PINBALL EXPO '93 (PART 1)
by Russ Jensen
Well, its time to again report on the greatest pinball show of all,
Pinball Expo. Pinball Expo '93 was the ninth year of the show and was held
this time on September 9 through 12, 1993, again at the Ramada/O'Hare hotel
in Rosemont, IL.
This time I decided to travel to Chicago from nearer-by
Hollywood/Burbank Airport instead of Los Angeles International. I had used
that airport several months earlier when going to the Arizona Pinball show
and found it much more convenient to get to and from; and my daughter could
drive me both ways using my car.
The only disadvantage of this plan was that there were no non-stop
flights to Chicago. Going I had to change planes in Denver and returning
in San Francisco (but more about that later).
Well, the flight to Chicago was uneventful and I arrived at the hotel
around 2:30 Thursday afternoon. Because the show this year had a four day
schedule (Thursday through Sunday), and the pinball plant tour was
scheduled for 1 PM Thursday, I had to miss the tour of the new Alvin G. and
Co. plant which I really regretted since it's the only plant I have never
THE ALVIN G. & CO. SOLID-STATE SYSTEM
So, by the time I arrived, it was about time for the "Tour Wrap-up"
session (a presentation by the Alvin G. crew) which I attended. Mike
Gottlieb, son and partner of company founder Alvin Gottlieb, began the
presentation. After remarking that this was the 9th Expo, and telling us
that he personally had enjoyed all the shows, he asked the audience for
Someone first asked if Mike had "hunted" for the five pingames he
personally owned? Mike said that both Donal Murphy and Steve Young had
helped him, adding that his Gottlieb DRAGONETTE had come from Rhode Island.
When asked how many games the company produced per day, Mike replied
that they were capable of doing 125, but now are doing anywhere from 5 to
50 depending on orders.
When asked if they could make more than one model at a time, he
replied that this was not planned in the near future, adding that the plant
had the flexibility of changing over to a different game more easily than
the larger manufacturers. Mike then remarked that their "redemption game"
(a game where you win tickets rather than free games), PERKY THE CLOWN, was
doing well, adding that it only took two and one half months to go through
design into production due to it's less complicate "game rules".
When Mike was asked about some unused floor space someone noticed at
the plant, he replied that it could be used if they ever decide to increase
their production line to produce pins and redemption games at the same
Mike was then asked if they had problems setting up world-wide
distribution for their games? Mike said that Europe was not easy. He then
talked about their requirement that distributors also stock repair parts.
Mike then said that the "bottom line" when it came to game maintenance was
to "make sure game customers know how to fix their games."
When asked about game software development, Mike said they use the
Rockwell 6502 microprocessor, and have their own in-house assembly language
operating system, adding that you don't need "486 processor power" for
Mike was then asked if the company was thinking about entering into
areas of the business that other companies don't. He replied "if we do in
a year the business Williams does in a week, that's good". He later
remarked that they were not trying to be Williams, adding "let them do the
fancy stuff; different companies like different types of games".
When asked if their games targeted a particular age group, Mike
replied that it's interesting to note that many people of all ages like the
simpler games they produce. He was then asked if in 15 or so years would
they support collectors? Mike answered "Absolutely!", then telling us that
Gottlieb always kept older parts and that they would do the same.
Mike was asked what the company planned for 1994? He replied that
they were planning on doing 3 or 4 games each year with production of 2 to
3 thousand units each. He then said their next game would be shown at the
next AMOA show, would have "depth", and would not be a "license". That
last remark drew a round of applause.
Mike then went on to say that a good game should be made to last, and
should be profitable for the operator. As to the future direction of
pinball, he said that some manufacturers "back themselves into a corner"
making games better and better, therefore having to increase prices too
Finally someone remarked that they had noticed improvements in the
company's products since their first pin WORLD TOUR, asking Mike if he had
sat down with the designers, or something? Mike replied that there always
is a stigma attached to a first game, saying it was not that easy to get
He then told us that their new game MYSTERY CASTLE was "improved" by
eliminating complex things. Mike added that it was conservatively
engineered, works good, and was a "fun game".
At that point Mike introduced their head of field service, Ed Smith.
Ed began by joking that he had stayed up half the night preparing his "pep
talk". He then passed out service manuals to everyone for MYSTERY CASTLE.
Ed told us that he had been in the business for 25 years, but was now
with "the Gottlieb family". He said the company had put together a rough
and tumble team of industry veterans who really work as a team.
MYSTERY CASTLE, Ed went on, was "the fruit of that team", and it took
hard work to improve over their first pin WORLD TOUR. Ed then said he was
excited about their games and the company's future.
He then started naming the team. First he mentioned Ray Merchant who
he said had programmed about 60 solid-state pins (many for Bally) and also
wrote their company's computer Operating System. John Boyleston, he said,
worked 14 years at Bally and believes that standardization is a good thing.
Adolph Seitz Jr., Ed went on, started with Gottlieb at the age of 16,
adding that his father, Adolph Sr., left Premier to become Alvin G.'s
Ed then told us that he used to be known as "fast Eddie". He then
gave out their toll-free service number. Ed remarked that it was a
privilege to speak to our group - saying that most of his career he
communicated mostly by phone or was on the road dealing with industry
people and talking only business and "dollars and cents". He said it was a
treat to deal with us because we enjoy games and like their features,
referring to us as "pin freaks".
At that point Ed introduced their field representative who he said
takes about 800 calls a day. He also introduced their parts and sales
representative who he said was "always available to us".
Ed then gave some information about MYSTERY CASTLE. He said it's 6502
microprocessor had 64K of RAM, and driver boards supporting 24 coils and 96
switches/lamps. He then told about their sound board which produced 42
watts of digital stereo power. Ed said that Kyle Johnson was their sound
designer. He then told of their new dot-matrix display board, which he
said had no problems.
Ed also told us that MYSTERY CASTLE had a "straightforward, clean
system". He then related a comical story about working on a game on
location in a bar when a drunk gave him some problems with his questions.
At that point Ed started describing the game's self-diagnosing
features. As part of this he asked a lady from the audience to volunteer
to help him demonstrate. When she introduced herself I was surprised to
hear that she only lived about 15 miles from me (it surely is "a small
Ed had this lady operate the push button controls on the machine to
perform various tests, demonstrating how easy it was. The tests performed
included such things as testing the lamp matrix, ball trough switches,
momentary switches, flasher lamps, solenoids, pop-bumpers, and the sound
After that rather long demonstration Ed asked for questions from the
audience. The first question asked was if it was advisable to turn the
machine on and off often. Ed replied it should be done "as needed", adding
that the games do have a "line filter" and a "varistor" which help protect
the circuitry from voltage surges and spikes.
Ed was next asked if there were any problems with running two games
side by side? He replied there should be no interference if both games are
properly grounded using a 3-prong power receptacle. This precipitated a
somewhat lengthy discussion of electronic grounding practices.
When there were no more questions Ed said that the session was over,
suggesting that we participate in the next event - pinball playing lessons.
At that point many of the show attendees went to the large area where
those lessons were being given. The instructors this year (like last year
when this idea was first instituted) were all expert tournament players.
The lessons this year were very popular, people standing in line to get
The Expo seminar program began Friday morning with opening remarks by
show producer Rob Berk. Rob began by reminding everyone that this was the
9th Expo. He then welcomed those who were attending for the first time,
asking us "old timers" to help them out.
Rob next remarked that the previous day's plant tour was very
interesting, adding that maybe there might be some new plants to tour in
the future. He then told us that the "Flip-Out" pinball tournament
connected with the show would last until Saturday evening.
