THREE SHOWS - 1993
By Russ Jensen
Well, once again it's time for me to report on the three pinball and coin-op shows which are put on annually in Southern California and Arizona. They include the "Collector's Fun Fair", the "Arizona Pinball Show", and the new "Coin-op Super Show" now in it's second year.
This year the three shows were held in very close time proximity to each other; the first two being only one week apart, and the last one slightly over 2 months after the first.
THE "COLLECTOR'S FUN FAIR"
This year the "Collector's Fun Fair" returned to the location where (except for the very first year in 1979) it had been held for many years, until about two years ago when they tried moving it around Southern California. I, as well as many others I know, are glad the show has returned to the Pasadena Exhibit Center in Pasadena California.
This year's Fun Fair was held on Saturday and Sunday, May 29 and 30, 1993. I went to the show on Saturday together with my good friend, pinball and jukebox collector/enthusiast Ron Tyler. After a pleasant freeway drive of about 60 miles, Ron and I arrived at the show site.
The overall size of the show (number of exhibitors) appeared to be a little smaller than it used to be, but I believe this might have been due to the fact that some of the exhibitors had dropped out in the past due to the show changing locations. But I think this will possibly improve in the future if the show will just stay put.
As far as older pingames at the Fun Fairs (or any other coin-op show for that matter) are concerned, their numbers are shrinking. Not too many years ago pingames from the 1930's were a fairly common sight at the Fun Fair - this year there was only one!
There was also only one pin from the Forties (but it was a real 'classic'), but games from that decade have always been fairly rare at Fun Fairs. This year there were no games from the Fifties (also a rare decade in past years), only two from the Sixties, and four electro-mechanical pins from the 1970's. In addition, there were fifteen solid-state pins at the show, outnumbering their electro-mechanical cousins by almost 2 to 1.
As far as dealers were concerned, there were only three at the show that had more than one pingame. Herb Silvers' Fabulous Fantasies booth had a good selection of pins to choose from as always. These included three 1970's electro-mechanicals as well as four solid-state models.
Another dealer, Mullikin Amusements, had one 1960's and one 1970's electro-mechanical plus five solid-state machines. Bob Nelson's Gameroom Warehouse from Wichita, Kansas, had the only 1940's pin at the show (but more about that later) in addition to three solid-state games.
Other dealers having one pin each were Jim Tolbert and Judy McCrory's For Amusement Only booth (which also sold a wide variety of pinball parts, as well as books) who had one electro-mechanical pin from the 1960's, and Metal Form Products who had the only 1930's pin at the show.
I will next describe four of the most interesting older pins at the show.
The earliest game was a 1932 vintage pin called SHUFFLE BALL, which was not totally complete (if I remember correctly part of the plunger assembly was missing), put out by an outfit called Western Manufacturing Company according to Rob Hawkins and Don Mueting's new book Pinball Collector's Resource.
This was a somewhat typical "pin and ball game" of the period. It is interesting to note that, in addition to the usual holes marked with point scores, there were several holes marked with playing card suits. Without the instructions for the game, however, it is hard to say how these specially marked holes figured in the play of the game.
A real 'classic' pin at the show was the famous HUMPTY DUMPTY put out by Gottlieb in December 1947. This game, of course, was famous as it was the first pingame to use "flippers" (or "flipper bumpers" as they were called in the original advertisement for the game).
Flippers were invented by Gottlieb's chief game designer of the time Mr. Harry Mabs. A few years later Harry went over to Williams and continued his fabulous pin designing career with that company.
HUMPTY DUMPTY, as did many of the Gottlieb games to follow, had a grand total 6 flippers - two sets of three on each side, each set operated by one coil. This resulted in weak flipper action; but if you were lucky it was possible to return the ball to the top of the field by flipping from one flipper to the one above it, etc.
The artwork on HUMPTY DUMPTY I am sure was done by the great Roy Parker and was a true "work of art". The game at the show had a new reproduction backglass (produced by Herb Silvers, by the way) but it really made the game look fine.
One of the two 1960's pins at the show was a very nice 1968 model - Gottlieb's DOMINO. This was not the only pin to have that theme, buy the way, as Williams put out another DOMINO back in 1952!
The backglass artwork is interesting as it shows a young couple sitting in a field of large dominos. A domino set-up is also shown on the lower half of the playfield. The DOMINO at the show appeared to be in very good condition.
The other 1960's pin at the Fun Fair was also a 1968 Gottlieb. PAUL BUNYAN was a nice example of the two player games of the period. From the looks of the playfield PAUL BUNYAN appears to be an interesting game to play with it's numerous pop-bumpers, targets, rollover channels and eject holes.
