PINBALL EXPO '95 (PART 1)
(The year of SUNSHINE)
By Russ Jensen
Well, for the eleventh year in a row pinball fans from all over the country, and other countries as well, were treated to the "king of all pinball shows" the Pinball Expo. I have been lucky enough to attend all of the past shows, but this year for awhile I was unsure whether I could attend.
In the past there has usually been some sort of airline "fare war" around Expo time, but this year no such luck. Also, the price of admission to the show, and the room rates at the Ramada O'Hare where show is held, have been constantly increasing (each close to $100 now - in fact the hotel room plus tax is slightly over that amount). On top of that the length of the show has also increased in the past couple years. That requires a five night stay at the hotel if you want to participate in all Expo events.
I had just about decided I could not really afford to go this year when two things happened. First, my wife won a good amount at bingo about a month before the show and offered to give me $200 to help with my air fare. And, at about the same time, my friend Sam Harvey paid me in advance for something he was going to buy from me because he had heard that I might not be going to the show. Using this money, plus a $25 air fare discount certificate (resulting from a past air fare fixing class action lawsuit) I was able to buy my plane ticket for about $50 additional funds. I still had to dip into my savings to pay for my share of the room and food, however, but I decided to do it one more time.
Before actually buying my ticket and making hotel reservations I verified with my Expo roommate for the past several years, John Cassidy, that he would again share the expensive hotel room with me. After verifying that, I purchased my airline ticket, and a few days later made our room reservations.
Early the morning before the show, Wednesday October 25, 1995, my daughter Cheri drove me to the Hollywood/Burbank airport in time for my 6 AM flight. I had to change planes in San Francisco but the trip was uneventful. When I arrived at O'Hare airport I took the hotel bus to the Ramada O'Hare arriving around 4 PM.
When checking into the hotel I was told that my roommate had arrived earlier that day, but when I got to the room he was not there. I had dinner alone and went back to the room to watch TV. Later that evening my roommate came back to the room and later we had dessert with a couple other friends.
Thursday morning (the first day of Expo events) we had breakfast and then picked up our show registration packets. A little while later we all boarded busses (actually old school busses - and on the day after the tragic Chicago area train/school bus accident) for the first Expo event, a tour of the Lenc-Smith manufacturing plant where cabinets and playfields were made for Williams and Bally games.
While riding the bus I sat with a young man from Philadelphia who told - me one of the games he owned was a Williams FRESHIE made in 1947. I told him that there were three sets of initials (in "lover's hearts" on a picket fence in the backglass art) which were the initials of three of the factory "big shots" and their wives, or in one case a daughter. While telling him whose initials these were I discovered that I had forgotten one of them. I tried several times during the show to get that information, but I'm still trying.
When we arrived at the plant we were ushered inside and told that everyone would have to wear "safety glasses" during the tour which we were then issued. Since we had to break up into several tour groups, those who had to wait a few minutes were allowed to play some new pingames which were in the "staging area".
The guide for the group I was in introduced himself as Joe and we began our tour. The first place we were shown was an area where new wood (which came in from a receiving dock) was stored and which would be used to make the various game (both pinball and video) cabinets and pinball playfields. After going through an area where plywood was sawed to the proper size, we went into a cabinet assembly area. Our guide told us that the assembly of electronic parts was done at another plant in Waukegan, Illinois.
Our guide then told us that 3/4 inch plywood was used for the cabinets, which was first primered. After that, we saw the cabinet artwork being screened onto the cabinet sides by large machines made by a foreign manufacturer called Sveci. We were then told that an ultra-violet "curing" process was used on video game cabinets, but not on pinballs. The cabinets were then dried in ovens overnight. We were also shown the actual silk screens which were used.
After being told that the general flow of work was toward the back of the plant, we were taken to the milling department. This was where the edges of wooden parts were processed. We were next shown the Shoda numerical control machines which were used to cut all holes in the playfields automatically, including the cut-outs on the edges. We next saw how the plastic "inserts" are put into the playfields and glued. A "Y-Belt" sander was then used to "level" the plastic inserts to the level of the playfield. We were told this process was so accurate that only about one percent of the inserts had to be replaced because they were not level.