Rob then told of a change in the Pinball Art seminar - Greg Feres
replacing Python Anghelo. After telling us that the pinball movies "Tommy"
and "Tilt" would b shown late at night, he then told about the pinball
auction scheduled to start Saturday at 10 AM.
The seminars, Rob reminded us, would be all that day, plus one on
Saturday at 1:30 PM. He then introduced Mark Pratt from Arizona who would
be recording and selling (for $5 each) audio cassettes of the seminars.
Rob then introduced his co-producer and Exhibit Hall Chairman Mike Pacak
who gave out information on the Exhibit Hall hours.
PINBALL CABINET RESTORATION TIPS
The first Expo seminar was a video tape prepared by East Coast
collector Bob Jarm. Bob's tape began with a self-introduction, he then
saying that Gottlieb's 1952 pin CROSSROADS would be used in his
Bob showed that his work area was set up like an auto body shop. He
told us that anyone can do cabinet restoration and you don't have to be an
artist. Bob then remarked that he is still gaining experience as he goes
He next showed the CROSSROADS before the cabinet was painted,
remarking that it was often hard to remove the old paint. Bob then showed
how the old pattern under the removed paint can be measured to help in the
restoration, and that the new pattern can then be laid out, using photos of
another game if necessary.
Bob then said you should sand the cabinet to the bare wood using 100
grit sandpaper first, then 120 grit. After that, he went on, you should
fill any gouges in the wood with auto body filler or putty. He then showed
similar work on the game's head.
After reminding us that the wood rails should be masked first, Bob
said to use a primer of grey auto lacquer which you should let set up for
one hour. He then showed how he repaired a broken area on the coin door
with wood filler and then primered it.
Bob then showed his application of two coats of the base color paint.
He then gave more detail on copying the original artwork pattern using
either stencils or doing it visually. Bob then reminded us to sand the
primer before applying the base coats to get a good adhesion.
Before you do the details of the artwork pattern, Bob reminded us to
"think how you want to do it" before you start. He then said that to start
the detail you should locate the center of the pattern and use a stencil
(or mask) when painting the pattern colors.
Bob then showed how stripes in the pattern are taped off before
painting, but untaped before the paint is entirely dry to kill any heavy
edges on the border lines. He then showed the cardboard stencil he used,
and how he used tape to line it up. Bob then demonstrated how he used a
combination of the stencil and fine-line masking tape to create a line
going through a circle.
He then showed the completed game ready for display at Pin Fest '93.
Bob commented that a good cabinet enhances a game in addition to a good
backglass and playfield, adding that a good cabinet makes other flaws not
as noticeable. He then remarked that he can live with a fair original
cabinet, unless it is really bad.
Bob next made the comment that he had shown us how he did it, adding
that someone else might do it differently. He then said you don't have to
completely strip a cabinet. Bob told us that his total time to do the
cabinet shown was approximately 25 hours.
He then showed the backglass and playfield for the CROSSROADS,
remarking that the glass was pretty good and saying he did not touch up the
playfield. We were then shown close-ups of the game.
At that point Bob began showing other games he had restored, starting
with Gottlieb's KNOCKOUT which had a very good backglass. He then showed
shots of his basement game room containing many fine wood-rail pins and
pins from the 1960's. The 1960's games he showed included Gottlieb's 1965
classic ICE REVIEW and CROSSTOWN from 1966, remarking that he had used the
restoration method he just demonstrated on those games.
Bob then remarked that anything can be restored if you take enough
time. When he showed Gottlieb's 1941 pin MIAMI BEACH Bob told us that he
had found the original artwork pattern on the old cabinet. He then showed
a Gottlieb GIGI which he said had had it's cabinet painted brown when he
Bob next showed pictures of his "60's Room" with 1960's era pins plus
a juke box and pool table. Showing his shop again (where a Williams SAN
FRANCISCO was being restored) Bob said that 60's machines only take about
20 hours of cabinet restoration, but will last for years if his method is
He next talked some more about techniques. Bob said that "thin line"
(3/8") masking tape is flexible and easy to use, even for making circular
patterns, is faster than using stencils, and can be found at an auto body
Bob next talked about his playfield restorations, saying there is more
than one way to do it. He told of a SEA WOLF he did which had a 6 inch
area of bare wood around the kickers. He then remarked that if a field is
bad what can you lose by trying to restore it?
Bob then suggested that instead of just touching up a bad area, you
should find areas where you can blend new paint with the old. He told us
he used enamels with a brush and mixed colors. He then added that you
don't have to be fancy and not to worry about outlines which you can do
Bob then showed how he blended paint into a bad area, remarking that
this is hard to spot afterwards unless a person is really looking for it.
He then showed how he added "shadow" with a pen. Bob then remarked that he
often does outlines heavier than the originals to cover any slop in his
painting, adding that you should let the touch-up set for 2 days before
doing the outlines.
Bob said that the field should be finished off with polyurathane,
which also can be used to fill in finer depressions. He said two or three
coats should be used, sanding the first coat with 600 grit sandpaper.
After setting for two days, he said, the field should be waxed.
This type of restoration, Bob went on, is a good way of increasing the
value of a game - sometimes making it look close to the original. He said
that this is one way of "getting good games from bad ones".
At that point Bob showed more of his restored games. He showed a
Gottlieb DAISY MAE which he said originally had "silver dollar sized" bare
spots on it's playfield. He then showed a Gottlieb HAPPY DAYS which he
said had a bad field (with 2 inch bare spots at the bottom) but had a good
backglass and cabinet.
Bob next told us that he sometimes gives advice over the phone. He
then said that what he has done has been successful for him. He then told
us that his average time for a full restoration is about a month (including
drying time, etc.), but that a wood-rail could take a little longer.
As far as shipping games to him for restoration is concerned Bob said
he had no good suggestions - especially over long distances. He then
remarked that if a person lives in the Northeast he might consider driving
to meet them half way. As far as guaranteeing his work is concerned, he
said if a person is not happy with it he might consider re-doing it or
giving a partial refund.
Bob then said that the worst criticism he remembers is that the
restored game "looks too good". He then remarked that he tries to make
games look "factory fresh", just like a restored automobile.
Finally, Bob said that he probably could make a game look aged if
that's what the customer wants. He then said that if anyone is interested
in having him do a game for them they should give him a call.
When the video ended, Rob Berk remarked that he had seen Bob's
collection and that it was "hard to match"! He then said that there was an
example of Bob's work on display in Steve Young's booth in the Exhibit
THE EVOLUTION OF PINBALL DESIGN
Rob Berk then started to introduce the next seminar. He began by
saying that when he planned the first Expo in 1985 he wanted to get
together some great long-time pinball designers, which he did. He said
that nine years later they are "living legends".
Rob then introduced long-time designer Wayne Neyens who designed all
the Gottlieb games from 1951 through 1967 (at a rate of about one per
month). Rob told us that Wayne started with Western Products in the 1930's
and ended up at Gottlieb, but in between also worked for awhile at both
Chicago Coin and Genco. This drew a round of applause.
The second panelist, Norm Clark, Rob jokingly referred to as "the old
man", Norm being by far the youngest. He told us Norm started at Williams
in 1954, worked for Bally for awhile, and now has his own business.
Rob then introduced designer Steve Kordek, who he said was 82 years
young and had been a pin designer for over 52 years! He had started at
Genco, later worked for a short time at Bally, and has been with Williams
for many years. Rob then added that the end of Steve's career was "nowhere
in sight", which drew a round of applause.