The following is a chronological list of the pingames at the 1993 Fun Fair:
PINGAMES AT THE 1993 FUN FAIR NAME MFG YEAR PRICE _______________________ _____________ ____ __________ SHUFFLE BALL Western Mfg. 1932 ? HUMPTY DUMPTY Gottlieb 1947 1,500 DOMINO Gottlieb 1968 800 PAUL BUNYAN Gottlieb 1968 395 GRAND SLAM Gottlieb 1972 795 NIP-IT Bally 1972 1,350 HOKUS POKUS Bally 1975 895 SPACE ODYSSEY Williams 1976 650 SPACE INVADERS Bally 1979 1,995 BLACK HOLE Gottlieb 1981 695 CATACOMB Stern 1981 695 PHARAOH Williams 1981 595 COMET Williams 1985 600 CYBERNAUT Bally 1985 900 PINBOT Williams 1986 995, 1,095 MELTDOWN (HEAVY METAL) Bally 1987 995 SPACE STATION Williams 1988 1,395 FUN HOUSE Williams 1990 2,195 SILVER SLUGGER Gottlieb 1990 1,195 SIMPSONS (THE) Data East 1990 1,695, 1800 TIME WARP Williams 1990 425 GILLIGAN'S ISLAND Bally 1991 1,995 TWILIGHT ZONE Williams 1993 4,295
As far as the overall presence of items at the show (other than pins) jukeboxes probably dominated. Slots seemed to be next, followed by vintage advertising items. There were also several dealers selling phonograph records, and my friend Sam Harvey, as usual, could be found much of the time looking through old Rock and Roll 45's.
On the way home my friend Ron and I made a couple nostalgic (at least for me - I'm a very nostalgic person) detours.
First, we visited an electronic surplus store, C & H Sales, (also in Pasadena) which I frequented when I was a young teenager way back in the late 1940's. At that time they were mostly selling World War II surplus items.
When we walked into the store it looked to me almost exactly as I remembered it looking four decades earlier. It even appeared that there were possibly some items on the shelves left over from the war.
After that, we made a little bigger detour to my old neighborhood in Glendale, California. We drove past the house where I lived during the war. It still amazes me how that neighborhood has hardly changed in fifty years!
After all that nostalgia it was time to head for home.
THE ARIZONA PINBALL SHOW
The 1993 edition of the Arizona Pinball Show was held on Saturday and Sunday, June 5th and 6th.
The format this year was a little different than in the past when the show was primarily a Friday and Saturday affair, with Sunday set aside for the exhibitors to pack up. Sunday was also a time for show attendees to attend an open house held by local operator/collector Dann Frank and his lovely wife.
This year, with the show not officially closing until Sunday afternoon, there was somewhat of a conflict between show activities and the Frank's traditional open house. And for me, this schedule change was even more inconvenient, as I shall explain.
Two years previous I had the good fortune to be offered a ride by a fine young man, Pat Feinauer, along with my good friend and roommate Sam Harvey. Last year Sam, Pat, and I traveled by air and got a good economical air fare.
This year, however, Pat was unable to attend, and Sam was offered a ride with another friend who did not have any room for me - so I was on my own as far as transportation to Phoenix was concerned.
Driving was out of the question as my car is not air-conditioned and traveling across the desert in June was not advisable. When I checked the air lines I found that the only reasonable fare I could get required I leave Friday morning (the show did not officially start until Saturday, as I said) and leave around noon on Sunday (before the show was over and before the Frank's party even started). Any other flights would have required one-third as much additional fare.
I also had the problem (and additional cost) of getting to and from both airports. That problem was solved on my end by getting my daughter Cheri to drive me to the airport Friday morning and pick me up on Sunday afternoon. I was told, however, that the shuttle fare between the Phoenix airport and the hotel was ten dollars each way!
Well anyway, on Friday morning I boarded the plane for the approximately one hour flight to Phoenix. Seated next to me was a very nice middle-aged couple from Sunnyvale California who were on their way to visit the Grand Canyon.
The man, who told me he was born in Spain, loved to converse and when I told him I was a pinball collector he told me that someone who lived down the street from him was building an addition to his house to house his pinball collection - but he didn't know the person's name.
He did tell me the name of the street he lived on which I wrote down on a piece of paper. The street name, Kenniwick, sounded familiar but I just couldn't remember who lived there. I later asked several people at the show who were from Sunnyvale if they knew who lived on that street, but nobody seemed to know.
Well, sometime after I returned home I found that street name in my pocket and eventually realized that a fellow named Michael Sands (who I had talked to on the phone and met last year in Arizona) lived on Kenniwick. It's truly "a small pinball world!"