Next we went through a video game cabinet assembly area. We saw how the parts of the cabinet were pressed together and glued. We were then shown a "boring machine" which made the holes for bolts as needed. The cabinets were then sprayed and cleaned.
Our guide told us that the pinball backboxes were made in a similar fashion to the cabinets in another area of the factory, and that sometimes decals were used on the backboxes instead of ink spraying. We were also told about the "sawdust collectors" on the roof of the plant.
When he was asked if they ever went back into production on a previous game, our guide answered that this occasionally happens, but that it was almost the same as starting up for a new game. He then remarked that they always used real wood, and that the wooden components were the cheapest part of a game. The last thing our guide told us was that they also made cabinets for "shuffle alleys". As we left the plant we were offered "gifts" of game posters and a small bag of plastic flipper buttons.
Once outside the plant we had to wait a half-hour or more for our busses to return. During that time I visited with several of the other Expo attendees. When our bus returned we were taken back to the hotel where we had lunch and waited for the next Expo event which was scheduled for 2:30.
THE HARVEY HEISS VIDEO
One of the great old-timers who appeared at several of the first Expos was long-time Genco designer Harvey Heiss (one of my favorite Expo presenters). For the past several years Harvey's health has been such that it was impossible for him to make the trip to Chicago from his retirement home in Florida. Sometime during the past year, however, Expo producer Rob Berk had traveled to Florida and interviewed Harvey on video tape.
After everyone had assembled Rob introduced his presentation which he said was something he had wanted to do for some time. He first told us of Harvey's ill health, remarking that he was somewhere between 85 and 87 years old now. Rob then introduced Harvey's old friend and Genco co-worker Steve Kordek which drew a round of applause.
Steve began by remarking that his experience working at Genco with Harvey initiated him into the pinball business. Prior to working in the industry Steve told us that he had been in the Forrest Service. After working in forestry for several years, he was asked to attend a special school in Idaho. Steve said he really didn't want to go to Idaho so he went to Chicago to visit relatives and look for another job. This was in April 1937, he continued, and then told of ducking into a doorway to get out of the rain and ending up working at Genco.
Steve then told us that when he ducked into Genco's doorway a lady asked him if he was looking for a job, when she found out he could do soldering he was given a job on the assembly line. Steve then commented that he had a background in electricity and after a month or so this allowed him to transfer into Engineering to work under Harvey. From Harvey, Steve told us, he learned all about pinball design, including playfield layout, and also how to design "conservatively". He then remarked that Harvey had been with the company since 1928 and has never been given the credit he deserves.
Steve then told a little more about Harvey's early accomplishments. He said that as soon as pinballs started "coming in" Harvey started designing them. In 1934, he went on, Harvey designed a game called SPIT FIRE (one of which we were told was in the Exhibit Hall) which used two "wire forms" on it's playfield - similar to those used in modern machines.
Finally, Steve said he was really looking forward to seeing the video, adding that he had no idea what Harvey was going to say. He then said that he would have more comments after the tape was played. At that point Rob Berk said he hoped we all would enjoy the video, quipping that it was "G- rated". Rob then started the tape.
Rob Berk began the taped interview by saying that they were in Harvey's home. He then asked Harvey to tell of his history in the pingame industry from the 1930's through the late 1950's when he left Genco and went to Florida? Rob then asked Harvey where he wanted to start?
Harvey began by telling of working in a combination machine shop, foundry, and dye works beginning in the late 1920's, working there for eight years during which time he said he "did everything". Rob then interrupted, telling Harvey that he wanted him to start when he went to work at the Genco factory.
