's first use on HUMPTY DUMPTY, was then described, the comment being
made that this "knocked the industry over backward". Dave Gottlieb was
quoted as saying at the time that their new 'flipper bumpers' were "the
greatest invention in the history of pinball", and that no one in the
industry argued with that.
It was then said that the games produced in the 10 years following
HUMPTY DUMPTY made up "the second 'Golden Age' of pinball", a period said
to be "dominated by Gottlieb games".
The section on the 1950's began with the musical strains of the
"Bonanza" theme, the narrator then telling us that some of the finest
pingames were produced during that decade. It was then pointed out that
these "skill games", with their flippers, "kicking rubbers", etc., were
quite different from the "gambling" pinballs (the "bingos") which were
produced in the early Fifties.
The campaign waged by Dave Gottlieb and other amusement game
manufacturers during that period, to show that their games were in no way
associated with the gambling machines, was then described. One of Dave's
contributions to this effort was said to be his introduction of his famous
slogan, "Amusement Pinballs, as American as Baseball and Hot Dogs", which
he put on his backglasses starting in 1955. The culmination of this
effort was said to be the Supreme Court's "Korpan Decision" in September
1958, ruling that "bingos" were "gambling devices" and subject to Federal
statutes concerning such devices.
Also in the 1950's, we were told, Gottlieb designer Wayne Neyens
began his illustrious designing career. Two of his major innovations
during that decade were said to be the introduction of "multi-player"
games, starting with SUPER JUMBO in 1954, and the first use of the
"roto-target" on MAJESTIC in 1957.
The decade of the Sixties was introduced by the music of The Beatles'
"I Want To Hold Your Hand". That decade was said to have introduced many
new pingame innovations such as: the switch to "long flippers"; the
introduction of the "run-off bonus" on GIGI in 1963; and the initial use
of the "vari-target" on AIRPORT in 1969.
It was then said that this was an active period for the industry,
with the expansion of the foreign market for pins, even some going to the
Soviet Bloc. Gottlieb also moved to a new plant in Northlake, Illinois in
The musical introduction for the 1970's was the music from the movie
"Close Encounters". A new plant was said to have opened in Bensenville in
October 1974. The early Seventies was said to be a period of "continued
innovations in electro-mechanical games". A list of "great Gottlieb
games" was given for that period including: SPIRIT OF '76, ROYAL FLUSH,
BIG INDIAN, HOT SHOT, and JACK-IN-THE-BOX.
Gottlieb's introduction into the "solid-state era" was said to have
started at the 1977 AMOA show where they introduced their first electronic
pingame CLEOPATRA. A list of other great Gottlieb "digitals" was then
given including: SINBAD, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, CHARLIE'S ANGELS, INCREDIBLE
HUNK, and BUCK ROGERS, and their first "wide-body" pin GENIE.
The purchase of the company by Columbia Pictures in the mid Seventies
was then mentioned. Finally the narrator talked briefly about the
Gottlieb family, saying that Dave was not only in the pinball business,
but contributed significantly to the Gottlieb Memorial Hospital which his
family still supports. Dave's other charitable and fund-raising
activities were then mentioned, including his large contribution in 1947
to the "Damon Runyon Cancer Fund".
The video ended with the comments that "D. Gottlieb and Company has
traditionally been 'the first family in fun and games' for the past 52
years", and is continuing into the 1980's, "the new decade of the stars".
KORDEK AND HEISS
At this point Expo Host Rob Berk asked Expo favorites Steve Kordek
and Harvey Heiss to come up on stage so that newcomers to the show could
meet them and hear a little about their numerous contributions to the
industry. Rob said that Steve had a great deal to do with making the Expo
a reality, also reminding us that Steve had been in the industry since
1937 and was "still around". He then called Steve and Harvey "the driving
force behind Genco".
Steve first remarked that he thought the Gottlieb video we had just
seen was "very very good", adding that their invention of the flipper was
a "fantastic thing for the industry".
He then told us that Harvey had started in the industry way back in
1932 and later was his boss when he later started at Genco. Steve went on
to say that in those early days Harvey designed some great mechanical
games, one of which, a 1934 baseball pingame, he himself owned. He also
told us that he had learned a lot from Harvey.
Steve next told of Harvey finally leaving Genco in 1954 at a time
when the company was "having problems", saying that at the time Harvey
called Genco "a sinking ship" and said he was "a 'rat' that was deserting
it". Steve then said that he himself left Genco in 1958, going to Bally
for a short time and then to Williams where he still is today. Steve then
called Harvey "a genius of his time", adding that he admired the real
pioneers of the industry like Harvey.
Steve then told of his own first "solo" design, the first Genco
flipper game, TRIPLE ACTION. He got his chance, he said, when Harvey was
hospitalized just at the time when they had to get a game ready for the
January 1948 trade show.
Steve went on to say that all of the other manufacturers' games at
the show had either 4 or 6 flippers, and were more or less patterned after
HUMPTY DUMPTY; but his game had only 2, placed near the bottom of the
playfield as has virtually been the style ever since. He added that the
artwork for the game was done by none other than pinball art great, Roy
As Steve's final comment he remarked that he really liked the people
who attend the Expo each year. At that point he turned the floor over to
Harvey first said that "Steve said it all" when in came to his long
stint with Genco. He then said that sometime after he left Genco he went
to work for a fellow named Bert Lane who had once been a Genco
Harvey then told the story of how he happened to hook up with Bert.
While on vacation in Florida he called Bert who had moved there and
started a business making small Merry-Go-Rounds. Bert took him to his
plant and offered him a job which he decided to accept. Harvey ended by
saying that he still enjoys living in Florida, especially the weather
which he said was quite different from what he had been used to in
Rob Berk introduced the next speaker, Tim Arnold, an Expo regular
since the first show, remarking about Tim's several home drawn "comic
books" which he had distributed at past Expos, and the toast he gave
people one year in the Exhibit Hall. Tim was introduced as both an
operator and a pinball collector.
Before Tim started his talk he passed out another "comic book"
dealing with his subject, "collectors as operators". He then began by
remarking that up until then at the Expo seminars he had heard much being
said to and by the manufacturers, and the same with the players, but that
everybody seems to be ignoring the "link" between the two, the operator.
Regarding operators, he said that many "really don't care" about the
games they operate, adding that the industry should educate them regarding
the proper care and maintenance of their machines. He went on to say that
it would be a good idea if some collectors would become operators, putting
some of their games "on location" and making some money from them.
Tim then said that most collectors regard their games as "precious
art" but that they are really "commercial equipment", adding that the
machines are "still strong" and that nothing would happen to them if they
are put in a "good location".