After arriving in Phoenix I found the airport shuttle service which drove by the Safari Resort Hotel where the show was located. The bad news was that the fare was ten dollars! When I arrived at the hotel it was about noon and I was told that my room would not be ready for about two hours.
I then decided to go across the street to the large mall to eat lunch, and finally went to a movie to pass the time. After the show I went back to the hotel and checked into my room. My roommate Sam Harvey had not yet arrived. I then went to the exhibit hall area to register for the show.
When I first tried to enter the exhibit area the lady at the registration table told me that we were not allowed in until the next morning as exhibitor "set up" was in progress. But, after taking pictures of the classic pingames on display in the lobby, I managed to quietly slip into the hall - and I don't believe I was the only show attendee to do so.
My roommate Sam arrived later that evening, and we again paid a brief clandestine visit to the exhibit hall. Later in the evening we visited with a nice couple from Montana, discussing pinball related items for a couple of hours.
Saturday morning, after taking advantage of the hotel's free Continental Breakfast, we went to the Coffee Shop for our real breakfast. Upon entering the restaurant we ran into Steve Kordek, the Director of Game Design for pingame manufacturer Williams/Bally/Midway and we ended up eating together.
We had some very nice discussions with Steve during the meal and sat talking for about an hour. After that we went to the exhibit hall, this time entering as welcomed visitors.
The exhibit hall, as it had been at past shows, consisted of two rooms - a main room where most of the games for playing and display were set up, and a second room containing some additional games, parts and supplies dealers, and the tournament area for the pinball tournament connected with the show.
Tim Arnold also had an area in this second room for his 2nd annual charity "rat raffle" with a place to buy tickets and a display of the prizes to be given away, including a 1970's pinball machine. Unfortunately, due to my odd-ball plane schedule I was unable to be present for the Sunday afternoon drawings, but Tim assured me that if I won anything he would send it to me. I didn't.
As far as the pingames on sale or for display (and playing, of course), here is a brief run-down of the number of games representing each decade. There were two pins from the 1930's, none from the 1940's, six from the 1950's, and nine from the Sixties.
There were also 15 electro-mechanical and 6 solid-state pins from the 1970's, 33 games from the 1980's, and 11 from the current decade.
There was only one "wood rail" pin offered for sale at the show (the others being for display only). That was a "classic" pin, Gottlieb's 1953 game SHINDIG, which was not in very good condition (backglass, playfield, and cabinet). My friend Sam Harvey finally decided to buy it because of it's "play appeal" hoping to be able to restore it. It was a very hard decision for Sam, but he finally bought it and took it to our room.
Now for a brief description of some of the more interesting pingames at the show.
One of the two 1930's pins at the show was Daval's BLUE STREAK from 1934. This game was advertised as being entirely mechanical. It had two mechanical ball diverting devices on the playfield referred to as "turrets" in the original advertisement for the game. The "action" of the game was described as follows:
"...each TURRET skill shot automatically zips right over the Next High Score and gradually opens the gate for the BIG SCORE - "3 Cushion" skill shot Lower TURRET. OUT BALLS RETURN to become FREE PLAYS for the skillful players."
Those "turrets" worked in such a way that the first ball landing in one goes into the lowest scoring pocket of the associated group. Each successive ball landing in the same "turret" is diverted into the next higher scoring hole. You must admit that for an entirely mechanical game this was quite an intriguing play feature.
One of the cleanest early pins to be displayed this year was one of the two games displayed in the lobby of the exhibit hall. I believe it was from the collection of show host Bruce Carlton. It was Williams' 1953 pin TIMES SQUARE.
The artwork on the game, undoubtedly done by veteran pinball artist George Molentin, depicted that famous area of Manhattan. It is interesting to note that the "million" scoring panels were the upper windows of the large building on the left-hand side of the backglass.
The playfield was replete with 6 bumpers (all appearing to be "pop bumpers") as well as 5 "trap holes" which were used on some pins of the period. Balls landing in one of these holes would score 500,000, but remain there until the next game. Each hole also had an associated number (between '1' and '5') which was apparently associated with the lighting of the four "SPECIAL WHEN LIT" rollover lanes on the field.
TIMES SQUARE appeared to be in near perfect condition and I'm sure was a very interesting pingame to play.
Another interesting game on display this year was Bally's 1970 pin SEE SAW. What made this particularly interesting was the presence of a prototype version (or "whitewood" as the pin designers call them) of the same game sitting side by side.
The "whitewood" is the pin designer's playable "mock-up" of his design on which he plays to test out the playability of his "brain child". It is called a whitewood, of course, because there is no artwork on the playfield. It was indeed interesting to see these two "versions" of SEE SAW side by side.