Harvey then told how a man from Genco came to the foundry to get them to make some parts, etc., for the "novelty games" they were building. One day, he went on, he was asked to come to Genco and show them how they could use dyes, etc., in the fabrication of their products. At that time, Harvey then told us, Genco was making "counter games" such as the upright game SPIRAL GOLF in which he participated in the design. Harvey then said that he also designed other counter games. When they later expanded their plant, he told us, they hired him full time.
Rob Berk then asked Harvey what his job was when he was first hired at Genco? Harvey answered that it was designing games - first counter games, then pingames. When Rob then asked Harvey if he was Genco's first pingame designer, he answered that he was. Harvey was then asked by Rob if he also designed baseball games, gun games, etc., while he worked for Genco? He answered "yes, anything in their line, even 'roll-downs' later on", adding that pinball was his specialty.
At that point Harvey commented that he designed the first pingame to use steel vice glass balls. He then told of designing Genco's SILVER CUP in 1933 which had a simple "score totalizer" and was the first pingame to use castings, an idea stemming from his foundry background. The next of his early games Harvey mentioned was PONTIAC, which came out the next year, and which he said was similar to SILVER CUP, but employing larger castings. Harvey then told how on that game the ball went completely around the playfield before entering into play.
Harvey said that a little later he started using "plastics" and "rubber bands", and later batteries to operate simple action devices. At that point he started talking about electrically operated pingames. We were then told by Harvey that in the mid-1930's the industry "went electric", first using batteries, then "house current". He then told us that Genco was the only company to stick to D.C. operation of action components. When World War II came, Harvey then remarked, Genco games were the most in demand because of their use of D.C..
When the plant ceased pingame production because of the "wartime ban", Harvey told us that two brothers who had worked on their assembly line started gathering up Genco pingames and "converting" them into new games in a factory about a half-block away. At night during the war years Harvey said he would help the boys out in their endeavor.
Harvey then told us that in doing the "conversion" they would remove everything from the playfield, scrape off the paint, and repaint with new artwork. He then commented that they used the same artist, famed pingame artist Roy Parker, to do the new art. When finished, Harvey then commented, the games "looked like new". After telling us that the boys "saved every part they could get their hands on from the Genco games", Harvey added that he couldn't remember what happened to those boys after the war.
Going back to the start of the wartime ban, Harvey told us that the plant closed on a Friday night and by Monday everyone was out of work. But, he continued, since the bosses knew quite a bit about "electrical work" it was fairly easy for them to get into "war work". Harvey then remarked "I never will forget one job we had during the war!"
Harvey then told us that one of the big electrical companies was having trouble with a Government contract they held to produce a 175 foot long complex radio "aerial" which was made up of seven sections (connected together using connectors), each for a different frequency. He told us that their company was delivered seven truckloads of "junk" (Government "rejects") and asked to fix them.
Harvey proceeded to tell how he accomplished the task. He said he had each section more precisely measured by laying them out between pegs on a table. Using this technique resulted, Harvey told us, in no more than a 2 inch error in the total 175 foot length. He then remarked that the engineers from the company who originally made them were amazed that he could achieve that accuracy!
We were then told about the assembly line Harvey set up to do the task. Harvey said it consisted of seven "stations". When the girl at a station finished her task she would press a buzzer to signal the girl at the next station to take the item for the next step. He said that the girls speeded up their work a great deal after practice.
Harvey then told us that when it looked like the war was coming to an end he would secretly sneak into the factory stock room and start working on "roll-down" games which used wooden balls. He then named three of those games which they started producing when the war ended: TOTAL ROLL, BINGO ROLL, and ADVANCE ROLL.
Harvey then told us that one of the Gensberg brothers (owners of Genco) was in California at that time and was friends with Howard Hughes. He then remarked that right after the war it was very hard to get lumber. But, due to this friendship, Howard Hughes gave Genco left over mahogany lumber from his famous "Spruce Goose" project to use in making cabinets for their "roll- down" games. This wood, Harvey continued, was loaded onto an airplane in California and flown to Chicago and then off-loaded onto trucks and taken to the Genco factory, and eventually to the cabinet companies who did their cabinet fabrication. The plane, he then told us, went back to California to get more wood.