He continued by remarking that collectors would make good operators
because they really care about their machines, know the games, and know
how to fix them and keep them up, unlike many operators who don't really
like pins. Most operators, Tim said, use pins as a "sideline" to other
coin machines they operate, operating them for a short time until they are
"run down", then selling them off.
A smart collector, Tim continued, could buy some of these games, fix
them up, and put them back on location. He then said that many players
will play these older games if properly maintained, and the collector
could get back the money he spends on them this way, resulting in him
eventually getting the games "for free"
Tim next told us that you must first "sell" the location on why they
should have a game. He cautioned us not to take less than a 50/50 split
with the location as you, not him, have the expenses connected with the
game, adding that you should buy spare parts and provide a good quality
lock. Before you start to operate a game, he said, you should clean and
properly level it.
Tim then told us that we should have the proper tools to service the
games. He also reminded us that many localities require "permits", etc.,
and that you should check this out.
Tim next talked about picking good locations. He said these, in his
opinion, included such places as comic book stores, pizza houses, auto
repair centers, flea markets, and high class pool halls. Poor locations
were said to be any "unattended" location such as apartment laundry rooms,
teen centers, or fraternity houses, unless you make them responsible for
any damages. He ended by saying that operating pins is not hard to do and
can make you some money.
Tim then asked for questions. When asked if a "workshop" on this
subject might be provided at a future Expo, Tim answered that it was
possible. He then gave a few tips on "play management". He said that you
should know what your "intake/payout ratio" is for each game, saying 15 to
30 percent "payback" to players is reasonable, and that you should adjust
your replay payouts for each game accordingly.
It was then asked if you could have a problem competing with a big
operator? Tim answered that you should not use somebody else's location,
saying that there are enough "untapped" locations to be found. A question
was then asked about operating videos versus pins. Tim said that he
started with pins, then when videos came in he took the money and "laughed
all the way to the bank". He then suggested that you put pins in
locations where another operator has videos and doesn't want to mess with
When asked if he used "contracts" with his locations, Tim replied
that "it wasn't a good idea". Tim was then asked if people would play
older games if they were put on location, and especially about somebody
opening a "50's Arcade". He answered that running an arcade was an
"expensive proposition", saying it was better to put old games in someone
else's location such as a "Fifties Diner". He then added that in that
case you should try to promote "nostalgia" by putting a sign on the game
describing it's history, designer, artist, etc.
At that point Tim told us not to charge less than a Quarter a game
even on old machines. An operator in the audience then said that he had a
section of old games in an arcade set for Dime play.
When he was asked if a Baskin-Robbins ice cream store would be a good
location, Tim answered that that franchise did not allow games, adding
that you should not try any of the major "fast food" franchises. When
asked if older games should be set for 3 or 5 ball play, Tim replied that
some games were better for 3 ball play, adding that most players today
only expect 3 balls.
Tim was then asked how much time it would take to get into that type
of business? He replied that if you "start small" it shouldn't take much
time to get going. He then commented that you should call your locations
regularly to see how things are going. When asked about "rotation" of
games between locations, Tim replied that you should leave a game in a
location until the income drops off, and then move it to another location.
The final question asked was if it was more difficult to keep up
solid-state games over electro-mechanicals? Tim replied that if you have
trouble locating parts for a digital pin you can always tell the location
that "you have to send to Japan for parts". Tim ended his presentation
with the statement "we need better operators"!
DICK BUESCHEL - IS PINBALL OLD AT 60?
Next up on the Expo program was COIN SLOT's Dick Bueschel with
another interesting talk dubbed "Is Pinball Old At 60?". Dick began by
describing today's senior citizens and their various "youthful"
activities. He then said that it could be asked of the 60 year old game
of pinball, "is it old at 60?" Dick said he was going to try to answer
that question by telling us something about "where it has been?", "where
it is going?", "what has been tried?", and "what is true?", and to see if
the ideas of the past which worked well then still work well today.
Dick then said that pinball was "born in stress, and immediately made
the world a better place in which to live", by "controlling a player's
mind and wiping out the trials and tribulations of reality". He then told
how playing pinball "demands your full attention", comparing this to other
games in which the player gets short periods of "rest" during play.
Dick then made the point that describing the play of early games also
describes in many ways the games of the present and probably the future.
Dick then reiterated a comment made earlier by Ed Adlum of Replay, that
pinball is "the only pure invention of the coin machine industry", adding
that bagatelle "led the way", but the addition of ball manipulating
features and electricity put it into "the realm of new invention". This,
he said, in this country means patents.
Dick then asked "is there a past that relates to the present?" He
answered "yes", citing Harry Mabs' invention of the flipper in 1947, and
then showing us a 1932 patent for a game with mechanical flipper-like
devices which became Hercules Novelty's DOUBLE SHUFFLE. He continued this
line by describing a similar game called SHUFFLE BALL by Western
Manufacturing Co. with it's "flippers" operated by rotating shafts jutting
from the cabinet.
Dick then remarked that these two games might have been regarded as
"an aberration of history" except for the fact that the flipper idea was
even improved upon in the Thirties, showing a patent by a California
designer, Joe Walker, for a game having one "flipper" at the top right to
"catch" the ball and another mounted vertically in the center of the
Dick next showed an amusing drawing made in 1935 by none other than
future flipper designer Harry Mabs and a fellow Bally designer at the
time, Ralph Nuefield. The drawing showed a "payout" game which paid out
in toilet paper, their "advertisement" stating "you can clean up with our
new automatic payout".
Jumping then to Mabs' most famous invention in 1947, Dick showed the
ad for HUMPTY DUMPTY, quoting it's statement "the only thing new on the
horizon; the greatest innovation in the history of pingames!". He then
compared Mabs' original flipper with the recent announcement by Gary Stern
of Data East Pinball of their new "solid-state flipper". Dick followed
that by talking of Alvin Gottlieb's disclosure of his new flipper
innovation announced to us only the previous day.
Alvin's new game idea, using his new device, led Dick to talk of
"game features, and the sizzle that sells the play". He then told us of
what he referred to as "the 'secret' game of PYRAMID PEG", a game made in
1932 by an Ohio outfit called Waddell Co., and "secret" because it was
never advertised. He then quoted from a letter from that company saying
their game had "three essential qualities of a successful game:
competition, skill, and luck".