Rob then told us that the subject of the seminar was "the evolution of
pingame design". He then asked each panelist to give a brief summary of
Wayne began by talking of being hired by Western Products while he was
still in high school and working with ace designer Lyn Durrant. He said he
started out doing drafting but later "did everything".
Wayne told us that at the time there were 5 or 6 designers at Western
and each didn't know what the others were doing. He said they sat in
cubicles and would sometime peek over at others and copy their work. Wayne
then told us that the boss, Jimmy Johnson, would often tell them to quit
copying each other.
Wayne said he eventually got to Gottlieb and got to work with the
great designer Harry Mabs (the inventor of the flipper) from whom Wayne
said he learned a lot. He said that when Mabs left the company to go to
work for Williams he "fell into the chief designer's job".
Today, Wayne commented, there are also programmers involved, but in
those days the designers had no such help - they had to design their own
units and make them work. He then told of a device which he called the
"slow drop" which he said was the forerunner of the pinball score motor.
Wayne then told us that the first four-player pin, SUPER JUMBO, which
he designed in 1954, was a "take-off" of the shuffle bowling games
prevalent at the time. He also told of a six-player game, which he was
going to call HIGH BOY, which never got into production.
Wayne ended by mentioning the Add-A-Ball games which were originated
at Gottlieb to try and get around legal problems pins were having in some
Norm Clark then began by saying that he was happy to say he was the
youngest of the three. He told us that he was an Electrical Engineer who
hailed from Canada and got a job in Chicago with the Hallicrafters radio
He said that later he was hired at Williams because Harry Williams
wanted to incorporate electronics into pingames - but the use of vacuum
tubes in pins proved to be prohibitive. So, Norm said, he became a
technician at the plant.
Norm said at that time both Harry Williams and Harry Mabs were at
Williams. He then told of Harry Williams flying back and forth from
California, of Harry Mabs leaving the company, and of Steve Kordek being
hired in 1960
In 1961, Norm said, Williams president Sam Stern gave him a shot at
game design, his first game being KING PIN in 1962. He then said that he
did well in designing, continuing with Williams until 1974, adding that he
and Steve Kordek did design, wiring, etc., producing 8 to 10 games per
At that point Steve Kordek began with his history. He first said that
Norm's KING PIN had the largest run of any game in the 1960's. Steve then
said that he helped Harry Mabs before he left Williams and has been with
the company for over 30 years.
Going back to his old days at Genco, Steve said that the reason they
always used D.C. circuitry in their games was that it was cheaper. He then
briefly mentioned the "slow-drop" circuitry Wayne had referred to earlier,
and then talked about the use of copper "slugs" in electro-magnet coils to
give slower pick-up and drop-out action.
Steve then told about the "roll-down" games Genco made in the late
1940's (such as TOTAL ROLL and ADVANCE ROLL) and told the story of how,
when they were short on wood for the cabinets, Howard Hughes flew lumber to
them which was left over from his "Spruce Goose" project in California. He
said that that was not common knowledge.
Steve next told us that he has had an exciting experience in the
pingame industry. He said he started out as a Forrest Ranger, but came to
Chicago to try and get a job close to his family. Steve then told how he
ducked into Genco's doorway to get out of the rain and ended up getting a
job as a solderer. He then said it has been fun ever since and that he has
worked with the best designers in the world.
He then started talking about the many phases in the evolution of
pinball. Steve said he could even talk about cabinets for weeks, including
changes in legs, widths, and lightboxes. Pinball legs, he went on, were
originally made from solid Oak or Birch, and Williams once used tubular
Steve then told of special cabinets with shelves which did not work
because people spilled too much beer on the game. He also talked about
changes in coin doors, and how the lightboxes increased in size over the
On the subject of playfields, Steve said at first they were entirely
mechanical. He then told of Harvey Heiss designing a game for Genco called
SPITFIRE in 1935 which had a ramp on it's field, saying that Harry Williams
also used a playfield ramp, but not until 1947 or 1948.
After remarking that he thought Dick Bueschel's book, PINBALL 1, was
very good, he talked about early electro-mechanical pins using lights for
score indication, also mentioning "score inflation" (how scoring units have
increased over the years). Steve then said that he wanted to repeat what
he has often said, that the greatest advance in the history of pinball was
the invention of the flipper by Harry Mabs in 1947 - adding that he learned
to appreciate Harry when he worked with him.
Steve then skipped ahead to the era of solid-state pingames for a
moment. He said that in the early 1930's people never thought that such
things as "carrying over" one player's features on multi-player pins could
be possible because of the limitations of electro-mechanical technology.
Steve then told us that today's designers are continually coming up with
new and different ideas and gimmicks, adding that he would love to be
around for awhile longer to see what is coming next.
Going back again to the early days, Steve told about the first use of
electric action in Harry Williams' CONTACT in 1934, and the first "pendulum
tilt" on Bally's SIGNAL later that year. Steve then mentioned other
pioneer pingames such as BALLYHOO by Bally in 1932 named after a magazine,
and ROLLS ROYCE (A.M. Waltzer - 1932) which he said "had no royalty".
After mentioning Rockola's mechanical classic, JIGSAW from 1933, Steve
said that the first football theme pin was Bally's PENNANT of that same
year. He then mentioned Genco's 1934 pin OFFICIAL BASEBALL which he said
was copied from Rockola's WORLD SERIES.
Steve next told of the introduction of the bumper to pinball on
Bally's 1936 game BUMPER, remarking that those were not "pop bumpers" as we
know them today.
Steve said that after that there were many new things added to
pingames over the years; such as drop and rotating targets, "horserace
games", etc. He ended by remarking "to me, it's the future that counts -
the young designers are so capable - we'll just have to wait and see the
At that point Rob Berk asked for questions from the audience for the
panelists. The first question asked was: In the 1930's and 1940's how were
designs laid out? Wayne answered first saying they made sketches first,
then a "white-board" mock-up to test the action of the game.
Steve Kordek then remarked that it was exciting to design. In the
early 1960's, he told us, they first drew on a board, including new
components which a "model maker" would then fabricate. Going back to his
early days at Genco, Steve told us that he also did electrical work and
prepared wiring diagrams.
After remarking that in the old days one or two people designed the
whole game while today they use teams, Steve told us it was unbelievable
all the fine people involved in designing pingames today. He then
commented that the reason new games cost so much today is that it costs
about a million dollars to prepare each new design, compared to about half
that five years ago. Because of this, he said, "today the designers better
The next question asked was what was the difference in designing
single and multi-player games? Norm first answered that single players had
all the features and multi-players were just "scoring games" with less
features. He then remarked that two-player Williams EIGHT BALL in the mid
Sixties, however, had a form of "player feature memory" using a split relay
Wayne then commented that different types of games use different
concepts. Add-A-Balls, he went on, are even different, adding that players
like Add-A-Balls if no replay games are available. He then commented that
he had laid out all types of pingames. Steve Kordek then added that after
awhile many games were made which could be operated as either replay or
Add-A-Ball games depending on a plug adjustment in the backbox.
Rob Berk then asked the panel if there were any wide playfield games
in the 1950's or 1960's? The answer given was "no, the company's couldn't
afford it". Steve Kordek next remarked that in later years designers made
wide-body games every so often.
Steve then commented that most designers would love to make them all
10 feet wide - but there is a limit. He then remarked that he thinks they
might go back to a smaller size because wide games cost too much to make.
Rob Berk then asked the panel their reaction to ramps on pingames?
Wayne said they were "after my time". Norm then commented that Harry
Williams once tried to design a 5-level playfield! Steve then remarked
that ramps made games "exciting".