When Genco was again allowed to make games after the war, Harvey told us that they were the first company to get games on the market! Harvey next described their roll-down game ADVANCE ROLL. He told us that the playfield had a "bingo hole" layout, and when you rolled the wooden ball to the back of the field (and missed all the holes) there had to be a way to kick the ball back toward the front of the game. To accomplish this, Harvey went on, he used a solenoid powered bar to push the ball back which was energized by the player pushing a button. This, he then remarked, was "really the first flipper", but pinball historians don't credit him for that, giving credit instead to Harry Mabs and Gottlieb's HUMPTY DUMPTY, which he said came out two years later.
At that point Rob Berk asked Harvey to tell how Steve Kordek came to work at Genco? Harvey said he could not remember which game they were making at that time, but that Steve was out of work with the "corps" (Forestry Service) and looking for a job. Harvey continued with the story, telling how Steve stepped into the doorway at Genco to get out of the rain, and when Dave Gensberg found out he was looking for a job he hired him. Harvey then said that Steve began working on the assembly line, but when he got to know all of the parts of a game he took him into the "designing room".
Rob Berk then asked Harvey "were you the designer there, and Steve worked for you? When Harvey answered "yes", Rob asked him if there were any other designers at Genco at that time? Harvey answered that there was one fellow whose name he could not remember. He then told us that that fellow tried to use A.C. in his designs, his first game being a failure because of that. Harvey then commented that they stuck to D.C. at Genco because it was "smooth current". A.C., he went on, was "hard" on components such as kickers, flippers, etc., adding that each year better selenium rectifiers became available.
Rob Berk next asked Harvey what he did after he left Genco in the mid- 1950's? Harvey answered that he went to work for a fellow named Bert Lane who had been an East Coast distributor for Genco. He then told the story of how that happened.
Harvey said that he hadn't taken a vacation during his last four years at Genco, and finally decided to go to Florida for a visit. While there, he continued, he looked up Bert Lane who took him to see his plant. At that time, Harvey then told us, Bert had an order to produce 1000 5-horse Merry- Go-Rounds. Bert then offered Harvey a job. Harvey said that he went back to Genco and quit after 22 years! Harvey then commented that he was glad to get out as things at Genco were beginning to get "rough" at the time. He then told how Steve Kordek later quit Genco and eventually got jobs for himself and three fellow employees with another outfit.
At that point Rob asked Harvey to tell about "PEPPY THE CLOWN"? Harvey said that he started with Bert Lane designing "bumper pool tables" at first, but Bert wanted to get into "arcade equipment". Harvey then said he designed a "digger" (truck and crane game) which they sold to Williams. He then told us that this resulted in him going to Williams in Chicago to help them put it into production. When he got there, Harvey went on, Williams had made changes to his original design. He then said that the same thing happened with PEPPY.
We were then told that Harvey's original design for PEPPY THE CLOWN employed pneumatic devices, resulting in eight possible movements of the "puppet". He said that Williams changed it to use electro-magnets instead, which resulted in jerkier movements of the puppet, but he said the game was a success in spite of that! When Rob then asked who came up with the name PEPPY THE CLOWN, Harvey answered it was he. Rob next asked Harvey if he had anything else to share with the Pinball Expo audience? Harvey replied that he couldn't think of anything right then.
It sounded like that was going to be all, but Harvey all of a sudden began talking again. He then told us that he had lots of fun designing games and everything, adding that it was nothing in those days for him to get up at 2 AM with an idea for a game, it being easier to concentrate then.
Harvey then told us that they made their own electrical components (relays, etc.) at Genco, many of which he himself designed. He then said that when a relay started causing problems they would often ask him to look into it.
