PINBALL EXPO '92 (CONTINUED)
"THE DATA COLLECTORS - PINBALL'S TRUE HISTORIANS" SEMINAR
By Russ Jensen
Last time you might recall, when I described the many attractions at Pinball Expo '92, I said that I would postpone my description of the seminar I was a part of. I said that was because it's description would be too long and would be "out of balance" with the rest of the article.
Now some of you may think that the reason the description of our seminar was longer than that of the other events was because I took part in it. Well, in a way, you would be right, but not for the reason you might think. So before beginning the description of our seminar let me explain what caused this situation. To do that I will have to briefly explain how I cover the Expo seminars in general.
Whenever I go to an Expo I always bring with me a standard stenographer's notebook and a portable audio cassette recorder. During each seminar I use the notebook to take notes, as quickly as possible, also recording the entire session on tape at the same time.
Now, since it's impossible to write down everything that's being said (even though I use a lot of abbreviations, and 'keywords' to remind me what the main points of the talk were) the result usually is that my notes tend to capture most of the important points being discussed, leaving out many of the lesser details. Thus a sort of 'filtering' of the discussion tends to take place.
Since I write my article primarily from these notes, the final product usually covers the main points of each talk, rather than providing a detailed point-by-point "transcript", thus resulting in a reasonable length description of each seminar. If, however, I miss a main point in my notes due to the discussion getting too 'lively', I simply make a notation "CK TAPE" in my notes and use the tape later to help recreate that portion of the talk in the finished article.
In the case of the seminar described below I, of course, was up on stage and certainly could not take any written notes at all. I therefore had to rely solely on the tape recording when recreating the seminar in written words. In order to do this, at the time I began to write the description of our talk, I played the tape and made a "detained outline" for the article while listening to it.
Now some of you might ask the question, why didn't I just let the tape run (just as if I was listening to the seminar at the Expo) and take the same kind of notes I did for the other seminars, resulting in the 'filtering' effect I mentioned earlier? Well, my answer to that is when I'm listening to a tape and come to a place where my note taking can't keep up with the discussion I tend to stop the tape, over which I have control, something I cannot do during a live discussion.
The result of all this is that when I take notes (or make an outline) from a tape which I can stop at will, the resulting article tends to cover almost everything that was said, rather than leaving out some of the less important details.
A similar situation, by the way, occurs during my describing of Expo banquet speeches. That is because that is the one time during an Expo I allow myself the luxury of just relaxing, taping the talk only, and describing the speech in my article by making a detailed outline directly from the tape.
Well, now that you understand why my coverage of this seminar is disproportionately longer than my descriptions of the other Pinball Expo '92 seminars that I presented last time, I will go ahead and describe our talk.
The above discussion may have been somewhat boring to some, but I hope that others of you might enjoy a little insight into what goes on "behind the scenes" during preparation of my written coverages of the Pinball Expos.
When it was time for our seminar to start Rob Berk got up and introduced the panel on which I was to participate, which was titled "The Data Collectors - Pinball's True Historians". He then introduced Dave Marston, the panel's moderator.
Dave began by saying that he was there to represent his quarter century in the hobby. He said that he had done some writing (referencing his series of articles "Visual Dictionary of Pinball Parts"), and then mentioned his participation in a computer information network known as "Internet" on which there was much pinball activity.
After asking for a show of hands of who in the audience was on Internet (there were several users attending), he told of him helping organize a pinball get-together known as "The New England Pinfest".
Dave then started talking about our panel, beginning by telling the audience that some of us did not usually go in front of audiences, but were "dedicated searchers for information". He then said that he would have liked to have pinball historians Rob Hawkins and Don Mueting (who had recently published their "Pinball Collector's Resource" reference book) there, but that they were upholding their record of never attending an Expo.
At this point Dave introduced panelist Mike Pacak, whom he said was a collector of games (especially Ballys), as well as schematics, and of course pinball advertising flyers. He then said that Mike has been trying to publish an "encyclopedia" of pinball flyers, asking Mike how that project was going?
Mike began by saying that an earlier arrangement for publishing this, in connection with coin-op publisher Dan Meade, had fallen through. He then said such a publication would be quite expensive, especially if it were done the way most collectors would like to see it.