An interesting and quite rare solid-state pin on display at the show was Stern's CUE from sometime in the early 1980's. This game was owned by ace collector Tim Arnold (the "charity king").
CUE was supposed to be the last pingame designed by pinball legend the great Harry Williams before his untimely death in 1983. This game, I'm sure, had the most bumpers of any solid-state game - 15 "dead" bumpers representing the 15 balls in a game of pool.
It also had a single "pop-bumper", labeled "CUE", to represent the cue ball in a pool game. CUE was sure an unusual game for the period - but Harry's designs were often out of the ordinary.
Another extremely rare (very low production) solid-state pin (also owned by Tim Arnold) was Gottlieb's 1982 game GOIN' NUTS. This game boasted six pop-bumpers, strategically placed on the playfield - quite a large number for any digital pin.
The artwork on GOIN' NUTS was also quite unusual. It depicts a number of comical looking squirrels holding acorns, fitting right into the 'theme' of the game.
The following is a chronological listing of the pins appearing at the show for sale/display - all available for the playing enjoyment of show visitors:
NAME MFG YEAR PRICE ----------------------------- ------------- ---- ----- BLUE STREAK Daval 1934 NFS BEAM LIGHT Chicago Coin 1935 NFS KNOCK OUT Bally 1950 NFS BEACH CLUB (BINGO) Bally 1953 25 SHINDIG Gottlieb 1953 250 TIMES SQUARE Williams 1953 NFS SWEET ADD-A-LINE Gottlieb 1955 NFS KEY WEST (BINGO) Bally 1956 '57 BASEBALL (BASEBALL) Williams 1957 NFS BIG INNING (BASEBALL) Bally 1958 WORLD FAIR Gottlieb 1964 350 DODGE CITY Gottlieb 1965 NFS HI-DOLLY Gottlieb 1965 PARADISE Gottlieb 1965 NFS BUCKAROO Gottlieb 1966 NFS CENTRAL PARK Gottlieb 1966 PITCH & BAT (BASEBALL) Williams 1966 650 DIAMOND JACK (AAB) Gottlieb 1967 NFS KING OF DIAMONDS Gottlieb 1967 NFS AQUARIUS Gottlieb 1970 RAFFLED SEE SAW Bally 1970 NFS SEE SAW (WHITEWOOD) Bally 1970 NFS STRAIGHT FLUSH Williams 1970 NFS VAMPIRE Bally 1970 NFS ROUND UP Bally 1971 NFS UPPER DECK (BASEBALL) Williams 1973 750 BOW AND ARROW Bally 1974 295 FLIP FLOP Bally 1974 495 SKY RIDER Chicago Coin 1974 400 300 Gottlieb 1975 150 ABRA-CA-DABRA Gottlieb 1975 DYN-O-MITE Allied Leisure 1975 CAPTAIN FANTASTIC Bally 1976 700 SPACE ODYSSEY Williams 1976 395 STRIKES AND SPARES Bally 1977 650/OBO DISCO FEVER Williams 1978 100 DISCO '79 Allied Leisure 1979 FLASH Williams 1979 SPACE INVADERS Bally 1979 525 TRI ZONE Williams 1979 300 BLACK KNIGHT Williams 1980 FLASH GORDON Bally 1980 GALAXY Stern 1980 325 CATACOMB Stern 1981 CENTAUR Bally 1981 695 MEDUSA Bally 1981 850 GOIN' NUTS Gottlieb 1982 NFS ORBITER I Stern 1982 NFS THUNDERBALL Williams 1982 2200 CENTAUR II Bally 1983 SPACE SHUTTLE Williams 1984 390 SPY HUNTER Bally 1984 425 TOUCHDOWN Gottlieb 1984 NFS COMET Williams 1985 550 SORCERER Williams 1985 495 HIGH SPEED Williams 1986 550 HOLLYWOOD HEAT Gottlieb 1986 450 PINBOT Williams 1986 795 RAVEN Gottlieb 1986 500 ROAD KINGS Williams 1986 775 STRANGE SCIENCE Bally 1986 850 F-14 TOMCAT Williams 1987 FIRE! Williams 1987 795 HEAVY METAL MELTDOWN Bally 1987 495 LASER WAR Data East 1987 525 BAD GIRLS Gottlieb 1988 650 BANZAI RUN Williams 1988 1525 CYCLONE Williams 1988 795 BIG HOUSE Gottlieb 1989 695 BLACK KNIGHT 2000 Williams 1989 1375 HOT SHOTS Gottlieb 1989 750 JOKERZ! Williams 1989 895 CUE Stern 198? NFS FUN HOUSE Williams 1990 PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Data East 1990 1350 BRIDE OF PINBOT Williams 1991 CUE BALL WIZARD Gottlieb 1992 NEW DRACULA (BRIAN STOKER'S) Williams 1992 NEW GETAWAY Williams 1992 NEW WHITEWATER Williams 1992 NEW JURASSIC PARK Data East 1993 NEW ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE Data East 1993 NEW STREET FIGHTER II Gottlieb 1993 NEW TWILIGHT ZONE Bally 1993 TOURNEY
During my many hours of visiting the exhibit hall I roamed around checking out all the games, playing a few (I'm just not much of a player anymore) and visiting with old friends and new pin fans who I met for the first time.