Remarking that "pinball is a game of ideas; marketing ideas, as well
as game ideas", Dick then told of an early "tie-in game", Chicago Coin's
MONOPOLEE from 1936. Dick then quoted from a trade magazine story about
that game which stated that it had a "simple playfield", but had the
"advantage of the great nationwide craze that is sweeping the country"
(referring to the game of MONOPOLY, of course), which they said would
cause people to play it who normally would not play a pingame. That
article then described some of the game's features and an ad campaign
which used window posters showing the backglass, an idea Dick likened to
Data East's current promotion of it's SIMPSONS pin.
At that point Dick then described another idea from the past that is
reappearing today - the pinball tournament. He then described a three day
event which occurred in Milwaukee in 1935. He told of this attracting a
great deal of press, telling of a feature article on it in the Milwaukee
Journal. The article included a "glossary of terms" used by the players
containing such terms as: Squinch, Phutz, Whimp, Glish, Ach-Emil,
Ach-Tootsie, and Aw-Nertz, with the definitions of each.
Dick then summed up by asking: how different is the game and it's
marketing today? He said that "new features still drive the game", "the
flipper is just coming into it's own (and looks like it's starting a whole
new future"), and "the IFPA promises to bring back 'former glories' and
exceed the past". He then quoted Roger Sharpe of Williams' statement that
in the future "pinball is not going to stay in place, it has to move on".
In answer to his original question, Dick contended that "yes, pinball
is a senior citizen", but that it is "a healthy and active one". He then
said that "pinball's heros of the past have left a legacy that's tough to
meet or beat, except it's happening every day!" He then quoted the old
industry adage, which he said still holds true, that "a company's 'best
game' will always be their next one". Finally he commented, "hell,
pinball's just a kid; we're only getting started!".
Dick next asked for questions. He was first asked when his new book,
Pinball II, would be out? He answered that it was about half written, and
would probably be out in about two years, following two other books which
he is currently working on. When later asked what period the "history
section" of that book would cover, he replied it would be from 1931-34,
before the first pingame using electricity was introduced. He then
related a brief account of a conversation he had with Dave Rockola, where
he told how he got the idea for his marvelous mechanical pin, JIGSAW.
He was also asked about early pingames in Europe? Dick replied "that
is a very good question". He then told of a lady in Germany who was
curator of a coin machine museum and how, in return for some help he had
given her, she had given Dick copies of ads from a German trade magazine
for the period 1931 through 1957. He said these revealed that in the
early Thirties they used mostly American games, later copied our games,
and then beginning about 1936 started producing 7 or 8 games a year of
their own design.
During the war, he went on, they even made "revamps", including one
with a "bomb London" theme. Dick then said that the French did similar
things, some of their games being "quite advanced", with England mostly
importing games from the U.S. and even Germany before the war.
When asked about pingame values in "price guides", and what he
thought would happen to game values in the future, Dick responded by
saying that the number of collectors has been increasing in the past few
years, the value of pingames probably tripling in the last two years. He
then added that we have yet to see where pin prices are going.
Finally, Dick was asked if "bingos" were collected by many
collectors? He said they were "getting hot", also saying that Mark
Fellman is currently trying to revive bingo operation in Nevada. He then
told us that he hears from many bingo collectors and operators, and told
of the interview with chief Bally bingo designer Don Hooker at the last
Expo. Finally, he remarked "it's hot, but not at the Expos".
THE CARE AND FEEDING OF YOUR PINBALL
Rob introduced the next speaker, big-time East Coast coin machine
operator Frank "the Crank" Seninsky to give a presentation on pingame
maintenance. Frank began by saying that he was excited to be at the Expo
and liked the excitement of the people who attended. He then said he
started operating pins while in college with one game, NORTH STAR, in a
fraternity house; a game he paid $25 for and made $100 from in the first
week. By the time he got his engineering degree, he said, he was
operating 500 to 600 pins. After graduating he decided to make that his
career, now operating in 11 states in the East.
Frank then told us that he also ran tournaments while in college, and
in later years did some for members of Congress and their staffs. Again
remarking about the Expo attendees, he said that he thought the enthusiasm
in the room was "overwhelming". Frank then added that "he thought the
game needs more women players".
Getting back to his business, Frank told us that today it cost about
$25 per week to service each machine, and therefore each game has to make
at least $50 a week to show a profit. He then said that he would gladly
invite anyone in the room who lived in the East to put pingames in one of
Regarding his "moniker", Frank told us that he was once allowed to
write articles for PLAYMETER saying what he thought was wrong in the games
business. The article he said was first called "Frank's Ranks", and then
"Frank's Cranks", hence his nickname. He then told of the booklet he did
for Bally called "The Care and Feeding of Your Pinball Machine", done in a
"cartoon style", many pages of which he was using in the slides for his
Frank began his slide presentation by remarking that he has always
been a "fanatic" when it came to the insides of his games. When he first
got a game, he went on, he would initially clean all the "garbage" out of
the bottom of the cabinet, then sealing the bottom so nothing could fall
to the floor. Later, he said, if he ever found anything on the bottom he
would know it fell from the mechanism and check to see where it came from.
He also said he checked, cleaned, and adjusted for "override" ALL
relay points, operating each relay "by hand". He also mentioned that
sometimes he adjusted relay points with his fingers (I thought I was the
only one who did that!). He also told us that he operated all plungers by
hand to check their movement. Regarding the small "ratchet relays" used
in some later model electro-mechanicals, he told us they often cause
trouble and gave some service hints regarding them.
Frank then recommended using a "test light" (a technique I myself
strongly endorse) and told how it could be used to quickly check out many
game circuits. He then showed the special "point bender" tool used to
adjust relay contacts.
He then began discussing schematics, displaying a drawing for
Gottlieb's 1976 pin BUCCANEER, and pointing out where the "score motor"
switch stacks were illustrated. He then remarked that sometime someone
places a switch in the wrong "slot", resulting in weird happenings in a
game the cause of which are often difficult to trace. Frank then told a
story of how he once "redesigned" the motor switch set-up for Gottlieb
games, remarking that right after that solid-state games came in, and all
his work ended up being in vain.
Turning back to operating for a minute, Frank told us that he thought
people in their Forties and Fifties would play older games if put on
location, adding that he likes to play "Skee Ball" when he visits an
arcade. He then told us that he would allow a collector to put a section
of "old games" in any of his arcades.
At that point Frank began giving a list of things he thought should
be done to properly "operate" a pingame. The first items he listed
included: properly setting the "payout percentages"; tightening the leg
bolts, taking care when removing the top glass (he described the proper
method); and properly "leveling" the game (describing how he used the wall
of the room as a guide).