It was often the manufacturing machinery (punch presses, etc) that was the source of the problem Harvey then told us. He said that he would usually clean the equipment thoroughly because grease on it would get into the relay points and cause the relay to malfunction after awhile. Harvey then remarked that people would think he was "crazy" to clean the equipment to solve a relay problem, but that this was just part of the knowledge he accumulated over the years that others just didn't understand.
Rob Berk then asked Harvey if he was involved in naming the games he designed? Harvey answered "most of the time, yes", adding that often the name came first, then the design. Rob then asked who did the artwork for Harvey's games?
Harvey answered that it was generally Roy Parker who worked for a company called "Reproductions" that also did art for Gottlieb. He then told us that Roy also did the art for the "conversions" done during the war by the "boys" he had previously mentioned. "Another thing", Harvey then remarked, "I was making $35/day at Genco during the war and working for the 'boys' at night". He then told us that a lawyer who represented those boys was also associated with the Dormeyer Company, the well-known kitchen equipment manufacturer.
The lawyer, Harvey continued, told some people at Dormeyer about his designing prowess and he was given an interview at the company. Harvey then told us that he always read FORTUNE magazine in those days, and had read an article regarding a new type of gear design. He then began telling about his interview at Dormeyer.
Harvey told us that all during his interview the interviewer had something in his hand which he was constantly rubbing. When the interview was about over, Harvey continued, the man handed the item to him and it was a gear. As soon as the gear was handed to him Harvey said he could tell it was the same type he had previously read about in FORTUNE. He then said he told his interviewer exactly how it was fabricated by "stamping" rather than "machining". After that, Harvey then told us, the man stood there with his mouth open. They were planning to use it in their products Harvey said. He then told us that the man told him "you're hired! Report for work on Monday!"
Harvey said that he then went to Genco and told them he would be quitting in two weeks, and that the bosses told him "no, you can't go, you're like part of the family!" He then said that when he was packing up his things to leave Dave Gensberg, who had been in California, came to the plant for a meeting. At that meeting, Harvey then told us, the Gensberg brothers got together and decided to offer to double his salary if he would stay. Harvey said "that did it!" He then told us that he had never told that story to anyone before.
When Rob Berk again tried to end the interview, Harvey again said he had "another thing" he wanted to tell about. He then started talking of the coin machine conventions in the past, saying that he always had a new game in production when convention time came around. Other companies, he went on, took orders for new games at the show and then went into production afterwards.
Rob Berk then ended the interview by wishing Harvey "all the best".
When the tape ended Steve Kordek came back up. After remarking that it was nice to hear Harvey again, he then joked that Harvey was older than him and was certainly his "inspiration". Steve then told us that he wanted to comment on several "items" covered on the video.
First, Steve said, was that the 1934 SPIT FIRE game also used metal "castings". Next he said that he wanted to say a little about the conversion of most pingames from D.C. (battery) power to A.C.. Steve told us that at Genco they never went to A.C. operated "action components", but continued using D.C. through the use of selenium rectifiers. He said that Genco was the only company to do that. One of the reasons for using D.C. Steve told us was that they could control a relay's "drop-out delay" easily.
Steve next reitterateded what Harvey had said about Genco during "the war years". He said that Harvey was indeed involved in redesigning radio antennas for Army Ordinance when the original contractor had problems getting their products accepted by the Government. Steve said that Harvey found out that the problem had to do with maintaining length tolerances of each section of the antenna. He then told how Harvey used pegs on a table to mark the proper length required for each section.
The next item Steve discussed was the production of "roll-down" games at Genco after the war. He said that the company just couldn't produce them fast enough and that they had three cabinet companies (two in Chicago and one in Wisconsin) making the cabinets. Steve then confirmed the fact that Howard Hughes provided lumber which he had left over from his "Spruce Goose" project.
Steve's next subject was the end of Genco. He said that the three Gensberg brothers who owned the company made much money selling pinballs over the years. But in the early 1950's, he went on, they decided to go into another area and with two other people went to Las Vegas and build that city's first "high rise" hotel/casino, The Riviera. Steve then commented that this caused the brothers' interest in Genco to wane and they let some of their relatives who worked for Chicago Coin (which was owned by another Gensberg brother) take over Genco. This, Steve then told us, caused problems at Genco because the new people were not familiar with the way the company worked.