One such couple I met were from Tucson Arizona. Both the husband and wife loved pins - in fact the lady may have even been more interested in pins than her husband, she even seemed to be interested in doing game maintenance.
They told me that, among other games, they owned a Bally BEACH CLUB, a 1953 model 'bingo pinball'. When they said they needed a schematic and manual for the game I tried to find one for them from the dealers at the show.
I first checked the box of schematics offered for sale by Jim Tolbert of For Amusement Only with no avail. But, a little while later I found, in the main room, the whole machine with a schematic and manual - the whole "shooting match" for sale for only $25
I found the people; told them about what I had found; and we began to search for the owner. After awhile he was located and they bought their schematic and manual with a whole pinball machine to boot!
Jim Schelberg, publisher of the all pinball magazine PinGame Journal, was one of the people having a booth in the exhibit hall. Jim was kind enough to help me sell some of my "Pinball Troubleshooting Guide" books so I could make a little extra money. Thanks Jim!
Saturday night was the annual banquet. After a nice dinner, show producer Bruce Carlton got up and first thanked us for coming to the show. He then thanked the people from pingame manufacturer Williams/Bally/Midway for coming and providing their new pins for the show tournament.
Steve Kordek of Williams/Bally/Midway then came up and thanked Bruce for putting on a fine show. He then introduced a young lady who was the company's Western Area sales representative.
Following that, Steve praised all the company's personnel for doing such good work and producing such great games. He then introduced Williams/Bally/Midway's ace game designer Pat Lawlor who was to be the banquet's featured speaker.
Pat began by thanking Bruce for inviting him to speak at the banquet, adding that it wasn't easy to follow last year's speaker, fellow designer Steve Ritchie.
He then told us that he had never been that far West before, and that it was wonderful to get away from the Chicago weather for awhile. He said that the sun finally came out when they reached Oklahoma.
Pat then told two funny stories about his trip. First he told about entering a small town in Oklahoma which had a sign with a picture of a pretty woman on it. The sign read "WELCOME TO HOOKER OKLAHOMA".
He then told of another sign advertising a cafe which read "Bob's Restaurant - Famous For Warm Beer and Bad Service", Pat quipping "that's really what you call 'truth in advertising'". He then added that that was something like a pingame with a sign reading "bad shots and no fun - insert coins".
Next Pat began telling us about himself, and how he got to where he is, saying that his background was both sketchy and varied. He then said that he wanted to remind us that pingames were basically entertainment devices which "cut across several technical boundaries" - adding that pingame designers must satisfy a world-wide audience
Pat said that at one time he was a video game designer but eventually lost his job. For awhile after that he told us he did real-time computer software design. He then told of meeting Larry DeMar, who he referred to as "the unsung hero of pinball software". Pat remarked that a whole lot of what you see in pingames today are Larry's inventions.
Pat then told about getting the original idea for his game BANZAI RUN. He said he told Larry that he had a real crazy idea - wanting to put a pingame in a backglass. To this he said Larry replied "when do we start?"
Pat said that they built a model of the game in his garage and when they showed it to the people at Williams they really liked it and decided to build it. Pat then named all of his other designs: EARTH SHAKER, WHIRLWIND, FUN HOUSE, and ADDAMS FAMILY - adding that there will be "more to come".
Pat next told us that he first got involved in the coin-op industry back in 1980, working for a small Chicago outfit which did work for Bally. He then said that sometimes people ask him "did you go to school to learn pinball design - or what?" He said he would reply "or what".
Pat then remarked that "nothing can teach you this", adding that modern games incorporate a wide variety of disciplines.
Going back to his past, Pat said that at one time or another he has worked in sales, did mechanical repairs, managed people, did real-time software design, tended bar, and designed both video and pinball games. He told us that learning about many different things helps you when you want to entertain people.
Pat then said that he wanted to talk about how pingames had changed over the years - and particularly during the past five years. He then started describing what he called "an abbreviated history of pingames".