Someone from the audience next asked how much new games cost to buy
and to play? Steve said he had the figures. In 1961, he said, Williams'
DOUBLE BARREL, cost about $700 to get into production, and contained $174
in parts per machine - the production quantity for the game being 1250
units. SPACE MISSION in 1976, Steve told us, had a production run of
around 16,000, sold for around $700, and contained $356 worth of parts.
My friend Sam Harvey then asked who's idea it was to have some Add-A-
Ball games with, and some without, replay versions? Wayne answered that
Add-A-Balls were required for certain territories, mentioning Texas as an
example, adding that Gottlieb also made special games for Italy. He then
commented that Add-A-Balls were "a big plus for Gottlieb", telling how
Alvin Gottlieb started it all with his 1960 game FLIPPER.
Wayne then told us that he designed many 2-player pins, with 4-player
games being just a modification of 2-player designs. Sam then asked if the
same designer did all versions (single-player, 2 and 4 player, Add-A-Ball,
etc.) of a game? Wayne answered "yes I did". Norm Clark then told about
some territories where you could not even have the "cut-out" where replays
are shown on a game.
Gottlieb collector Gordon Hasse from New York then asked how in the
1950's Gottlieb was able to produce 12 or 13 new pins each year? Wayne
answered that games were much simpler then, adding that one model often
grew out of the previous one with little modifications. He then told us
that they had to do it to keep the factory workers employed because they
"depended on you".
Norm then remarked that when he started at Williams a production run
of 300 for a game was considered good. He said they often made corrections
to a game right on the assembly line, adding that sometimes they had to lay
off production workers between games.
At that point a player from the audience said that when pingames went
from 5 ball to 3 ball play he felt betrayed; asking the panel why they went
to 3 ball games? Steve commented that whether you have 1, 3, 5, or 10
balls, playing time for a game should be all that is important. Today, he
went on, some games will return for replay any ball which does not score.
Someone then asked the panel if they would encourage people to become
designers? Steve replied that he receives from 3 to 6 letters a week from
would-be designers, remarking "every player thinks he is a designer". He
went on to say that it's hard to encourage someone to go right into design,
believing they should get into the industry at a lower level (as a
technician, for example) first.
Steve next told of getting a letter from an eight year old containing
a proposed design and including the name of his lawyer. Rob Berk then
mentioned a story Norm Clark once told about getting a letter containing a
design which included a bag of beans from a man in an insane asylum.
Steve then told us that it was nice to see so many young people in
attendance, giving credit to Rob Berk. This drew a round of applause.
The next question asked was what type of batteries were used in
pingames in the 1930's? Steve answered that they were "C batteries" which
measured 3 by 9 inches. He then remarked that they lasted a long time
because they didn't have to do much, just light a few lights and maybe
power one kicker.
Wayne then commented that if the batteries were not changed often
enough they would leak acid making the cabinets a mess. He then remarked
that operators in those days were afraid of using A.C. power. Steve then
commented that many location owners did not like the power cords running
across the floor of their establishments fearing a customer might trip over
it and sue.
Someone then asked the panel members what their favorite games were -
both their own and their competitors? Wayne was first to answer saying
QUEEN OF HEARTS, adding that maybe it should by SLICK CHICK. He then said
that he liked most of the Add-A-Balls, then mentioning a game called TEXAS
GAUCHO (which I have never heard of).
Norm said his favorites of his designs were Williams' KING PINS (1962)
and EIGHT BALL (1967). As far as other's work was concerned he mentioned
Wayne's QUEEN OF HEARTS and Steve's SPACE MISSION.
Steve said he was partial to Norm's 1966 design for Williams, A-GO-GO,
which he said had a large production run of 5100 games. Of his own games,
he quipped "the last one is always the best". As far as other companies'
games were concerned, Steve said that Gottlieb's first flipper game HUMPTY
DUMPTY was worthy of mention.
Someone then asked what the work weeks were like in the 1930's and
1940's? Wayne answered that they usually worked 8 to 5 and Saturdays,
saying they had "good work habits". He said that since they had no
association with their competitors the Gottlieb employees had Dave
Gottlieb's work habits.
Norm said in the early days he worked many hours, once working from
midnight until 7 AM, and also on Saturdays. Steve then told us that people
worked any time they had to in the Thirties.
The last question asked of the panel was regarding "accommodations"
for games sent to Canada? Steve said he couldn't remember any. Norm then
commented that he remembered changing some names to French. Finally Wayne
made a comment regarding how they had to be careful when exporting games
that the names didn't have a bad connotation in that country's language.
That ended the designers panel.
After some props were brought up on stage, Rob Berk introduced the
next speaker, pinball artist Greg Feres, who was to replace the originally
scheduled artist Python Anghelo. Rob then said that Greg started at Bally
in 1978 and had such game artwork to his credit as HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS,
ELVIRA, FATHOM, and DR. DUDE.
Greg began by giving 10 reasons (David Letterman style) why he was
there and Python was not, ending with Number '1' - "I hate my job and will
do anything to get out of the office". He then asked for questions from
Gordon Hasse first asked "what do today's artists see as their
mission? Greg answered "to put out the greatest possible art to attract
players - either from across the street or 6 inches away".
When next asked about artists conforming to "aesthetic principles",
Greg replied that lots of people review their work, especially where
licenses are involved. He said they also work closely with others on the
design team, adding that the company also directs what they do in their
Greg was then asked in the case of licensed games if they had a sense
of who their target audience was? He replied that we like to think we do.
He then added that he hoped their games appeal to ages from 12 to 50 or 60,
because they try to keep their themes universally appealing.
Someone then asked how the team that designed Bally's 1990 game DR.
DUDE was assembled? Greg replied that when the theme of the game was first
presented to management they only got "blank stares" - Steve Kordek just
shaking his head. He then said that after ELVIRA was put out they were
told they could go ahead with DR. DUDE.
Greg then told us that he did his own cartoon figure for the game
which he wanted to capture the older player market. He said he wanted
everybody to know who Dr. Dude was when he was finished.
At that point Rob Berk asked if artwork is ever stolen from a game as
sometimes happened with playfield layouts? Greg answered that it might
have happened in the old days, but not now.
Steve Kordek then asked Greg to explain how the licensing company got
involved with the art? Greg first quipped "they get in our way", then
telling us that they have to be shown each step in the artwork development
by being given sketches. He then remarked that some companies are better
than others to deal with - even sometimes helping to refine the artwork.
Rob Berk next asked Greg what he thought of the pinball art of the
30's, 40's and 50's? Greg answered that he was born in 1954 but has seen
some of it in books. He said he thinks it was good for it's time and
reflected the "pop culture" of the period just as pin art continues to do
After mentioning a young man from Ohio State (Chad Dresbach) who is
doing a Master's Thesis on pinball art and design, someone from the
audience asked Greg how involved the artists are with the actual layout of
Greg replied that he is involved almost all the time - sometimes even
being involved with component placement on the playfield. He then remarked
that the longer you work in the industry the more suggestions you can make
to the game designers. He then added that 3-dimensional objects on the
field are becoming more important.
When asked about the possibility of licensing Disney properties, Greg
replied probably not since that would involve much money. When next asked
if he had met Elvira while doing that game, Greg said he spent 3 months
with her pictures in his office. He then told us he met her once at a
trade show, that she was fun to work with, was "down to earth", and has a
Greg was next asked if there were any non-licensed games coming - he
answered "maybe". When Rob Berk asked what hours he works, Greg first
jokingly replied "10:30 to 1:30 with an hour lunch". He then said it was
more like 6 AM to 8:30 PM, which he said was also a lie.