Frank next discussed how to adjust the "tilts", adding that he
thought the "roll tilt", which he said some manufacturers are removing,
should be replaced by the operators. Regarding the shooter plunger, he
said it should be adjusted so that it hits the center of the ball and also
should be lubricated. He next suggested pounding on the playfield with
your hand as a good method to test for badly adjusted playfield contacts.
Frank then told us how to select the proper size for rubber rings,
saying that their "unstretched" diameter should cover approximately 50
percent of the area they are to go around. He then remarked that they
should be stretched by hand before installing, and could be "rotated" when
beginning to wear on one side.
When someone from the audience asked about waxing playfields, Frank
said he sometimes did that on late 1970's games but that it often made the
game play "too fast". He then added that today's playfields are generally
covered with Mylar and that protects them sufficiently.
At that point Frank started talking about service personnel. He first
remarked that most people don't know that there are jobs available in the
coin machine business. He then said that he often goes to "tech schools"
and tells the students about the coin machine industry, telling them that
he can give them a chance to "diversify" and learn various skills, plus
actually "learn a business".
Turning back to the care of games, Frank told us that the "playfield
plastics" should have some "play" in them because if not, heat could cause
them to bend or crack. He then told us to carefully check all "wire
bundles" for cuts, especially in places where the cables bend.
Regarding flippers Frank said he was a "flipper fanatic". He
suggested that a file be used to "square off" plungers, and that a "bottle
brush" could be used to clean coil sleeves. He then reminded us to
carefully check coil stops for excessive wear. Tools which he said were
quite useful were a "right-angle ratchet screwdriver" and a "spring
Following a brief description of problems associated with diodes and
capacitors in solid-state pins, Frank talked about filing relay contact
points in electro-mechanicals. If a point is severely damaged, he told
us, you can replace it with a new one which can be pressed on using "vice
Getting into operating pins for a moment again, Frank talked about
"percentaging". He began by saying that the operator is actually "selling
time" to the player. He then told us that the manufacturers say that a
game's "payout percentage" should be calculated by dividing "games won" by
"total plays", but that you should really divide by "total games paid for"
to get a truer percentage.
Frank's maintenance tips then continued, him telling us that a good
technique for narrowing down the location of a "short circuit" in a game
is what he called "fuse lifting". This, he said, consisted of removing
fuses in a game, one by one, in order to determine in which section of the
game the short exists. (It should be noted that this techniques applies
mainly to solid-state games, as electro-mechanicals usually don't have
many separately fused circuits.)
He then told us of a "pinball checklist" he devised for use when a
game is first being checked out before being put on location. Frank told
us it included such items as cleaning, leveling, checking for loose wires,
etc.. He ended his talk by telling how to adjust "eject holes" by
slightly bending the tip that makes contact with the ball to change the
direction in which the ball is sent.
When Frank then asked for questions from the audience only two were
asked. He was first asked if he ever had any requests to put games in
"nostalgia restaurants"? He replied that he sometimes got such requests,
but that there was not enough money in it to make it practical for his
Finally, Frank was asked what he thought of Tim Arnold's list of
possible locations given in his previous talk? Frank said Tim's list was
pretty good, but also said that a doctor or dentist's office might be good
if the games were set for "free play" and you charged the doctor "rent"
for them. He also suggested renting games for parties, or any other
location "where there are people".
Rob Berk next introduced Wayne Morgan from Canada to continue
discussing the ideas he brought up the previous day (during the panel
discussion) on how to "promote" pinball.
Wayne said he had some important ideas and began by asking the
question: why hasn't pinball "advanced" in the studies of American
"popular culture"? He then told us of his traveling pinball exhibition,
"Tilt", which he participated in in 1974/75, and the newsletter of the
same name he published for awhile afterward.
Wayne then said that not too long after that there was a "large
explosion of interest" in pinball, including several books on the subject
being published. But, he continued, this did not "carry on", but "peaked"
and then "settled back".
In trying to answer his original question, Wayne listed what he
thought were the differences between pinball collecting and other
collecting hobbies. His list of differences included: (1) no "family
wide" acceptance; (2) no wide-spread "value escalation" (as with stamps,
coins, etc.); (3) no discernable "history of collecting" (not in museums,
etc.); (4) no "famous" collectors; and (5) games not "easy to collect".
Wayne went on to say that many other collectables have organizations
to lobby, advocate, etc., and many also have "media attention" to help
them. The other important thing that Wayne said he believed many other
collectables had was an interest in them from colleges and universities
Wayne then began giving his suggestions as to what could be done to
increase the public's interest in pinball. He first suggested a "major
touring exhibition", similar to his previous "Tilt", which he said should
result in pinball getting "a secure place in history".
Wayne next told of his ideas, which were already beginning to be
implemented, to obtain the interest of "academia". He told of the
American Popular Culture Association meeting held in Toronto, telling us
that he had been given the "pinball and bagatelle chair". Wayne then told
us that Steve Young, Gordon Hasse, and himself presented papers at a
recent meeting on "game design and technology", "50's pinball art", and
Wayne next remarked that the development of pingames and electric
guitars were somewhat similar. He then talked of references today to
pinball in cartoons, music, etc.. When it came to colleges and
universities, Wayne suggested that one might get an interest in pinball
going in such Departments as Popular Culture (of course!), Sociology,
Communications, American Studies, and Leisure Studies.
Regarding getting pinball coverage from the "media", Wayne first made
the comment that the proposed IFPA tournaments "couldn't hurt", but that
he personally doubted they would help much either. He then told us that
the American Popular Culture meeting got some coverage on Canadian TV, and
also that he himself was interviewed on the Canadian equivalent of our
Regarding "organizations", Wayne said that he believed that we need a
"traditional non-profit organization" to lobby, advocate, inform, and to
"focus interest on pins". His idea, he continued, was for that
organization to focus on such areas as research, preservation, collecting,
and education, also saying he thought it could promote pinball through
conferences, publications, and a "speaker's bureau".
Wayne then said a little about the "structure" he thought the
organization should have, saying it should be structured somewhat similar
to the American Popular Culture Association. He then emphasized that our
people could have the opportunity to speak at many conferences. Wayne
also remarked that pinball should get into museums such as children's,
history, and science.
In conclusion, Wayne said that he thought that pinball needed a "long
term validation in American popular culture", a non-profit organization,
more interest from "academia", and a "traveling exhibition" focusing on
Wayne then asked if we had any questions? Dick Bueschel began by
asking what we need to do to get the thing going? Wayne replied that two
things have already been started, their participation in popular culture
meetings and the beginning of arrangements for a "traveling exhibition".