He began by quipping "pinball starts - and Steve Kordek is there". This drew a round of applause. He said the early games did not have flippers - the ball only bouncing around - and came from the Nineteenth Century game of Bagatelle.
Pat then said that the first pingames seemed "revolutionary" to the public. Shortly after the introduction of pins, he went on, the designers decided they had to come up with "new challenges" - an example of which, he said, was the introduction of lights.
He then remarked that when a person comes up to a new pingame he should be made to say to himself "what will it do?" Pat said that throughout the history of the game "building blocks" were created by designers to improve the game.
During the 1950's and 1960's, Pat went on, there was an influx of mechanical devices on pingames - including animation in backglasses. This, he said, gave the people "new things to look at".
Going back to his past once again, Pat told us that he was born less than four blocks from the Williams plant, but moved away, never knowing at that time that Williams even existed. When he was young, he went on, he liked pingames because he always looked at a new game and wondered "what does it do?"
Getting back to history, Pat remarked that in the 1970's pins began to change from emphasis on a lot of mechanical parts to more emphasis on ball kinetics - ie. "how does it roll?" He told us that fellow designer Steve Ritchie was "the master of kinetics".
Then, Pat said, in the latter part of the Seventies, the micro-processor came into pingames. This, he said, allowed pins to have "complicated rules". Electro-mechanical games, Pat went on, could only employ relatively simple logic, space and power considerations severely limiting their logic. Pat then added that he has a high regard for those games.
Micro-processors, Pat told us, could run at millions of cycles per second, and the memory they employ allowed for almost unlimited game rules. After awhile, he remarked, "rules took over for awhile". He said that this might have resulted in a potential player thinking to himself "I don't see what it does - and i don't want to know."
By 1980, Pat told us, pingames had become extremely convoluted. He said that dedicated pinball players love the game "because it's pinball". This, however, he said is not so with the average player.
Pat then told of video games almost killing pinball. He told of a court case where Bally tried to keep all other pingame manufacturers from using micro-processors. If they had won, he remarked, Williams and other pin manufacturers might not be in business today - adding that modern pinball history hinged on the outcome of that court case.
On the subject of "why video was king?" Pat told us there were several main reasons. First, he said, the game was "revolutionary" - you could actually "play your TV!" He then said that video games could "grab hold of the player".
This was, he continued, primarily due to the fact that video games could "tell a story". Pat said that they had "a limited story line" that the players could relate to. Pins, on the other hand, were missing that completely.
Pat told us that during the period between 1981 and 1983 the video game manufacturers could not produce machines fast enough; players could not deposit coins fast enough; and the operators couldn't empty the coin boxes fast enough!
He then told of Bally once setting an industry record by producing 1200 Ms PAC MAN video games in one day!, the plant running 24 hours a day at that time. Pingames, at that time, Pat said were essentially "in a vacuum" created by the inrush of video games.
Then, Pat continued, came SPACE SHUTTLE which he said was "a throwback to the past" and again inspired the question "what does it do?"
After that, he said, came Steve Ritchie's HIGH SPEED which Pat told us had a "story line" everyone could understand. Next came PINBOT which he said had "lots of mechanical things on the playfield" and was very popular in bars.
After again mentioning his own first game, BANZAI RUN, which he said got him a permanent job with the company, Pat started talking about his next design, EARTH SHAKER. He said that when he first told of his idea of making a game with an earthquake theme management seemed a bit nervous. Pat then told us that he has said a hundred times "our great strength at Williams is that management leaves us alone".
He continued, saying that once you tell management your idea for a new game they'll usually let you alone - adding "they always give you just enough rope to hang yourself".
Pat ended that subject by remarking that he has great respect for Williams' management, adding that at most other companies management holds meetings and assigns tasks when they want to produce a new game.
Getting back to EARTH SHAKER, Pat told of it's first test in an arcade. He said it was on the 2nd floor of a two story building and when the game was first started the whole floor shook. When this happened, Pat told us, all the kids started running for the game so they could put money into it. He then said that EARTH SHAKER was "fun to do".
When he came up with the idea for his next game, WHIRLWIND, Pat said the company's lawyers were afraid that someone might get something in their eye from the fan on top of the game.
Pat then said that his next game, FUN HOUSE, took "one more step" toward allowing the player to interact with the machine. He told of Larry DeMar's first seeing the model for the dummy's head (called "Rudy") used on the game and commenting that it seemed "too big".
Pat then quipped that with FUN HOUSE, if a bar patron was to ask "what do you do with it?", the answer should be "hit him!" - referring to "Rudy". He then told us that the game was a great success and had a large production run.