The next question asked was did he know of any instances of humor in
pinball art? Greg replied, "yes", telling of showing broken bones on the
ELVIRA backglass after fellow Williamsite Dennis Nordman got into a
motorcycle accident, adding that with licensed games it was hard to get by
with such a thing.
Greg was next asked if he ever did any calligraphy on games? He
answered that ex-Bally artist Dave Christiansen was a master at that, but
that he did not do it, saying that they spend their time on the art,
letting computers take care of lettering, which he said eliminates the
chance of "typos".
Someone next asked if censorship was the reason sensual themes in
pinball art seem to be decreasing? Greg answered that licensing has had
something to do with it, adding that they are trying to produce more family
oriented games to attract the "family crowd". He then said that a decal
could be provided for locations to put over Elvira's cleavage if desired.
When asked who owned the "original art" for a game, Greg replied that
that was a subject he'd rather not discuss. Jim Schelberg spoke up
commenting that the company retains some rights and the artist others.
Greg was next asked how the "plastics" were created which were often
given away at shows and with pinball magazines? He said they were done
especially for pin magazine publisher Jim Schelberg. That drew a round of
He went on to say that these "giveaways" were produced when there is
extra room on a sheet of playfield plastics and that their Marketing
Director Roger Sharpe also uses them in promotional mailers - calling them
"a fun thing".
When asked about his personal favorite game art, Greg replied ELVIRA,
DR. DUDE, and PARTY ZONE as far as his own work was concerned. As far as
other artist's work he named Kevin O'Connor's SILVER BALL MANIA, and Dave
Christiansen's WIZARD and CAPTAIN FANTASTIC, the latter being his all-time
Someone next asked if they ever considered doing some games for a
strictly family audience for use in churches, social clubs, or homes?
Greg answered "no", saying they try to market games to as wide a variety of
groups as possible. He then remarked that if you target one group you tend
to lose another so they try to keep a broad appeal for their products.
Greg was next asked if he used "magic markers" or paint when he did
Bally's 1978 game HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS? He replied he did paintings, using
an air-brush with acrylic paints, which he referred to as "mixed media".
Rob Berk then asked what steps are involved in producing pingame art?
For backglasses, Greg replied, you do a painting which is converted to the
production screens using what is known as the "4-color process".
With the playfield, Greg went on, it is very important you work with
the team. The artist first does pencil sketches, then ink. It then goes
to the "color separator" (such as Margaret Hudson) who does the screen
cuttings used to print the artwork on the field.
Sam Harvey next asked if the game artist is responsible for all the
art in a game (backglass, playfield, cabinet, etc.)? Greg answered that
most of the time this is true. Occasionally, he went on, the job may be
broken up between two or more artists.
The last question asked had to do with possible changes in the artwork
after the prototype is built? Greg answered that sometimes minor changes
in the art are made due to late design changes. Finally Greg commented
that earlier pin artist Gordon Morrison had a great influence on his work.
56 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW TO FIX YOUR PINBALL MACHINE
Next on the seminar schedule was Expo regular Tim Arnold (now of Las
Vegas) with a presentation he called "56 Things You Need To Know to Fix
Your Pinball Machine". If this sounds vaguely familiar to some of you
readers it's because Tim's presentation at the previous year's show was
called "34 Things Not To Do To A Pinball Machine".
Also this year, as last year, the number of items in Tim's title did
not agree with the actual number presented - this time he actually spoke of
42 items. In addition to the title of the talks being similar, most of the
items discussed were the same as presented last year. So, not to repeat
myself, I will only tell here of the new topics which Tim presented this
time, plus additional information and answers to questions provided by him.
Rob Berk introduced Tim, saying that he lived most of his life in
Michigan but moved to Las Vegas a few years ago. He then told of Tim's
pingame collection which Rob said consisted of some 800 games!
Tim next passed out his hand-outs itemizing his 42 items. He then
gave out his phone number, inviting people to call him with questions. Tim
then told us that this year's presentation would be "an enlargement of last
The first 17 items Tim presented were repeats from the previous year.
Item '18' consisted of recommending that we tape an extra front door key to
the bottom of our games.
After many more "repeats", Item '30' was a discussion about removing
wire from a pinball coil to give it more "kicking power".
The last two items on Tim's list this year also presented new
information. The first of these involved solid-state games only - advising
that when replacing diodes you should use one with a higher "Peak Inverse
Voltage" (PIV). The last item was a suggestion to "rotate" (turn over)
parts used in electro-mechanical game chime units in order to make them
last longer. That ended the items in Tim's handout.
At that point Tim started giving us information regarding the part
numbering systems used by pingame manufacturers. He told us that a letter
contained in a part number usually only denoted the size of the mechanical
drawing the part was depicted on.
He then gave out more information regarding both Gottlieb and Williams
part numbering systems. This included the information that coil part
numbers many times include "wire gauge" information as well as the number
of turns of wire on the coil.
Tim next briefly discussed ball sizes, leg bolts, game locks and "E-
clips". He then advised that if you are buying a replacement line cord for
a game that you purchase an "injection molded" type.
After brief discussions of set screws sizes and wire gauges (sizes),
Tim asked for questions from the audience.
The first question asked was how to remove playfield posts if their
oval headed mounting screws snap off? Tim answered that you should go up
from the bottom of the field with a low speed hand drill, or gouge the wood
on the bottom and pull the screws out.
The second question asked of Tim was what to use to remove corrosion
from pinball connectors? Tim first suggested replacing them with new ones.
He then said that you could use a product called "Scotch Brite" to clean
them. Tim then added that he has plenty of spare connectors which he can
supply on request.
At that point Tim began a lengthy discussion of treating backglasses.
He began by remarking that "nobody knows how what they do to a backglass
today will affect it in 50 years".
Tim next told us that the biggest enemies to paint are heat and
humidity (especially large changes in them). He went on to say that the
game manufacturers didn't make their glasses to last for a long time, they
not being made with much care. He then told us that he once heard that
Bally used a better quality ink on their glasses in the 1970's
At that point Tim began describing various alternatives which might be
used to aid ailing backglasses. He first said you could "pour something
over it", such as Steve Young's product Cover Your Glass.
If you decide to do this, Tim went on, you first must make sure the
glass' surface is perfectly level - saying you can roll a ball on it to
test it. Next he advised us to not shake the can before using.
After advising us to clean the clear areas of the glass (such as score
reel openings) before applying the liquid, Tim said that the can's contents
should be poured onto the glass in both directions. He then said you
should make sure there are no air cross-currents in your working area and
warned that a person should avoid breathing the fumes.
Tim next told us that you should allow at least one month total drying
time, but that you could move the glass (carrying it horizontally) after
about 24 hours. He then advised us not to let the Cover Your Glass get
As an alternate to using that product on a backglass, especially one
on which the paint is badly damaged, Tim suggested putting a plastic sheet
over the painted side. He told of a product called "Suprofilm", which was
like playfield mylar, and was available through the Sun Process outfit in
Chicago which makes backglasses for the industry.
The final alternative Tim mentioned was to cover the glass with Scotch
Magic Transparent Tape. He then commented that he doesn't believe in
touching up backglass paint or playfields. Tim then said, however, that he
is considering redoing some repainted game cabinets.
At that point there was a final question for Tim from the audience,
someone asking his advice on adjusting pingame switch contacts. Tim first
stated that contact points on electro-mechanical games were usually made
from sliver or silver alloy, while solid-state game contacts are either
gold or silver plated.
For solid-state contacts Tim first warned us never to file them, but
to clean them with either cloth or paper, reminding us that after awhile
plating can rub off and the contacts should either be rotated or replaced.