We were next told by Steve that at about that time Harvey told him he was going to quit Genco ("leave the sinking ship"), but that he himself decided to stay until the company closed. When he finally left, Steve then told us, he had three good friends who also needed jobs - a mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer, and a "production man".
We were then told that Steve tried to get all of them a job at the same place. He said he first went to Seeberg with no luck, and then to his friend Lyn Durrant at United who said his company was having some problems and could not hire the other guys. Steve said he decided to "pass". Finally, Steve told us, he went to see his old friend Bill O'Donnell at Bally. After telling Bill he had to have jobs for all four of them, Bill said "OK" and they were hired.
Steve then told us of how several years later designer Harry Mabs (the inventor of the flipper) was retiring from Williams, and company president Sam Stern needed a new chief designer and offered Steve the job at a very good salary. When Steve then told Bill O'Donnell he wanted to leave, he said that Bill told him "OK, but the other three have to stay". He then commented that the other guys retired from Bally many years later.
Steve's final story about Harvey dealt with Harvey's boat. He said that when Harvey was single he owned a sailboat, and that he enjoyed sailing with Harvey. In the Fall, Steve went on, Harvey would remove the mast from his boat and tie it on top of his Oldsmobile convertible - it hanging over by 20 feet at each end of the car - so he could transport it to the plant to refinish it during the Winter. Steve then said that the people at the plant jokingly threatened to cut it in two.
Steve then reiterated that Harvey has never been given credit for all he has done for the industry, adding that maybe someday someone would start a museum of Harvey's games. He then asked if anyone had any questions?
The first question asked was who were the two guys Harvey said in the video were doing "conversions" of pingames during World War II? When Steve answered that he thought one of their names started with "P", someone in the audience suggested that they might have been an outfit called "P and S".
The next question was what was the last Genco pingame? Steve said he couldn't remember, but he thought it was made in either 1957 or 1958.
(AUTHOR'S NOTE: The game appears to have been SHOW BOAT in late 1957). Someone next asked about Genco's award winning game SCREWBALL which came out in 1948? Steve said it was designed by Harvey and was the first pingame without either pop-bumpers or targets, just having "rebounds". He then told us that that game made much money.
At that point Steve told everyone that he had been in the industry for 58 years and that he reused the names of some of the earlier Genco games on games he later designed for Williams. He then commented that he came to Williams (where he still works) in February 1960 and designed games for them for eight or nine years before going into management.
Finally, someone asked Steve what his favorite pingame theme was? He replied that it was probably "space", mentioning his FRIENDSHIP 7 and SPACE MISSION games, the latter he said breaking all production records up to that time. Steve's last comment was that he would love to get involved in the programming of pingames. That ended the afternoon session.
"BUMPER BLAST" AND INTERNET GET-TOGETHER
This year there was a new added event for Expo attendees who wanted to stay up late. It was an informal get-together which they called "The Bumper Blast" which was scheduled to start at 11:30 PM. It was sort of an informal 'party' with light snacks and also included an opportunity for all interested parties to take a peek at the pinball activity on the "INTERNET" world-wide computer network.
In order to allow people to see what was going on in "cyber-space", a computer linked to the Internet was connected to two large monitors at the front of the hall. I myself am a "computer person" but as yet have not gone "on-line", but I have always been curious about Internet so was looking forward to this little show. I was seated next to my good "Expo buddy" John Campbell from West Virginia who has been active in cyber-space for quite some time. He was very helpful in explaining to me what was going on during this event.
The "Internet tour" was conducted by Dave Marston from Connecticut, a long-time pinball-computer activist. Dave explained to everyone what was going on. Another pin/computer person, Greg Dunlap, operated the computer sort of "behind the scene". After logging onto Internet the first thing we went to was a list of pinball flyers which could be viewed. From that list one flyer, that for Williams' recent pin NO FEAR, was "downloaded" into our computer for viewing.