He then added that he and fellow Canadian collectors should "get
The question was then asked how other people could get involved in
Popular Culture endeavors? Wayne replied that he could help interested
people by obtaining copies of newsletters on Popular Culture for them.
Finally, someone remarked that juke boxes appeared to not have any
organizations, etc., yet seemed to get more public recognition than pins.
Wayne answered that jukes "carry the design of their day", looking like
the period in which they were made, while most pins are "dumb looking"
unless you really look close. He then added that jukes also play music
which is a very "emotional" thing to most people while pins just "make
noise". Dick Bueschel then added that Rowe-AMI has a jukebox museum but
pinball has none.
"VOICES" - FRED YOUNG
When announcing the next speaker, Fred Young, Rob Berk referred to
him as "a special person". He then said that Fred had appeared on TV and
was said to have "999 voices", and that he was now doing some voice
imitations for Data East pinballs.
Fred began by telling us that he had done voice imitations and acting
for the past eleven years, but had just started doing voices for pinballs.
He then talked in a series of voices to show us what he could do,
including the "Pillsbury Doughboy" which he said he did on commercials for
about 6 months.
Fred next said that when he was asked to do a pinball, something
which he had never done before, they told him they wanted him to do "King
Kong", so he rented the movie and studied the voice. He then said he went
to the recording studio where he was met by Joe Kaminkow from Data East
for whom he played one of his audition tapes. As a result Data East
contracted him to do several games.
He then began telling about doing voices for their BACK TO THE FUTURE
pinball, saying he did both Christopher LLoyd and Michael J. Fox. He then
told us that he could not talk about other games he had done because they
were not yet in production. He next commented that Steven Speilberg owned
two BACK TO THE FUTURE games.
Fred then said that when he was asked to come to the Expo he agreed
because he had never been to that type of event before. He then told us
that he had played pinball as a kid. Fred then said that he had been
doing voice imitations since High School, telling about one time when he
imitated the Assistant Principal on the school intercom.
After telling us that he also did voices for "educational devices",
like "Speak and Spell", he said he is still recording for Data East. Fred
told us that he was usually given a script of about 100 lines, his voices
were then recorded, and finally "digitized" to go into a chip in the game.
He then remarked that the new pins are "unbelievable".
Finally Fred told us that he practices about 3 hours a day. He then
mentioned that he did the voice of Rod Serling for Toyota commercials.
At that point Fred asked for questions. When asked if he ever had
threats of being sued by the people he imitated, he replied that that
problem was usually avoided by using a "disclaimer" such as "celebrity
Fred was next asked if imitating voices was a lot of work? He
replied that how hard it was depended a lot on the particular voice, which
he said he had to "hear in his head". He continued by saying that it took
a lot of practice after listening to a recording of the actual voice.
When asked if he could do the voices for a "Star Wars" pingame if one were
produced, Fred replied "yes, except maybe for some of the female
He was next asked if it was hard to teach someone else to do
imitations? Fred answered that it would be difficult, adding that it's
hard to tell someone how. When finally asked how many years he had been
doing it, Fred replied "33 years, I started at age 7". Also throughout his
talk Fred did many excellent imitations for us. He was indeed a very
"special person" and a talented individual.
THE ART OF THE SIMPSONS
Rob then introduced the final Expo speaker (except for the banquet)
Data East pinball artist Kevin O'Connor who did the artwork for their
latest pin, THE SIMPSONS. Kevin began by saying that he would give us a
"behind the scenes" look at what went into producing art for the game.
He then told us that Matt Groening, creator of "The Simpson's" TV
show, started out as a cartoonist and had a very "simplistic" style or
art. Kevin then said that his style was different from Matt's and that he
had to do a lot of "adjusting". He also told us that he was given a "style
book" for "The Simpson's", which also gave information on the "family" and
their "personalities", adding that Matt was very particular that his style
be copied in the game's art.
Kevin then told of going to Hollywood to visit the people at Fox
Studios when first starting the project. He said that throughout the job
he submitted various sketches to Fox and that Matt Groening made "subtle
corrections" to them. He then said they showed the Fox people the
finished backglass and playfield for final approval. As an aside, Kevin
said that there were more "broken" backglasses on SIMPSONS than on any
game in the company's history, implying that operators were keeping
backglasses for themselves.
Someone from the audience then asked Kevin how long it took him to do
the art? He replied that it took about 5 months, including several trips
to Los Angeles, plus a lot of "FAXing" of sketches. Kevin was then asked
if that had been one of his more difficult projects? He replied
"probably, since this is not my style".
We were next told that he was working on the art for a future
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" pinball the company was planning to
produce, saying that Paul Faris was doing the backglass but that he was
"doing everything else".
Kevin had on display examples of various stages of the artwork
development, including the first sketch of the playfield and a board
containing various other sketches. He also told us that Matt Groening was
"very excited about the project". Kevin then said one of the difficult
things he had to learn was how to draw each of the characters in different
After his talk was over Kevin stayed for awhile, talking with people
and also showing us samples of the various "color separations" used in
manufacturing the backglass.
One of the high points of every Expo is always the Saturday night
banquet. As in the past, the banquet was preceded by a "cocktail hour"
where people usually "socialize", but this year that was a little hard to
do due to the rather loud music that was continuously being played. After
that, we were seated and served an unusually good dinner for a banquet,
after which we settled back in our chairs for the after dinner
Prior to the talk by the featured guest speaker, two presentations
were made to other people who had contributed greatly to pinball design,
etc., in the past two decades.
Steve Kordek of Williams first got up to honor long-time Williams
designer Barry Oursler. He began by saying that Barry started with the
company in 1970 and was designing his own games by 1978, his first being
PHOENIX. Steve then proceeded to list his other designs which included a
total of 24 games in 12 years. At that point Steve introduced Williams
Vice President of Marketing Joe Dillon who then gave some words of praise
for Barry. Barry then came up and thanked everybody. Finally Rob Berk
presented Barry with his first game, PHOENIX.
At this point Rob Berk said there was another presentation to be made
and introduced Joe Kaminkow of Data East Pinball. Joe told us that along
with the designers, artists and others who work on each game, the "unsung
hero", responsible for much of the "light and sound", etc., was the
"software designer". He then said that one of the best was Larry DeMar of
Williams, then giving a list of the many games he had worked on.
Joe then brought Joe Dillon back up and he also praised Larry's work.
Larry then came up and thanked everyone, also saying that this show was
"more fun" than any of the other shows he attends, then giving special
thanks to the players for playing his games. After that Larry was
presented with his first game, SCORPION.