Flipper buttons, Tim went on, on all games are made with the same materials
as used in electro-mechanical game contacts.
Before the seminar ended two additional comments were made. One
person commented that he had used Cover Your Glass many times and is now
using the new Cover Your Glass Lite. Premier designer Jon Norris then
commented that their company is replacing mechanical switch contacts with
solid-state "piezo-electric" switches.
THE FABULOUS PINBALL GAME SHOW
Next on the agenda was a fun thing touted as "The Fabulous Pinball
Game Show". Rob Berk introduced the show's host, Los Angeles
dealer/collector Herb Silvers, telling of his numerous magazine articles,
his gameroom fixtures store, and of Herb's plans to possibly put on his own
Herb then handed out tickets to everyone in the audience. He then
introduced his co-host, my old friend Sam Harvey. We were then told how
the game worked.
The contestants for the show would be chosen by drawing numbers using
the tickets we were given. The contestants would be asked a question
regarding flipper pinball machines. All who give a correct answer would be
moved to the next round; the others being eliminated.
When there were only four contestants left there would be a "play-
off". The prizes for the game, we were told, consisted of T-shirts for 3rd
and 4th Place, a reproduction 1957 baseball game backglass for 2nd Place,
the First Place winner receiving a trophy and a reproduction Gottlieb KING
OF DIAMONDS backglass.
Before starting the game, Sam Harvey told us how the idea for the game
originated. He said when a group of Southern California pin enthusiasts
(including himself and Herb) were driving to Sacramento to attend an annual
pinball show called the "Pinathon", they asked pinball questions of each
other to pass the time. This gave them the idea to put on this Expo event.
After the original eight contestants were picked by drawing ticket
numbers, the first question was asked. It was "name one of the eight
pingames to have a revolving spinning disk on it's playfield? Correct
answers given included: Williams WHIRLWIND (1990), Bally FIREBALL (1972),
Data East TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (1993), Alvin G. and Co. WORLD TOUR
(1992), Bally FIREBALL CLASSIC (1982), Chicago Coin CASINO (1972), and
Bally TWIN WIN (1974). Several contestants were eliminated.
The second question was "name one of 22 pingames which share a name
with a 'video cousin'"? Answers given included: JOUST, SPACE INVADERS,
NINJA TURTLES, KRULL, STREET FIGHTER, MR. AND MRS. PACMAN, SPY HUNTER,
TERMINATOR 2, ROBO COP, SUPERMAN, TEE'D OFF and STAR TREK. After that
round 5 players were left standing.
The third question was to name one of the 9 pingames which had "3-ball
multi-ball" capability? Correct answers given included the late model
pins: TWILIGHT ZONE, CENTAUR, JURASSIC PARK, INDIANA JONES, and SPRING
BREAK. One more contestant was eliminated.
After two more correct answers (F-14 TOMCAT and STRANGE SCIENCE) three
contestants remained. The next question "name 8 pins with a 'roulette
wheel' on the playfield?", eliminated one more person after correct answers
of Bally games MONTE CARLO (1972) and SPEAKEASY (1982).
The final question, which sorted out the Second Place and Grand Prize
winner, was "name one of the 6 pingames with a 'bagatelle' game in it's
backbox?" After three correct answers (Williams BIG GUNS - 1987, APOLLO -
1967, and Stern CATACOMB - 1981) an incorrect answer decided the First
After awarding the regular prizes, an extra question was asked of the
people in the audience to give away some T-shirts; "what was the first
'automatic ball return' pingame by the three major manufacturers of the
1960's?" The correct answers were: Bally GRAND TOUR (1964), Williams
ALPINE CLUB (1965), and Gottlieb DANCING LADY (1966). That ended the game.
THE MAKING OF TWILIGHT ZONE
For the next seminar Rob Berk introduced the head of the Williams
design team for their current hit pingame TWILIGHT ZONE, Pat Lawlor.
Pat began by telling us that we were going to have a lot of fun with
his presentation, adding that he hoped to impart to us knowledge of what
they do when designing a new game. He then introduced programmer Ted Estes
who he said, along with Larry DeMar, programmed TWILIGHT ZONE.
After introducing mechanical engineer John Crutch, which drew a round
of applause, Pat introduced artist John Youssi who he said did the artwork
for the backglass, playfield, and cabinet. John then received a round of
Pat then began praising Williams' Director of Marketing, long-time
pinball fan and author Roger Sharpe. Pat told us they were lucky to have
Roger because up until three years ago they had no "licensed games".
Roger began his marketing efforts, Pat went on, and before long "the
world wanted to see in pingames names they recognized". Pat then asked the
questions "why licenses? - what do they do?". First, he said, games should
make money for operators and distributors so they will want to buy and
handle them. As far as the players are concerned, he continued, licenses
give them something they recognize to get them to try the game.
Roger, Pat told us, acquires a license when a designer has an idea for
a new game, making phone contacts to try to get it. Pat then said that he
considers Roger an integral part of the design team, saying that without
him they couldn't compete in the marketplace.
After telling us that two of his team members were not there - sound
designer Chris Granner and programmer Larry DeMar - Pat continued telling
why licenses are good. First, he told us, Williams employs 1700 people who
"all like to eat".
As to why they did TWILIGHT ZONE, Pat first said that in this country
(and many foreign countries as well) the TV show is still in re-runs.
Secondly, he went on, the theme cuts across age lines because even young
kids see Twilight Zone on cable. Also, he added, people remember the
Pat then told us that after Roger acquired the license he started to
sketch the playfield, assisted by reference material obtained from the
Licensor, Viacom. He also said they got information from the book
"Twilight Zone Companion" which provides synopses of all the show's
episodes. Pat then told us that they also had to license Rod Serling's
likeness from his wife Carol.
At that point Roger Sharpe told a story regarding his dealings with
Carol Serling. He said when he first talked to her about using Rod's
likeness on a pingame she was hesitant because she had always thought of
pins as having a "sensual tone" - which would not be "faithful to Rod's
memory". Roger said that he had artist John Youssi make her a sketch to
try and give her a sense of what they were planning to do with the game.
After that, Roger told us, Mrs. Serling was more positive about the
Pat then continued talking about the TWILIGHT ZONE design. He said
that after he finished his preliminary sketches for the field he went to
mechanical engineer John Crutch regarding the design of the gumball machine
to be used on the playfield. He told us that there was never such an item
on a Twilight Zone episode, but the show dealt with "everyday things taking
on a different meaning", so he thought the machine could fit that idea.
Pat also told us that John Crutch designed the "optical clock" used on
the field. John then spoke up remarking that Pat always comes to him
asking about special devices for his games, and he keeps telling Pat to "go
away". After a few weeks however, John continued, he will come to Pat with
the finished design.
We were then shown the "optical clock", Pat telling us that a lot of
time goes into producing such an item which has to be "injection molded".
The first prototype, he added, must be hand make and evaluated before molds
Pat next said that he was very proud of TWILIGHT ZONE and the work of
his team, adding that it had more patentable devices on it than any
previous Williams game. He then began discussing the cost of producing the
game. We were told that by the time the first machine was produced the
company had spent over one million dollars, not including the cost of the
license. Pat said that their patents are to try and protect that
Pat next told us that there is also a limit on the cost of the
materials used in a game, saying that for TWILIGHT ZONE at least one item
had to be eliminated due to it's cost. Continuing with pricing, Pat told
us that the prices of materials and labor in pingame manufacturing keep
going up and that this makes it difficult for the companies to "hold the
At that point Pat told us an amusing story about the first TWILIGHT
ZONE going into a test location. He said a kid put in his money, started
to play the game, and the gumball machine gave him the special "white ball"
(a special light weight ball which moves at a higher speed). Pat told us
that the kid exclaimed "get this thing away from me - I hate it!" Pat then
said that on their second test location try things were not much better.