Mike continued, saying that what he envisioned was a book showing flyers for almost all pingames from 1947 forward, which he said could be as many as 1200 pages! He then said that it could be done in several volumes, either divided by manufacturers or by dates. He ended by saying that he has almost enough flyers to do it (plus Billboard magazines from 1939 through 1972) but that the big problem is making a suitable arrangement with a publisher or printer.
Dave Marston then made the comment that Steve Young and Gordon Hasse had solicited interest from collectors in a similar project several years ago, but had not found enough interest. He said since that time the number of collectors had grown and maybe now the interest in such a project would be greater.
At that point Dave introduced my friend, and fellow panelist, Sam Harvey, saying that he was well known for gathering information on pingames. He then commented that Sam had brought his database (a large notebook containing his pinball research information) with him.
Dave then commented that a "database" did not necessarily need to be on a computer. He then remarked that Mike's large collection of machines (as well as his flyer collection) could even broadly be considered as a sort of "database", although searching through a warehouse of machines to gather information he said was quite time consuming.
Dave next introduced "yours truly" telling of my book ("Pinball Troubleshooting Guide"), my numerous articles on pins and pinball history over the years, and my participation in the preparation of several pinball lists, including the Hawkins/Mueting endeavors. He then commented that I would be writing up the Expo (part of which, of course, you are reading now).
Dave then commented that Hawkins and Mueting were trying to reach a "plateau of accuracy" in their research, requiring verification of all data added to their extensive database. He then added that we on the panel are some of the people working diligently to gather information and are "committed to accuracy".
At that point Dave remarked that this seminar was to cover the unified history of pingames from pre-flipper games up through flipper games and the current solid state games - 61 years of pinball. He said we would talk about "firsts", possibly answering some of the questions Aaron Benedit had previously asked in his "Name That Game" contest.
Dave then referred to us panelists as the "truth squad", adding that we would always listen to authoritative information to add to our knowledge. He then remarked that we would help define the historical significance of certain games.
At that point Dave briefly mentioned others who were also contributing to pinball history projects, etc. He said that Steve Young was collecting serial numbers for existing machines. He then told of Rob Rosenhouse keeping a database of solid-state games, including their playfield characteristics, etc. He said that Rob's data was available to Internet users, along with other information on the net providing sources for schematics, etc.
Dave then told of Daina Pettit who has been compiling and selling a list of post 1946 games, also keeping track of their attributes. He then told of Doug Landman's project of providing a cross-reference to references to pins in articles in the hobby magazines, now adding book references.
On the subject of the Hawkins/Mueting database again, Dave told of Don Mueting referring to their project as a "living document" with updates possibly as little as 6 months apart. He encouraged all to send them verifiable corrections/additions to their currently published information.
Dave then commented that the Hawkins/Mueting database actually went way beyond the information published in their book, citing as an example the inclusion of details of the features of many games, including such things as number of flippers, kickout holes, targets, etc., all coded using a special coding system. Dave then told of Don Mueting telling him that he currently had a backlog of information to be entered into the database.
At that point Dave said it was time to get the panel into the act, saying that he wanted to get into what he called "borderline cases". He then asked Mike Pacak about a Chicago Coin game he owned which he said was sort of a cross between a rifle game and a pingame.
Mike said that game, made in the 1960's, was called CHAMPION RIFLE and was where the player shot a rifle at targets on a miniature pinball playfield, lighting the targets to score points. He also said that it had a "captive ball" feature where you shot at the ball to release it.
Dave then posed the question - was this a pin or not? He then mentioned some other Chicago Coin horseracing games of which the same question could be asked. One, he said, had a vertical playfield, and the other 4 small fields each with it's own plunger, where four players each tried to make their horse come in first by shooting balls on their playfields. Dave then commented that there were also some non coin-op games which maybe also could be classified as pins.
Another "touchy question", Dave then said, was that of the "conversions" made during World War II, then asking me to comment on those games. I began by remarking that there were two basic type of these conversions.
The first simpler type, I explained, was where an old game was "converted" by only using a new backglass, bumper caps, and instruction cards, the same playfield and cabinet being used. For this type, which I call "mini conversions", the converting company would advertise in the trade publications for operators to send in their old games to be converted to a new game for a fee.