At that point Rob Berk got up and introduced the people sitting with
him at the speakers table including his mother, Expo Exhibit Chairman Mike
Pacak, and our guest speaker Rufus King. He then introduced Alvin
Gottlieb who got up to tell us a little about Rufus.
Alvin first thanked Rob Berk for putting on such fine Expos, which of
course drew a round of applause. He then told of the pingame industry
having problems awhile back when "amusement pins" encountered legal
problems because of the use of other pingames for gambling. He then
mentioned the industry being split into "two camps", with the amusement
game manufacturers forming their own trade association. Alvin then said
that their legal counsel enlisted help from Yale Law School educated Rufus
King who was very familiar with legal matters concerning gambling due to
his work with the Kefauver Crime Investigations of the U.S. Senate.
Alvin then introduced Rufus who began his talk. (It should be noted
that several times during his speech Rufus remarked that he had been asked
to try and cut his talk short, at one time saying that he had prepared a
one hour talk which he was trying to cut to 20 minutes. In my opinion,
asking him to do this was a mistake and seemed to cause him some
Rufus began with an anecdote regarding a "boring speaker" and what
the host did to "preempt" that talk. He then remarked that probably the
audience "collectively" knew more about his subject that he did, but that
many of us individually probably did not know it all. He then said that
he would give us a "quick view" of problems with "amusement pins" versus
"gambling pins" in the past.
Rufus then told of the differences between "vending" and "gambling"
devices. He said that vending machines, which had been around for a long
time, had two basic functions connected with their operation: taking in a
"payment", and delivering a product or service. Rufus then commented that
the early gambling machines, introduced by Fey and Mills around the Turn
of the Century, had three functions: taking in a "stake", applying the
element of "chance", and controlling a "payout".
He next gave us a "whirlwind review" of gambling. Rufus said that
gambling existed for centuries, and was generally considered legal until
sometime in the Nineteenth Century, saying that lotteries in Colonial
America were used to raise funds for the Revolution and other charitable
Rufus then told us that problems with gambling began to occur just
prior to the Civil War due to fraudulent lotteries, crooked "riverboat
gambling", and also some crooked horse races. It was because of this kind
of thing, he went on, that laws against gambling began to appear.
So by the turn of the Twentieth Century, Rufus told us, gambling in
this country was largely illegal, and the new slot machines began a
"running fight" with the law. In order to try and get around the law, the
manufacturers of such machines tried to "disguise" one or more of the
three "basic functions" of gambling machines Rufus said.
To get around a coin being inserted, some machines did not require a
coin to operate them, the "establishment man" collecting the fee. To
disguise the "chance" function, some machines had small pinball games
which supposedly required "skill", and still others "told" the player what
he would receive when the next coin was deposited.
To try and hide "cash payouts", such things as tickets or tokens were
sometimes dispensed in lieu of cash. Rufus even mentioned the "mint
vendors" used on some machines, the manufacturers saying these were
actually "vending machines". He then remarked that when the law would
"crack down" on one location they would be moved somewhere else.
Rufus then started talking about the development of pingames from the
Nineteenth Century game of Bagatelle. He said in the early 1930's
counter-top pingames became very popular, as well as other coin machines,
such as "grip testers" and "music machines", all of which he said "vended
all kinds of amusement".
Rufus then said that in the early Thirties, when pingames started to
become so popular, the slot machine people were "beginning to run out of
ideas" for ways to get around restrictive laws. At that time, he
continued, pinball manufacturers started incorporating "free game"
features in their games. He then told of the introduction of the "1-ball"
gambling pinballs, which he said had "fast play", comparing them to the
"amusement" pingames which, he then remarked, emphasized "the
entertainment value of the playfield".
Rufus then told us that during the war no new games were made, but
after the war the introduction of flippers transformed the pingame into "a
stable popular entertainment device". He then told of the advent of the
"bingo" gambling pins with their "multiple coin", "advancing odds", and
other features, saying these were again "fast play gambling devices".
These games, he continued, "put the gamblers back in business".
He next told us that the Government levied a Federal Tax of $250 per
game on "gambling devices", but only $10 for "amusement games". But,
Rufus said, the wording of the tax law was "ambiguous" when it came to the
"bingos", these games, he said, having "spread across the country" by the
Rufus then told of the "Korpan case" in the Supreme Court which he
said was a "test case" to see if "bingos" fell under the $250 gambling
machine tax. He told of Alvin Gottlieb helping him to prepare a "brief"
for the court by going through old pingame advertising using pictures and
claims from ads to try and show that pingames, starting in the mid 1930's,
had divided into "two branches", "gambling" and "amusement".
This brief, Rufus said, was instrumental in winning the case, which
he said started a "turn around" in their fight against the "bingo", the
IRS then starting to "crack down" and enforce the $250 tax on these
Rufus then told us that "hostility" against illegal gambling reached
a "crescendo" during the period in the 1950's of the Senate's "Kefauver
investigation" of organized crime. He then remarked that former
bootleggers became the "gangsters" who were heavy into gambling in later
Getting back to "bingos", he said they were really "dominant" in the
Fifties, adding that wherever such illegal gambling was "tolerated" there
was no chance for "amusement flipper games". Rufus then went on to say
that when local authorities would "crack down" on bingos, and an area
would become "closed" to them, that would almost always "come off" onto
amusement games as well, such that they could not be operated there
Rufus then talked briefly about the "split" in the coin machine
industry which occurred in the 1950's. He said the "gambling"
manufacturers, led by Bally, went off in one direction and the "amusement"
manufacturers, led by Harry Williams and David Gottlieb, went the other
way, forming their own trade association to try to get bingos outlawed.
After they won the Korpan decision things began to "settle back" he
said. Rufus then told of the development of the "Add-A-Ball" game by
Gottlieb which gave no "replays", but said it sometimes had trouble
because it had only one ball and some laws prohibited "one-ball games".
Rufus then told of working to get different bills through Congress
to help the amusement game industry. One such bill, he told us, was
passed by Congress and sent to then President Kennedy for signature in
October 1962. Rufus said they wondered why it took so long for the
President to sign it, later discovering that he had been very busy with
the "Cuban Missile Crisis". He also mentioned other legislative problems
in Illinois which he worked on.
Finally Rufus told about when he was demonstrating the difference
between "bingos" and "amusement" pins to the Senate. He said that once
when he was about to show how a bingo "paid off" with a large number of
replays, one of the Bally people snuck behind the game and "tilted" it,
spoiling his demonstration. Rufus then ended his talk with two amusing
After Rufus's talk Alvin Gottlieb once more got up and thanked him,
praising his efforts on behalf of the amusement pinball industry.