A comment from the audience then promoted a brief discussion of the
"break-even point" in pingame manufacturing. Pat commented that hopefully
they will "hit a home run" once or twice a year.
At that point Pat asked programmer Ted Estes to talk about software.
Ted began by remarking that it takes a lot of work to make a new game come
together. He said the designer puts a lot of things in the game and the
software people have to implement the "rules" to make them work, saying it
was always a "trial and error" process.
Ted then said that the rules for "multi-ball play" usually end up
being about a "4th incarnation". He then commented that the process of
"balancing a game out" is always an iterative process. Ted then added that
they also had to program the new "dot-matrix display" on the backboard to
produce pictures and flashing lights.
After that Pat remarked that they have to make games attractive to a
"new generation of people". Ted then told us that they were lucky to have
two great dot-matrix "artists". He then added that the video effects have
to be synchronized with other play features of the game.
Pat next commented that their games actually contain "games within
games", saying that these have to be "seamless" which is very time
consuming for the programmers. Ted then remarked that even though it takes
many, many hours to program a new game it is still a "fun process".
At that point Pat showed a series of slides showing various steps in
the production of TWILIGHT ZONE. These were essentially the same slides he
had shown us during his banquet speech at the Arizona Pinball Show earlier
in the year.
Next to speak was artist John Youssi who did the artwork for the game.
After showing us his work John commented that his work on TWILIGHT ZONE
went smoothly for him. He then told us that Rod Serling's wife didn't want
her husband to be depicted holding a cigarette.
John then told us that the backglass was easy to do, but he had to do
several designs for the cabinet art. When he showed his sketches to Pat,
John said, Pat decided he wanted him to combine parts of each in the final
design, which he did.
On the cabinet, John continued, you are limited to five colors. He
then showed us a pencil drawing of the backglass. Pat's idea for the
backglass, John told us, was to show Rod Serling in a curio shop containing
items from various Twilight Zone episodes.
John then showed mylars of the playfield layout, then his second
drawing for the field, followed by the final "sepia" print. After Pat
remarked that there are "many iterations for this type of thing", John
ended up by showing us his original painting for the backglass.
At that point questions were solicited from the audience. The first
question asked was "who owns the original art?" John answered "the
When it was then asked who did Rod Serling's voice on the game?, Pat
answered that it was a "professional 'sound alike'". He then added that
they had to 'tweak' the voice a lot to make it sound like it came from a
1960's TV speaker.
When asked about how the production figures for TWILIGHT ZONE compared
with their previous hit game ADDAMS FAMILY?, Pat said that ADDAMS FAMILY
had a run of over 20,000, and that TWILIGHT ZONE was "the 7th or 8th best
selling pingame of all times".
It was then asked how much time generally elapsed between the
formation of the concept for a new game and it's first location test? Pat
answered approximately 14 months.
Someone then asked where the idea for the "power" and "spiral" used on
the game came from? Pat answered that the spiral was from the beginning of
the TV show and the "power" was his own "hidden agenda".
The final question was "how was it decided, after the bad first
location test described earlier, to still leave the "power ball" in the
game? Pat answered that they made changes so players would know what to do
with the white power ball. That ended the presentation.
HOW TO MARKET USED GAMES TO THE PUBLIC
Rob Berk next introduced Todd Tuckey from Pennsylvania who was going
to tell us how we can make extra money selling used pingames. Todd was the
owner of "T and T Amusements" in Philadelphia.
Todd began by naming 2 pins which would sell for over $3,000. He then
remarked that older solid-state games are now decreasing in price, but
still can be sold for around $600 in good condition. He then told us that
his seminar would deal with selling games to the public. Selling to the
public, he went on, can benefit collecting in three ways.
First, Todd told us, it gets more people interested in playing
pinball. Secondly, he went on, it enables collectors to make extra cash.
Finally, he said it helps the resale value of the games in your collection
to remain high or increase.
Todd next remarked that there is always a wholesale market for games,
such as the Expo. He said he also sells games to other dealers at lower
prices. He then passed out to us a hand-out giving guidelines for
operating a retail games selling business.
At that point Todd began telling his own personal history. He began
by telling us that in the early 1970's he bought a used pingame for home
use, which he later put on location at his uncle's summer camp. After it
started making money for him he said he added others.
In 1979, Todd went on, he bought a video game which he put on location
and made some pretty good money. He said he bought his first new pingame
shortly afterward, a Williams TRI-ZONE for $1395.
Todd then told us that he operated pins at Temple University and had
an outside route on the side. He said one of the professors wanted to go
into partnership with him; which he did. Todd said that they did well at
first and eventually had 300 games (both pins and videos) in some 45
locations. In 1984, he told us, the business "died" and they were getting
In September 1984, Todd went on, while looking at their old videos,
they decided to try and sell to the public. They set some games in front
of the house with a sign reading "$100 AND UP". He said they sold many the
first few days.
Todd then told us that he had no complaints when he sold older videos
for $100 each. He told us that they sold one-third of the equipment from
their route that weren't making money for them.
After that, Todd told us, they rented a warehouse with a showroom for
public sales in which they would put up about 30 games at one time. In
1987, he continued, they moved to a larger location with 5,000 square feet
of area in two buildings which they had filled with games.
At that point Todd started going through the points in the hand-out he
had previously given us. First, he told us, you should give your business
a good name. Next, Todd went on, you need a showroom in a central
location. You should avoiding main roads, he added, but your location
should not be hard to find and should be in a safe neighborhood.
Todd next suggested laying out your showroom like an arcade and also
thinking about future expansion. He next suggested that your business
hours be easy to remember and that you be open four or five days a week (or
6 with extra help).
It was next suggested that you have an alternate use for your
showroom, such as renting it out for private parties. In that connection
Todd suggested that you have a separate "food room" where food could be
served at parties.
Todd then remarked that often games are sold as the result of these
parties. He said he has rented to many adult parties and that this extra
cash sure helps, especially when game sales are down.
Todd next broached the subject of advertising. First he said, "word
of mouth" usually provides some potential customers. He next suggested
advertising in the Yellow Pages under "Amusement Devices", or possibly
"Vending". Todd suggested large ads, which usually cost about $35 per
month per book. After remarking that color ads don't pay, he suggested
having a live person to answer your phone.
As far as newspaper classifieds were concerned, Todd recommended once-
a-week ads saying something like "Pinballs, Videos, Jukeboxes For Sale -
Call For Free Catalog". He then added that you might want to also say "We
Buy Old Pinballs" in your ad.
Todd next talked about selling games at shows. He suggested that you
get a good cam-corder and make a video to display at your booth. He then
showed a video he had made showing how they recondition their games before
The game used in the video was Gottlieb's early solid-state pin JOKER
POKER. It first showed that game being checked inside, illustrating
problems that were discovered. It was then shown how circuit boards were
removed and their contact pins cleaned and the batteries replaced.
Following that the video showed the game's rubber rings and balls
being replaced and the cleaning of the stainless steel front door and legs.
The use of a "check list" for making sure everything was done was
After showing that the game was checked to see if it had a good
instruction card, the video ended showing the cleaning of the playfield
glass, followed by a final check-out of the game.
As for the types of shows games could be sold at, Todd suggested Mall
shows, Computer Shows, Collectables Shows, and of course Pinball and
Jukebox Shows. He then added that sometimes you have to cut prices when
selling at a show.