The other, and more complicated type, I went on, was exemplified by the games converted by United Manufacturing in the first years of it's existence during the war. For these games the converting company would buy up old games, create new playfields and backglasses, and often use decals to provide new artwork for the existing cabinets. I ended by explaining that in this type the company essentially made new games using parts from old ones so they would not have to use any "war essential" materials.
At that point Rob Berk posed a question for the panel and audience - "what type of format [for pinball information] do you feel a need for?" Dave commented that maybe reproduction of playfield layout charts might be appropriate for some games. Rob then asked what else people would like to see in the way of additional data? He further asked that if Mike did reproduce his flyers, what quality of reproduction would be desired - glossy high quality or lower cost black and white lower quality reprints?
When Dave further queried the audience as to what they wanted (and would pay to have) someone remarked that he would like to see the flyer books done by era. Rob then asked for a show of hands as to who wanted it that way and who would like to see it by manufacturer instead. Books by era easily won.
Rob next suggested possibly producing a video tape of the flyers instead of a book. Mike remarked that he had "played with that idea". Then someone suggested the new "Photo CD" idea. When someone else began talking about providing cross-references to book/magazine articles, Dave reminded him that Doug Landman was already doing that.
Dave next posed the idea of using game photos (ala Dick Bueschel's book) instead of brochures since, he said, some brochures don't show the game as it was actually produced. He then asked Sam Harvey for an example of this.
Sam said that, for instance, the "loser lanes" shown on the brochure for Gottlieb's 1965 game ICE REVUE were not the same as those on the production game. He then commented, referring to his "database" book, that the Chicago Coin CHAMPION RIFLE game described earlier by Mike Pacak was that company's game #307 which came out around October of 1963. When someone from the audience pointed out another flyer vs game discrepancy, Mike Pacak commented that in many cases the flyer is "better than nothing".
Dave then asked what people thought about including "one of a kind" games (such as the Michael Jordan game in the Exhibit Hall) in compilations such as the flyer book being discussed? The consensus seemed to be "yes". Dave replied that that would require more digging, then remarked that maybe these could be included in a special supplement.
Someone from the audience next commented that he would like to see pictures of games arranged with the full field view directly under the backglass view (as I try to do in COIN SLOT) so it would be easier to understand the play of the game. Mike then commented that if we wanted the book to be 100 percent complete (including everybody's games) it would "take 100 years".
When someone suggested that the easiest games to do (maybe 90, or so, percent) be done first, adding the more difficult ones later, Steve Young commented that they once had the idea of doing a similar thing in "serialized segments", possibly issued bi- monthly. Steve said that from the response they got from the hobby at that time they decided that it was not worth the risk, saying that they were afraid that they could not even get paid back for the first installment.
Mike then commented that what he has now could provide enough material to produce 10 years of such installments. To put it all in one book, he went on, would probably result in a book costing over $100, a price he was afraid many would not pay.
Someone from the audience next commented that we seem to be asking "what do we want?" when maybe the question should be "what do we have?" He then remarked that there were hundreds of machines out there and that people would probably buy any book which had a picture of any of their games in it.
Dave then commented that possibly it could be handled something like Dick Bueschel's PINBALL I book, with people sending in pictures of their games to be included, in return for which they would get monetary "credit" to be deducted from the price of their copy. Mike's comment to that was that it would entail an awful lot of bookkeeping.
Sam Harvey next commented that such a book would be important to the hobby in more ways than one. He suggested that pictures/flyers could help people looking for missing parts (bumper caps, etc.) to determine what other games had the same items, thus making it easier to find a "parts game".
Sam then jokingly asked long-time Bally employee Jim Patla why the Bally brochure for their 1970 pin TRAIL DRIVE (which came out at about the time he joined the company) had a pretty model sitting on the game - it's field not being shown at all? Jim replied that possibly the field design had not been finished at the time the flyer was released.
At that point Gordon Hasse in the audience made a few comments. He began by commenting that we were "sitting on a great repository of pinball data", similar in scope to what he himself holds for another hobby - the 1950's "scandal magazines". He suggested that possibly, as people were doing in that hobby, that instead of a book, individual copies of one (or as many as a person wants) be sold - those wanting everything being able to order all.