At that point Pat said that he would like us to think about something. He said that everything he had been describing is "evolutionary" - built on something that had come before. Pat then remarked that pingames can no longer be revolutionary, only evolutionary. The only risk in designing something evolutionary, he went on, is the risk that people might not think it's pinball.
Pat next talked about the difference in play characteristics between wide-body games and smaller size playfields - adding that Williams is "on a roll" with the current playfield size they were using.
At that point Pat started discussing the economic side of game production. He said that in addition to the approximately 6 people who are part of the game design team, there is also a support staff of about 50 more involved with the assembly line, etc.
He then said that there were large tooling costs involved in the production of the molded plastic parts used on the playfield. After telling us that Williams has about 1600 employees, Pat told us that a conservative estimate of the overall cost of getting a new game into production (design through getting onto the assembly line) is approximately ONE MILLION DOLLARS!
Pat said that because of that the designers have to be careful what they do - and have to be somewhat conservative. He then remarked that every designer is charged with the partial welfare of the 1600 employees, because if he makes a mistake in judgement (a bad design) it could result in people being laid off.
At that Point Pat presented a short slide show showing various stages of the production of a game - from initial drilling of the playfield at the start of the assembly line to the finished games sitting on the shipping dock.
After the slide show Pat asked for questions from the audience. When asked why "Rudy" (the dummy's head on the playfield of his hit game FUN HOUSE) has an obnoxious voice, Pat answered that he usually uses pleasant voices on his games but he wanted Rudy to sound like a real ventriloquist's dummy. He then quipped that he wanted Rudy to be "the kind of guy you wouldn't want your sister to go out with".
Pat was next asked how much lighter the "power ball" (a special ball used in one of his latest games) was than the standard ball? Pat replied that it was only slightly lighter. He then said they instituted a world-wide search for that ball and that it was machined from a special ceramic material like is used on valves in the NASA Space Shuttle.
A "Twilight Zone" enthusiast from the audience asked Pat why a gum-ball machine was used on the game TWILIGHT ZONE when he knew of no episode on the TV show which used one? Pat replied that he took some "creative license", adding that many show episodes dealt with "everyday objects" such as the gum machine.
When asked if the dummy Rudy every scared people, Pat told of a lady at the plant who, after hearing him over and over during game testing, said it sounded "nightmarish". Pat then told of the impersonator they used to do many of their game voices. He also mentioned the fact that the "game rules" for many new pingames are "posted" on computer bulletin boards.
Pat was next asked if new pinball ideas ever get canceled? He replied "yes", saying that sometimes the designer himself cancels it if he determines that his idea was just not as good as he thought - or in rare cases when company management gets "nervous" about a design. Pat then added that in any case canceling of a design in progress is never done "lightly".
Pat's talk ended with him answering a few more questions regarding how things are done at Williams/Bally/Midway. During these discussions Pat again emphasized that the company's management was always cooperative when it came to new game designs.
After Pat's talk Bruce got back up for a few minutes for some final remarks. He encouraged show visitors to participate in Tim Arnold's charity raffle. Finally, Bruce reminded everyone to fill out the "ballots" they were given when they registered for the show to vote for the "best game" and "best game restoration" at the show.
When the banquet was over the exhibit hall was reopened for awhile and we all roamed around some more visiting with other pin people and playing games.
Sunday morning when the exhibit hall opened again I went back for one last visit before having to leave for the airport for my early flight home. I was also very disappointed that this same flight problem caused me to miss the annual open-house at the Dan Frank's, a highlight for me at the past two shows.
Reluctantly I finally left the show, after saying farewell to all my good friends, and boarded the shuttle bus for the airport. This time it only cost me $7.50 (vice $10) because another hotel guest shared the ride with me.
My return trip to Burbank airport was quit uneventful. After landing my daughter picked me up in my car and we drove home. All in all, I enjoyed the show very much even though it was somewhat cut short for me due to the transportation problems I mentioned earlier.
THE "COIN-OP SUPER SHOW"
The final show I'm going to report on is the second edition of the "Coin-op Super Show" put on by COIN SLOT ex-publisher Roseanna Harris. This year the show was held in the Pasadena Exhibit Center (the same location as the Fun Fair which I previously described) which, as I said earlier, is in my opinion a very good location for such events.
This year the Super Show was held on Saturday and Sunday, July 31 and August 1. The evening before the show I all of a sudden got the idea of contacting an old friend of mine who I hadn't seen in over 10 years and see if he would like to accompany me to the show. My friend, Nat Ross, was not a coin machine enthusiast, but was a record collector and old movie buff and shared my interest in things from "the good old days".