Todd next talked about the use of advertising brochures. He began by
saying that a good brochure, containing good color photos, helps to
establish your credibility.
Todd then told us that an 8 page color brochure costs about 21 cents
per copy to print. He said they should either be mailed out free to
potential customers, or possibly you could ask for stamps. As far as
including a price list, he told us this could often work against you.
The use of a computer to maintain files was next discussed, Todd
suggesting that it be used to maintain business files, including a list of
customers. He said you should maintain a record of game sales versus
customer to be used to promote "follow-up sales".
After telling us that a computer program to do this should cost about
$250, Todd said sales records could be used if you want to buy back a game
you once sold if someone else wants it, or to offer a trade-in on a new
game. He then remarked that a Roll-A-Dex file can also be used for a
"quick response", especially for customers who frequently "trade up" to
If you send out catalogs, Todd told us, you should send them out once
a year. He then suggested that they be sent to people who have previously
purchased a game and to those who ask for one.
Todd then suggested sending post cards to people who haven't bought a
new game for awhile. He said you could possibly offer a free video game
with the purchase of a pingame, adding you can give away videos that are
not selling this way.
For old customers, Todd went on, you could offer 75 percent of the
original purchase price to trade in a previously purchased game for a new
one. He said this brings in quick cash plus the old game for resale. He
then suggested sending post cards to old customers offering a "tune-up" for
their game for 75 to 100 dollars.
Todd next commented on TV advertising. As far as producing a TV ad,
he said that your local station can tell you who produces local
commercials. Todd told us it would possibly cost about $3,000 to produce a
commercial. Cable TV channels, he went on, are usually fairly cheap to
advertise on - some charging as little as $10 for late night commercials.
Todd then played examples of his commercials, including one for his
party rentals. He then told us that for $500 he bought a "news spot" at 6
PM. He also told of in 1981 having a "feature story" about his business
which showed for 2 minutes on the 11 O-clock News.
Todd told us that that brought in many customers, and that some people
still remember it today. He then said that you can put on a 15 to 30
minute "info-mercial" to run six times a day for about $150.
Todd's next topic was rebuilding and reconditioning of games. He said
you should make sure a game is 100 percent working before trying to sell
it. He then remarked that some games you buy can't be sold, these being
delegated as "parts games".
Todd next presented a list of what should be checked on each game.
First, he said, is the head and cabinet which should be repainted or
touched-up if necessary. He then remarked that "Bond-O" can be used for
cabinet repairing, adding that he will never paint a cabinet a "custom
Next, Todd went on, are the playfields, which, after being touched up
if necessary, should be mylar sealed. Todd then remarked that sometimes
you have to combine two games to get one good one. He said you should
always ask yourself: "would you sell this game to your mom?"
Todd next told us that he puts a sticker on all games he has sold. He
then remarked that he always makes copies of a game's original instruction
cards to put on it, keeping the original. He then said that he "play
tests" all games before he sells them, remarking that he almost always
finds something bad.
The final subject of Todd's presentation was that of service and
warranties. He began by telling us that the customer always asks about
service. Todd told us that he normally gives a "30 day warrantee" and
offers an extended (2 year) warrantee for approximately $150 for his home
Todd went on to say that his warranties did not cover "acts of God"
(such as lightning) or broken glass - something like a homeowners policy.
At the end of the second year, he told us, he usually offers a trade-in
plus a 2 year warrantee on the new game.
Todd then commented that he also offers a "circuit board exchange"
service for solid-state games where a customer could trade his bad logic
board for a good one for $75, which he said seldom happens. Todd ended by
telling us that you should always "service what you sell", provide timely
service calls, and employ competent service people.
Finally he asked if we had any questions? The only question asked was
if he gave his customers the keys to their games? Todd answered "no", but
said he will provide a lock for $5. That ended Todd's presentation.
DESIGN A PINBALL MACHINE
As has happened at the past several Expos, the next thing on the
program was the do-it-yourself pingame design session. Rob Berk introduced
this year's host, Data East chief designer Joe Kaminkow.
Joe began by telling us that this year's design session would be a
little different than in previous years, saying it would give us a feel for
the "creative design environment". He then said we would be trying to
design a pingame which would be marketable today.
Joe then told of Data East producing a special pingame for TV producer
Aaron Spelling's wife to give to her husband for his birthday. This game
we were told cost $100,000. He then showed an 8 minute video, provided in
part by the Spellings, showing comical "out takes" from the Love Boat TV
show and from Tales From The Crypt (the theme of a future Data East game).
It was quite entertaining.
At that point Joe passed out candies, which he called "fire balls", to
the audience. He then remarked that they were what he called "designer
foods" which he said also included fast food chicken, pretzels, pizza, and
Chinese take out. He said the boys at Data East ate much of that kind of
food during the long hours it took to design their hit pingame JURASSIC
On the subject of design, Joe told us that there was no such thing as
a bad idea. He then commented that you can never say something can't be
done, adding, "look at putting a man on the moon!"
Joe then told us that games must satisfy many levels of players;
appealing to the general population, if possible. He then remarked that in
game design a "straight edge" is an important tool, being used to judge
At that point the "audience participation design" began. Joe had
people from the audience suggest themes for the proposed game and then vote
on them. The winning theme turned out to be "Joey Buttafuco". The closest
runners-up included: cows (oh yeah!), The Titanic, crash dummies, and Space
We were next asked to choose a "gadget" (or gimmick) for our game.
The winner was a "revolver". Other suggested gadgets included: body shop,
talk show set, gavel, and a TV monitor.
When we then voted to have four "thumper bumpers" on the game, Joe
remarked that the best action in a pingame is "pop-bumper to rubber". We
then voted on the number of balls in the "multi-ball feature". Three were
chosen, representing Joey, Amy, and Mary Jo.
Joe next said that we had to choose our game's "rules and special
features". It was first decided to load the "revolver" (a "six-shooter")
with three balls. Next it was decided to use targets to represent
"evidence" in the trial, the first ball being able to "enhance the
evidence" by hitting a certain target.
An idea was next presented to allow the player to select "who he is"
(Joey, Amy, or Mary Jo) at the start of the game. After that Joe passed
out some more "designer food", this time it was pretzels.
At that point Joe called up an artist from the audience to sketch the
backglass for the game, remarking "at Data East everybody works on a
project". He then put up a large pad on an easel for the playfield sketch,
bringing up people from the audience to draw various items on it.
It was then decided that the game would have four flippers; they were
then drawn on the sketch. Four lanes were next drawn at the top of the
field, labeled "B-U-T-T". The three pop-bumpers (representing Joey, Amy,
and Mary Jo) were also added to the playfield drawing.
After adding the gun (with bullets) to the field sketch, ramps were
shown. Pingame Journal publisher Jim Schelberg then drew in the target
banks. The finished playfield drawing was then displayed, as well as the
great backglass drawing done by the artist from the audience, which
received a hugh round of applause.
Joe next showed a short promotional video for the current Broadway hit
musical "Tommy", the famous pin-related production. After that Joe made
the statement "remember - all designers in the past thought each game they
did was the hardest thing they ever did."
Joe finished the session with a couple final comments. He told us
that there have been big changes at Data East since their inception in
1986. Every designer, he finally commented, puts his heart and soul into
Well, that's all for this time. In the next issue I'll finish my
coverage of Pinball Expo '93, including the last lengthy seminar "Pinball
History, Art, and Technology", and coverage of the coin machine auction,
the banquet, and the great exhibit hall (including a list of all the
pingames there) - so stay tuned!