When Mike Pacak asked if he meant copies of flyers, Gordon answered "yes". Dave then commented that, in a way, this was what Hawkins and Mueting were offering by offering to put people in touch with other people owning flyers, schematics, etc. - letting them then deal with the owners for copies, etc.
Dave next announced that it was time to put his 'truth squad' to work with some pinball 'firsts'. When we were asked what the first game with a 'pop-bumper' was, Sam answered that Gottlieb's first was BOWLING CHAMP. In a few seconds he added that SARATOGA was Williams', and FLOATING POWER was Genco's. I then chimed in to tell of a prewar game I owned as a kid which had a form of pop-bumper.
That game, Stoner's 1938 game ZETA, I described as having a circular stainless steel field sloping toward the center which contained an "exploding spring" pop-bumper - the same as was used in 1948 on Exhibit Supply's first pop-bumper game CONTACT. After I commented that that was the only known occurrence of that type of bumper used before 1948, Dave commented "another blow struck for the truth".
When Dave next asked what was the first game to have an "eject hole", I quickly answered that it was Harry Williams' famous CONTACT in early 1934. I then proceeded to tell what the late Harry Williams himself had told me years ago.
This was that when the first bumper was introduced on Bally's BUMPER late in 1936, bumpers became so popular that the eject hole quickly disappeared from pins, not appearing again until Exhibit used it on a few games late in 1941. I added that after the war this feature began appearing on almost all amusement pingames.
Dave then asked what the first game with "trap holes" was, indicating that the new pinball pricing guide by Larry Bieza, which was for sale in the Exhibit Hall, said it was Gottlieb's 1952 pin QUARTETTE. No one seemed to disagree with that except for one person in the audience who said it might have been that company's NIAGARA which came out in late 1951.
When the same question was asked about "gobble holes" no one seemed to disagree with the book's reference to Gottlieb's QUEEN OF HEARTS from 1952. Sam Harvey then added that the last game to have such holes was that company's SWEETHEARTS in 1963.
After declaring that the same book indicated that Gottlieb's 1957 pin MAJESTIC was first to employ a "roto-target" with no contradiction from anyone, it was stated that Gottlieb's AIRPORT and COLLEGE QUEENS in 1969 were first to employ a "vari-target" (where the amount of score depended on how hard the target was hit). Long-time designer Steve Kordek was then credited with designing the first "drop-target".
Rob Berk next interjected a query, asking if anyone knew who designed the first "slingshot kicker"? When Sam answered "Gottlieb", Rob said he meant "which person". Rob himself then answered that he believed it was a man named Abe Wexler.
Getting back to the "drop target", Dave next began describing the difference between the earliest and later versions of this component. He then presented the trivia that the game employing the most drop-targets was Gottlieb's "2001" in 1971 which had a total of 20.
When Dave next asked about the first game with a "roll- under" no one ventured a guess, Dave remarking that that seems to require more research. When he then asked about the first use of a "spinning target", Sam Harvey replied that it was on Gottlieb's 1963 pin SWING ALONG. As far as the "horizontal spin target" was concerned, the consensus seemed to be that it was first used on Williams' ACES AND KINGS in 1970.
At that point Rob Berk next asked about the first use of a "center shooter", or "turret shooter" as they are more commonly known? I replied that it was first used by Gottlieb in 1950.
Dave then asked if that type of shooter was the first use of recirculating one ball five times per game vice using five separate balls? It was agreed that, as far as anyone knew, that was true, since these turret shooter games predated both the multi-player and "Add-A-Ball" games which recirculated one ball.
When Rob Berk next asked about the first game to use an "up- post" to keep the ball from 'draining' between the flippers, Dave answered that it was Williams' 1968 pin CABARET. Someone from the audience then brought up the games by Gottlieb in the early 1950's which employed a "fence" device to keep the first ball from draining until a certain minimum score (usually 300,000 points) was obtained.
It was acknowledged that that was certainly similar to the "up post", the difference being the "intent" of the feature. In one case it was to allow the player's skill to reward him with longer play, and in the other to guarantee a player a decent first ball score.
