Pinball is a staple in every classic arcade. Invented over 100 years ago, and gaining huge popularity after World War II, pinball machines evolved from simple spring loaded table-top games into the high-tech digital machines available today. Let’s take a look at a few machines that perfectly illustrate the evolution of pinball:
Gottlieb Spot Bowler – 1950
Pinball as we know it has a spring loaded launcher, steel ball-bearings, targets for scoring, electrified bumpers, and two inward facing paddles at the bottom of the machine to propel the ball back up into the playfield when it returns down to the bottom. The first machine to include all of these features was the Spot Bowler, manufactured by D. Gottlieb & Co.
As you can see in the photo, The Spot Bowler was designed to emulate a classic 10-in bowling lane. The basic goal is also the same: get as many strikes as possible!
Williams Firepower – 1980
With the late 70’s came the introduction of microprocessors and the beginning of electronic gaming. While the advent of electronic video games with advanced graphics ultimately hurt the popularity of pinball, the technology also brought some great new features to the classic game. One table that demonstrates this quite nicely is the Multi-Ball Firepower machine manufactured by Williams.
Firepower is an example of the solid-state electronic pinball machines allowed by microprocessor technology. Instead of electromechanical relays and scoring reels, Firepower (and other solid-state machines manufactured after 1976) used circuit boards and digital display. Firepower was the first of these solid-state pinballs to feature 3-ball multi-ball, which is exactly what it sounds like: instead of playing with a single steel ball-bearing, Firepower players maneuvered three!
Jersey Jack Wizard of Oz – 2014
Although it might not be as popular in the present day as it was many years ago, pinball is not just a thing of the past. Instead of competing with the technology that allows us to have video games with realistic, dynamic graphics, some passionate pinballers are embracing these abilities to bring us modern, exciting pinball in the 21st century.
The Wizard of Oz pinball machine manufactured by Jersey Jack features the first-ever (for pinball) 26” HD LCD monitor to “immerse the player and spectators with scenes from the movie, display player scores with a unique ‘dashboard’ approach, an ever-changing animated backglass, and an easy-to-navigate diagnostic menu.” (http://www.jerseyjackpinball.com/)