By Russ Jensen
This is the fourth in my series of articles describing the pingames in my personal collection. This time the game is Stoner's ELECTRO which came out around March of 1938. ELECTRO has some quite interesting artwork, both on it's playfield and backglass, as well as fairly sophisticated scoring circuitry for it's time.
The game's manufacturer, Stoner Manufacturing Co. of Aurora, IL, began producing pingames as early as 1933. They soon began using the slogan "The Aristocrat Line" to describe their games, a slogan which appears on the front door of ELECTRO. Stoner machines were always well crafted and very 'stylish'. In fact, a cabinet style they originated sometime in 1937 (a 'single unit' cabinet with the backbox part of the playfield cabinet) was emulated by other manufacturers of that period.
Stoner continued to make pingames up until the start of World War II, but did not resume pin production after the war. They did, however, produce other coin machines, such as candy vendors, after the war.
My ELECTRO has the original instruction card at the bottom of the playfield. The wording of this card is interesting and worth quoting. It reads: ELECTRO is purely a skillful high score game. Each bumper contacted adding One Hundred in the Mill Wheel on the left. Balls dropping into holes give the player an addition in the amount shown at the top of the board at time of contact. Thousands show on the right hand side of the backboard. The wording of this card will become clear as the game's features are described.
The 'theme' of ELECTRO is 'Hydro-Electric Power' and its use in an electrified metropolis. The game's outstanding graphics portray this theme well.
At the left hand side of the backglass can be seen a large water-wheel (the 'Mill Wheel' mentioned in the instruction card). This wheel is a major part of the game's 'light animation' which will be described shortly. In between the spokes of the wheel are shown the 'Hundreds' scores.
The rest of the backglass graphics shows large waterfalls, and a Hydro-Electric power plant with the skyline of a large city in the background. At the top of this picture is a 'modernistic' electric train which is also a part of the game's 'light animation' feature.
The playfield graphics illustrate these same features, less the 'Mill Wheel'. The bottom half of the board shows the large waterfalls and Hydro-Electric power plant in detail. The upper half of the playboard shows the large city's buildings. The electric train is shown in the foreground running on an elevated platform. All in all, the graphics, both backglass and playfield, are excellent and show a much greater detail than most games of this period.
The 'heart' of the mechanism of this game is a motor driven 'contactor' unit which runs throughout the course of the game, and provides control of the game's 'light animation' and variable scoring features. There are two 'light animated' sections on the backglass. The first, the 'Mill Wheel', uses that technique to simulate a constant rotation of the wheel. Both the spokes of the wheel and sections of the wheel's rim are lighted sequentially, giving the appearance of the wheel's rotation. The effect is quite remarkable.
The other 'light animation' area is the electric train. The eleven windows of the train light sequentially displaying potential scoring values of zero through 1000. This sequence continues over and over during play of the game.
The scoring of points during a game can occur in two ways. The first is by hitting the bumpers on the playfield, and the other is by a ball dropping into one of the playfield holes. Hitting a bumper scores 100 points, but a ball dropping into a hole may score anywhere from zero to 1000 points.
When a ball drops into one of the holes on the playfield, the rotating contactor mechanism temporarily stops rotating. The number of points (0 to 1000), shown by the lighted train window on the backglass at that time, is the scoring value of that hole, those points being scored in increments of 100. After the scoring is complete the contactor again begins to rotate. The ball, however, remains in the hole until the end of the game.
This was a very novel scoring idea and is somewhat akin to variable or 'mystery' score bonuses which were used on games many years later, and even today. A few other games of that period, however, used similar scoring techniques. A game called DUX, made by Chicago Coin in 1937, used a motor rotated wheel displaying a picture of a wild duck which moved across the backglass. The position of the duck at any given moment was linked to the amount of score received when a certain bumper on the playfield was hit.
The player's score on ELECTRO is displayed in two areas of the backglass. The 'hundreds' are displayed between the spokes of the 'Mill Wheel'. The 'thousands' are displayed in a 'tower like' structure at the right hand side of the glass. Last, but not least, the ominous "TILT" sign is in the center of the 'Mill Wheel '.
All in all, Stoner's ELECTRO is a fascinating pingame and very imaginative for the period. It's superb graphics, it's highly developed 'light animation', and it's novel 'time dependant scoring' feature all combine to form a truly 'classic' pinball game of it's era.
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