Sam Harvey next asked Steve Kordek in the audience if the rotating targets on Williams' 1966 game FOUR ROSES (which were turned by the 'score motor') were only used on that game? Steve said that was correct.
Next we had a question from long-time pinball designer Steve Kordek. He said that his Genco game TRIPLE ACTION in early 1948 was the first pingame with two flippers at bottom of the playfield only, but he wanted to know what game first turned them around to present configuration?
Much discussion of flippers and flipper arrangements followed, but the question was not exactly answered. It was said that it had happened at least by 1950, with the game in question possibly being Gottlieb's SPOT BOWLER which came out around November of that year. Dave made the comment that the reversing of the flippers "led to the modern form of play".
Someone from audience then made the comment that the book "Special When Lit" by Canadian Ed Trapunski says which game it was, but he couldn't remember which game was referenced. Dave then remarked "but, can we trust Trapunski's history?" This was followed by some more discussion of flipper configurations.
Dave next asked what game first used the "mushroom bumper"? The answer given was Bally's MONTE CARLO. Dave then made the comment that he once said that Bally's mushroom bumpers were similar to some bumpers used by Stoner sometime in the late 1930's, asking me if I knew anything about that? I answered that I didn't know, but said that I have copies of the BILLBOARD magazine ads from 1936 through 1939 and could possibly check on it.
Rob Berk next asked if anyone knew anything about the special game TIME OF YOUR LIFE? Mike Pacak said that he had a photo of it. Dave then read from an article which appeared in the August 6, 1948 issue of BILLBOARD. It said that six games were to be made for use in an "amusement game championship contest" to be held in connection with soon to be released film of the same name. The article referred to the machine as a "giant, specially made game".
Dave next asked if anyone had ever seen one? No one said they had, and one person in the audience made a joking comment regarding the giant pingame HERCULES put out by Atari several years ago. Rob Berk then asked if anyone knew if one actually existed? No one had an answer. Dave then asked if anyone had seen the movie with William Bendix? I answered, "yes, I have it on video tape".
At that point Dick Bueschel from the audience spoke up saying that he "would like to make a plea for something". He then read a statement contained in the new Pinball Price Guide implying that pre-flipper games had "little or no value". Dick then said that he would like to give two reasons why these games are important.
First, he said, the 1940's was "the height of development of the non-flipper game", adding that when flippers came in old-time players said that they made the game too easy. Dick then commented that "the real game is the non-flipper game", citing my recent article on Genco's 1940 game METRO as an example of one of these games.
Secondly, Dick went on, "no value? - if someone found a HIT THE JAPS or PARATROOPER today it would blow the value over anything today", adding that these games are impossible to find nowadays. Dick ended by saying "let's make a plea for 40's games". Dave then remarked "let the historical record show there were 'add-on kits' available after flippers came in, so that all games with flippers may not have been originally so equipped, which could mislead someone in trying to date a particular machine."
Dave next asked what the last amusement game without flippers was? He then answered, saying it was Bally's FUN CRUISE in 1965. I then said that it was probably actually DELUXE FUN CRUISE which came out the next year. Sam Harvey then asked "isn't that like a 'queens game'"?, (a term, by the way, I believe I invented). I answered "yes".
At that point Dave commented "that leads to the question of how many Bally amusement games came out between 1952 and their beginning of steady production of flippers in 1963?" He then said that the common answer is one, but that this is a popular misconception for some historians. Dave then remarked that we have seen two at Pinball Expos, BALLS-A-POPPIN' and CIRCUS.
Dave next asked if anyone had seen Bally's 1958 game CARNIVAL?; also asking: is it an 'amusement piece'? I reminded him it was a flipper game, and said I heard it had score reels. Dave then said that he thought the flippers on these games were not true flippers. He was corrected by Sam who has CIRCUS and said they were real flippers.
Dave next asked "How about Bally USA? - has anyone seen one?" He was told it had light scoring and no flippers. He then asked: "how about CROSSWORDS?" He was told that it was somewhat like a bingo. Mike Pacak then said that he has another version of that game called SPELLING BEE, which looks like it has a factory glass. When Dave asked if it was an 'amusement' or 'gambling' game, Mike answered "gambling".