At that point Rob Berk got up and asked how many were "first timers",
revealing quite a few "new faces". He then introduced all the foreign
visitors from Japan, Holland, England, Canada and New Zealand. After that
Rob awarded two plaques for the "best exhibit" to Steve Engle and his wife
for their innovative Mayfair Amusements booth. He next made some
presentations to his "helpers" at the Expos.
At that point Rob called a fellow named Jim Schelberg up on stage to
make a special presentation. Jim was the proud owner of the beautifully
restored Genco TRIPLE ACTION (Genco's first flipper game) which we all had
seen and played in the Exhibit Hall. Jim then asked Steve Kordek, the
game's designer, to come up. Jim said he couldn't give Steve the actual
game, but presented him with a "plaque" which was actually a large photo
collage of pictures and original advertising matter for Steve's first
Steve thanked Jim and then reiterated the story of how he came to
design the game which he had told us about in his earlier talk. Steve
again praised Harry Mabs' invention of the flipper and how it was
responsible for pinball being what it is today.
At that point Rob Berk came back up and presented Steve with a plaque
honoring him for his seven decades in the pinball business. Steve thanked
Rob and then praised what he called the "young kids"; the designers,
artists, software people, etc., who he said were responsible for keeping
pinball alive today!
Rob Berk then began thanking others who had contributed to the Expo,
including Donal Murphey for bringing some rare old games for Exhibit Hall
visitors to play, and Joe Kaminkow and Gary Stern for letting us tour
their Data East Pinball plant. Gary Stern then made a few brief remarks
saying how proud he was of his people's accomplishments during the four
years Data East Pinball had been in business.
At that point Rob began giving the results of this year's "Flip-Out"
pinball tournament. The First Prize of a new SIMPSONS pinball machine
went to Californian Rick Stedda, with Second Place going to John Pierce.
First Place for the "manufacturers division" went to Alvin Gottlieb's son,
Michael, keeping up the family tradition of "pinball excellence", with
Second Place going to Williams' Larry DeMar. It was then announced that
in a "play-off" between Rick and Michael the latter won, Michael then
being crowned "Pinball Wizard" by Rob Berk's mother.
The "door prize" was then drawn, a new Gottlieb TITLE FIGHT being
given to the lucky winner! The raffle prize was next, a new Bally/Midway
DR. DUDE machine being won by one of the seminar speakers Tim Arnold.
This was not too surprising, however, Tim having won several raffles at
past Expos, due to his purchase of a large percentage of the tickets.
After that Rob Berk thanked the manufacturers for donating these fine
Rob then presented a plaque to Rufus King for being the guest
speaker. He then presented his Exhibit Chairman, Mike Pacak, with two
items; a collage of pictures of Chicago's famed Riverview Park amusement
park (Mike is an amusement park "junkie") and a fine clock. Rob then
informed us that Pinball Expo '91 had already been scheduled for October
The "finale" of the banquet was the appearance of a fine "stand up
comic", Mr. Ted Lyde. Ted presented a great show, the highlight of which
was a simulation of a TV game show using members of the audience,
including a couple executives of the pinball companies, as "contestants".
That ended another excellent Expo banquet. When it was over many went to
the Exhibit Hall for a "late night session".
THE EXHIBIT HALL
The Exhibit Hall, as it always has been in the past, was the central
place for Expo visitors to congregate during the times it was open. And,
as I mentioned at the start of this article, it was opened for a "preview"
the night before the show if you were willing to pay the extra fee. It
was a place to shop for a game, parts, or literature, and also a place to
play a variety of games, both new and old.
Also as in the past, there were some games that were not for sale,
but brought to the show for us to view and play. There were some nice
classic games brought by Donal Murphey, a few more provided by Exhibit
Chairman Mike Pacak (including a rare 1952 Williams horseracing game,
HORSEFEATHERS, in a "console style" cabinet), and the beautifully restored
Genco TRIPLE ACTION mentioned earlier, provided by Jim Schelberg.
If you were in the market for a pinball there was also a large
variety for sale. One dealer had some nice looking "electro-mechanicals"
from the 1970's selling for very reasonable prices. If you wanted rarer
games, from the 1930's or a little later, there were some of these
available from two or three dealers. One dealer even had two rare later
games, electro-mechanical versions of games which were primarily issued as
"solid-state" games. Also, on the second day, dealer Pat Hamlett brought
in a rare Keeney "bingo", LITE-A-LINE from 1952.
As far as current games were concerned, Williams was the only
manufacturer this year to make a real effort to display their latest
wares. Data East Pinball did have their latest hit THE SIMPSONS there,
but only as the "Flip-Out" tournament "qualifying game". If you wanted to
watch that game being played you could watch the tournament competitors
playing it for hours!
Premier did have one of their Gottlieb TITLE FIGHT games there, and
designer Jon Norris has his "whitewood" prototype of his latest design,
VEGAS, which he used during his demonstration lecture, and was available
in the hall for anyone to play that wanted to.
Mike Pacak, as usual, had a good selection of pinball advertising
brochures for sale and viewing. He also brought part of his rare set of
bound BILLBOARD magazines, allowing myself, and a few other "historians",
a chance to peruse them if we were very very careful! Thanks Mike!!!
There was also a selection of parts available, especially from the
"prize winning" booth of Steve Engle's Mayfair Amusement. Repair and
restoration materials were also available from WICO. Steve Young had his
usual booth, of course, selling all his fine Silverball Amusement products
and literature reprints.
As a final note regarding the Exhibit Hall, there was a brief period
of time, if you were at Rob Berk's booth at just the right time, that you
could buy the beautiful pinball book from Japan I mentioned earlier. I
had heard they would be on sale Friday evening and stayed pretty close to
Rob's booth until they were delivered.
As soon as the books arrived people were lined up to buy them. There
were only 20 copies available and they were all sold in about 10 minutes!
The Japanese visitors who brought them, and also contributed to the book,
were there to graciously autograph each copy.
The book was beautifully made but, of course, the text was in
Japanese. All the names of the games were in English, however, as were
the "section titles". The book contained, among other things, a beautiful
color section of playfields and backglasses of solid-state games, a
section with small pictures of many electro-mechanical games from the
1970's, a history section (all in Japanese), and a chronological list of
games (in English). The book also had a section on how to play pinball
(with diagrams) the text, however, all in Japanese.
As has been my custom for the past several years, the following is a
chronological list of all the pingames in the Exhibit Hall, both those for
sale and those only for display and play. An asterisk (*) next to the
name of a game in the list indicates "not for sale".