Saturday morning, before leaving home to drive to Pasadena, I tried calling Nat who lived in Los Angeles but he did not answer. But, after driving part way to Pasadena, I tried again and this time go a hold of him. Nat told me he was in the process of moving but would be glad to spend a few hours with me at the show.
I picked him up at his place and we headed for Pasadena, Nat even showing me a "short cut" to get there from where he lived. Along the way we had a good time getting re-acquainted with each other and reminiscing about the past.
When we finally arrived at the show site we parked in the convenient parking garage and went to the show area. The exhibitors' booths took up most of one large room, and the number of exhibitors seemed to be approximately the same as were at the Fun Fair earlier in the year. There were quite a few more exhibits than were at the first Super Show the previous year in Pomona.
As we started walking down the aisles viewing the many items offered for sale we also continued our reminiscing. We also ran into many of my "pin friends" who I introduced to my old buddy. Nat did end up buying an old 78 RPM phonograph record, which, as I said earlier, was one of his passions.
As far as pingames were concerned, there were only two dealers at the show with more than one or two pins. Herb Silvers had his usual booth which this time featured two electro-mechanical pingames and five solid-state machines. Another outfit, "Home Jukebox" of Lawndale California (a Los Angeles suburb) had four electro-mechanical pingames for sale.
As far as the decades were concerned, there was one pin from the 1930's, none from the 1940's or 1950's, and only three from the 1960's. There were also four electro-mechanicals from the 1970's and eight solid-state games.
The only 1930's pingame at the show was Gottlieb's early entry into the pingame field, BAFFLE BALL, which came out at the end of 1931. In all the years I have attended coin machine shows I have very seldom seen any BAFFLE BALL games being offered for sale.
This little game was quite well built with nice castings being used for the 'scoring pockets'. The "pins" on this "pin and ball game" were quite tall and added to the attractiveness of the game. In addition to the four large scoring pockets on the field, small compartments at the bottom of the field provided additional scoring opportunities.
A very interesting 1960's pin at the show was Gottlieb's 1966 classic HYDE PARK. This was one of the games that Gottlieb produced especially for export to Italy. This is the first time I believe that one of these "Italian versions" has appeared at a coin machine show.
Another interesting and beautiful pingame at the show was Williams' 'classic' SPANISH EYES. The backglass art on this game is quite unusual and the artist who did it still seems to be unknown.
The playfield featured four pop bumpers - three near the top (a fairly usual arrangement) but with a fourth between the flippers which could send the ball up to the kickout hole just above the center of the field. All in all a very interesting little pin.
The following is a chronological listing of all the pingames appearing at the Super Show.
NAME MFG YEAR PRICE ------------------------- -------- ---------- ---------- BAFFLE BALL Gottlieb 1932 875 THREE COINS Williams 1962 500 CROSS TOWN Gottlieb 1966 950 HYDE PARK (ITALIAN) Gottlieb 1966 400 OLYMPIC HOCKEY Williams 1972 400 SPANISH EYES Williams 1972 700 WIZARD Bally 1974 825 OLD CHICAGO Bally 1975 675 SILVER BALL MANIA Bally 1978 550 CHARLIE'S ANGELS Gottlieb 1979 500 NINE BALL Stern 1980 850 LADY LUCK Bally 1986 995 TAXI Williams 1988 1350 TIME MACHINE Data East 1988 1695 JOKERZ! Williams 1989 1575 SILVER SLUGGER Gottlieb 1990 1195
Ever since we entered the show area I tried to locate show producer Roseanna Harris to say "hello". Finally I was able to locate her and I introduced her to my friend and congratulated her on the quality of the show and the turnout of both exhibitors and visitors.
Roseanna asked me if I had heard of the upcoming change in the California antique slot machine ownership law. I told her I had not. She then proceeded to tell me that effective January 1, 1994, it would be legal in California to collect slots which were 25 years old or older - as opposed to the current pre 1954 law. I told her I was glad that our state finally had come around to a reasonable law!
Before leaving the show I stopped by the booth of one of the local slot machine dealers and picked up a flyer which stated the new law. My friend and I then left the show and returned to my car for the drive home. All in all I felt that the show was very good with a nice variety of items for sale.
My friend Nat also seemed to enjoy the show, even though coin machines were not "right up his alley". His love of the "good old days" like mine made the items at the show interesting to him as well however.
On the way back to Nat's house we took a detour to his favorite meat market in South-Central L.A. so he could buy some good German sliced ham. After arriving back at this place we spend a little more time reminiscing about old times and old friends. Finally, I took my leave and started the drive of about 50 miles back home.
Well, there you have it, the 1993 edition of my article on three of the coin machine shows in the West. Next time, for the 9th year in a row, I will report on the events at the greatest of all pinball shows - Pinball Expo '93.
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