Dave then summarized the list of 1950's Bally amusement pins, naming BALLS-A-POPPIN', CIRCUS, CARNIVAL, and USA (amusement/no flippers).
Dave then asked if someone wanted to define 'queens games'?, which he said were offered in the flyers as amusement pieces. Sam said they had 'pop bumpers' and 'slingshot kickers' to maneuver the ball, but had no flippers. He then named some examples including: ISLAND QUEENS, BEACH QUEENS, and BEAUTY CONTEST. Dave then remarked that they had replay counters which could go up to 999 like most bingos.
At that point Dave asked for questions from the audience? Someone asked "what was the first game to have a 'ball return gate'?" Sam Harvey answered that it was Bally's CROSS COUNTRY in 1963, the third Bally flipper game to come out after they restarted production of that type of game again in that year. He then explained in detail how that gate was qualified during play. A brief discussion then followed regarding certain games made in the 1930's in which performing a certain feat during play allowed a ball to get into a special 'protected' area of the playfield where larger scores could be obtained.
When Dave asked about other firsts, someone from the audience asked about the first use of a 'captive ball'? Dave answered that that was "a matter of definition" as to whether you were talking about a true 'captive ball' or a 'messenger ball', Dave then explaining the difference between the two.
Reiny Bangeter from the audience then told of Exhibit's WINGS in 1940 which used a special form of the 'captive ball' to sequentially close a fixed number of switches to provide a multiple scoring function (2000 or 5000, for example). I then commented that Chicago Coin also used a similar set-up on some of their games around that time.
Someone next asked when the first 'score motor' was used on a pingame? I replied that Exhibit Supply used a simple score motor on some of their games in 1941. (NOTE: I later remembered that a few earlier games, such as Chicago Coin's DUX in 1937 and Exhibit Supply's ELECTRO in 1938, used a motor to provide either mechanical or light animation on the backglass and also to provide multiple scoring.)
Dave next asked how many six-player games had been made? He then answered his own question naming three: SIX STICKS (1965), SIX SHOOTER (1966), and SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN (1977). No one disagreed.
Dave then asked if anyone had any more questions? It was asked what was the first Add-A-Ball game to turn over the score reels at 100,000 (ie. having a "fake zero" on the reels)? Dave answered that his Gottlieb LARIAT from 1969 was one. Someone also said it could have been MINI POOL or possibly CARD TRIX.
Dave next asked what the first multi-player pingame was. He answered that it was Gottlieb's SUPER JUMBO (first 4-player), and DUETTE (first 2-player), both coming out in the mid 1950's. When I commented that back in the early 1930's there were games with two side-by-side playfields, such as Bally's 1933 game JACK AND JILL, etc., Dave jokingly remarked "we're making Aaron's job very difficult", referring to Aaron Benedit's previously presented "Name That Game" pinball trivia contest.
The final question from the audience was: "were 'roto- targets' used by any manufacturer other than Gottlieb?" Sam Harvey answered that Williams never used them, but that they used what he called a "horizontal roto-target" on a few games such as FOUR ROSES and BEAT TIME in the 1960's.
At that point Dave Marston decided it was time to wrap things up. He said that there was still more research to be done in the hobby, first mentioning the collection of serial numbers from existing games for such researchers as Steve Young.
Dave next said that flyers and schematics which a person may own can provide significant information, even though you don't have the actual game. He then remarked that if you want to be "world famous" you should do something which has not already been done.
At that point Dave gave a list of possible projects people could participate in. He first mentioned doing a "Who's Who in the pinball business", or doing research in trade magazines other than BILLBOARD. Next he talked of people reporting on sightings of different games, or working on a list of 'borderline cases' (games which are similar to pins, but not exactly).
Finally, Dave mentioned the preparation of a "directory of manufacturers and suppliers", or "corporate histories" of pingame companies. Dave then told the people in the audience that if they had any other ideas he would like to hear about them, saying they could contact us panel members who would be around during the rest of the show.
Dave ended by saying "now you know more about information gathering in the pinball hobby", and finally commenting "you should all have fun continuing along the path of information gathering". That ended our seminar.
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