NAME MANUFACTURER YEAR
++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++++++++ ++++++++
BALLYHOO Bally 1932
MAJESTIC (JR.) Standard Mfg. 1932
INTERNATIONAL ABT? 1932?
PONTIAC Genco 1934
BIG GAME Rockola 1935
BUILDER-UPPER GM Labs 1935
RICOCHET Stoner 1937
CALIENTE Exhibit 193?
BIG BROADCAST Bally 1941
(*) MONTERREY (MODIFIED) United 1948
GRAND AWARD Chicago Coin 1948
KING COLE Gottlieb 1948
SWEETHEART Williams 1950
(*) HORSE FEATHERS Williams 1952
LITE-A-LINE Keeney 1952
ARMY AND NAVY Williams 1953
DRAGONETTE Gottlieb 1954
HAWAIIAN BEAUTY Gottlieb 1954
(*) JOLLY JOKER (ROLL DOWN) Williams 1955
SCORE BOARD Gottlieb 1956
SEA BELLES Gottlieb 1956
(*) HIGH HAND (ROLL DOWN) Williams 1957
(*) GUSHER Williams 1958
(*) CROSSWORD Williams 1959
(*) HI-DIVER Gottlieb 1959
(*) DARTS Williams 1960
DANCING DOLLS Gottlieb 1960
(*) FLIPPER FAIR (AAB) Gottlieb 1961
(*) SHOWBOAT Gottlieb 1961
SPACE SHIP Williams 1961
SLICK CHICK Gottlieb 1963
SWING ALONG Gottlieb 1963
(*) NORTH STAR Gottlieb 1964
BANK-A-BALL Gottlieb 1965
BLUE RIBBON Bally 1965
ICE REVIEW Gottlieb 1965
KINGS AND QUEENS Gottlieb 1965
A-GO-GO Williams 1966
FUN CRUISE Bally 1966
HOT LINE Williams 1966
DIAMOND JACK (AAB) Gottlieb 1967
KING OF DIAMONDS Gottlieb 1967
ROCKET III Bally 1967
DOMINO Gottlieb 1968
DOOZIE Williams 1968
FUNLAND Gottlieb 1968
KING TUT Bally 1969
SPIN-A-CARD Gottlieb 1969
BASEBALL Gottlieb 1970
CARD TRIX (AAB) Gottlieb 1970
STRIKE ZONE Williams 1970
DOODLE BUG Williams 1971
EXTRA INNING Gottlieb 1971
FOUR MILLION B.C. Bally 1971
KLONDIKE Williams 1971
PLAYBALL Gottlieb 1971
ROLLER COASTER Gottlieb 1971
VAMPIRE Bally 1971
YUKON Williams 1971
FLYING CARPET Gottlieb 1972
GRANADA (AAB) Williams 1972
KING KOOL Gottlieb 1972
OLYMPIC HOCKEY Williams 1972
ORBIT Gottlieb 1972
SPANISH EYES Williams 1972
SUPER STAR Williams 1972
WILD LIFE Gottlieb 1972
WORLD SERIES Gottlieb 1972
DARLING Williams 1973
DELTA QUEEN Bally 1973
GULFSTREAM Williams 1973
JUMPING JACK Gottlieb 1973
NIP IT Bally 1973
SWINGER Williams 1973
TRAVEL TIME Williams 1973
TROPIC FUN Williams 1973
ATLANTIS Gottlieb 1974
BIG SHOT Gottlieb 1974
DEALER'S CHOICE Williams 1974
HI FLYER Chicago Coin 1974
KNOCKOUT Bally 1974
SKYJUMP Gottlieb 1974
SKYLAB Williams 1974
STAR ACTION Williams 1974
STRATO FLITE Williams 1974
TRIPLE ACTION Williams 1974
ABRA-CA-DABRA Gottlieb 1975
JUBILEE Williams 1975
SPIRIT OF '76 (SS) Micro Games 1975
THREE HUNDRED Gottlieb 1975
TRIPLE STRIKE Williams 1975
WIZARD Bally 1975
BLUE CHIP Williams 1976
BUCCANEER Gottlieb 1976
CAPTAIN FANTASTIC Bally 1976
GRAND PRIX Williams 1976
HOLLYWOOD Chicago Coin 1976
BIG DEAL Williams 1977
BRONCO Gottlieb 1977
EIGHT BALL (SS) Bally 1977
EVEL KNEIVEL (EM) Bally 1977
EVEL KNEIVEL (SS) Bally 1977
JACK'S OPEN Gottlieb 1977
LIBERTY BELL Williams 1977
TEAM ONE (AAB) Gottlieb 1977
(*) EVEL KNEIVEL (HOME) Midway 1978
BLACK JACK Bally 1978
DRAGON Gottlieb 1978
GRIDIRON Gottlieb 1978
MIDDLE EARTH Atari 1978
PLAYBOY Bally 1978
SINBAD Gottlieb 1978
VOLTAN Bally 1978
FLASH Williams 1979
GENIE Gottlieb 1979
KISS Bally 1979
METEOR Stern 1979
SOLAR RIDE Gottlieb 1979
NIGHT MOVES Int'l Concepts 197?
COUNTER FORCE Gottlieb 1980
GALAXY Stern 1980
QUICKSILVER Stern 1980
SEAWITCH Stern 1980
SILVER BALL MANIA Bally 1980
SPIDERMAN (AMAZING) Gottlieb 1980
XENON Bally 1980
CAVEMAN Gottlieb 1981
EIGHT BALL DELUXE Bally 1981
FIREBALL II Bally 1981
FIREFALL Stern 1981
LIGHTNING Stern 1981
STRIKER Gottlieb 1983
SPACE SHUTTLE Williams 1984
CYBERNAUT Bally 1985
FIREBALL CLASSIC Bally 1985
RAT RACE Williams 1985
HIGH SPEED Williams 1986
STRANGE SCIENCE Bally 1986
DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS Bally 1987
F-14 TOMCAT Williams 1987
MILLIONAIRE Williams 1987
MONTE CARLO Gottlieb 1987
BABY IN THE HOLE (special) Premier 1989
BLACK KNIGHT 2000 Williams 1989
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL Data East 1989
SILVER SLUGGER Gottlieb 1990
SIMPSONS (THE) Data East 1990
Well, there you have it, another more or less complete run-down of
the events at another great Pinball Expo. And, as I said earlier, Pinball
Expo '91 is already scheduled for October. (For further information you
may call 1-800-323-FLIP). If I am again lucky enough to be able to
attend, I look forward to many more interesting speakers, fine exhibits,
and an interesting banquet in 1991. Hope to see you there!