Next we went to an area which contained a database of pingame serial numbers owned by different Internet users. After selecting a particular game, the serial numbers of that machine were viewed. We were next shown how you could count how many serials for a game were contributed by Internet users in each country.
We next went to the "home page" of Expo visitor and presenter Ferderico Croci from Italy (yes, we were then actually receiving information from a computer overseas!). After seeing that Ferderico had graphics from his favorite pingames available for viewing, we looked at his list of "favorite links" to other's "pages". Using this we linked into the home page of Chicago pingame designer John Popaduk. At that point Dave Marston told us that members of the "Serial Number Working Group" were having a meeting in the corner of the room while the presentation was going on. We then went back to Federico's page and looked at some information on Bally's BOOT-A-BALL which was made solely for Italian export in 1967.
After that we got into a pinball database and did a search for all Williams pins put out in 1980. The information which came up listed the theme of each game, who did the artwork, and where pictures of the game were available.
After bringing up an area which contained graphics of drop-target decals, we went to a listing of pin designer Steve Ritchie's favorite games. Then we went to the page of the newest pingame manufacturer, Capcom, which contained publicity on their first game PINBALL MAGIC, which included a list of graphic images of different parts of the game which could be viewed.
Following that, we logged onto the home page of someone known on the Net as "The Pinball Wizard". From there we linked into a page containing information on the PAPA pinball tournament held annually in New York City, as well as information on other tournaments around the country. At that point Dave Marston made the comment that sometimes when you attempt to access an Internet "page" you might get a message saying "page under construction". We then logged onto a page containing information on last year's Pinball Expo, which even included a map of the Exhibit Hall floor.
After looking at a transcript of an on-line "chat" previously held with pin designer Steve Ritchie, Rob Berk said that a representative of the new company, Capcom, wanted to say a few words. The gentleman's name was David Poole. David first told of their "home page" which we had viewed earlier, saying that they would appreciate "feedback" from any Internet user. He then told of problems they had getting playfield detail information "on-line". After remarking that game "test locations" used to be secret, but now they are disclosed on the Internet, he ended by telling us that their company would try to give Net users an "early look" at forthcoming games.
At that point Dave Marston made a few remarks. First he told us that at the present time there is no information on Sega games on the Net. Then he remarked that pingame "sounds" are sometimes on the Net. He then told us that we would do a little more "cruising".
We next looked at an area showing pingames for sale which offered a Bally TWILIGHT ZONE, giving the Internet "address" of the seller, etc. We then looked at an area showing pins wanted by users, one of which was Williams' STAR TREK - THE NEXT GENERATION which was wanted by three different people.
After looking at information regarding the current Expo, we viewed an image of the 'whitewood' prototype of Bally's INDIANAPOLIS 500 which Dave told us had been "uploaded" to the Net from a "digital camera". After that we looked at a "tech info" area and saw a question submitted by a user concerning pingame sound board problems.
The last thing done on the Net was that the computer operator started writing an "on-line" article concerning what was happening that night. After that he logged off of the Net. That ended the evening's entertainment.
Friday morning around 8:45 we all gathered in the lecture hall for the start of the annual Expo seminars. The proceedings began with the Opening Remarks by Expo co-producers Rob Berk and Mike Pacak.
Rob first got up and welcomed us all to the eleventh edition of Pinball Expo. He then announced a small change to the seminar program, saying that at 1 PM a video would be shown made by an English design student showing how he designed and built a new game using parts from an existing pingame. After that he announced a "Fireside Chat" with game designers Norm Clark, Steve Kordek, and Wendall McAdams scheduled for that evening.
After asking for a show of hands of how many wanted fish for the banquet dinner, Rob said that this year's Charity Auction would be a little different than last year. He told us that anyone could attend or donate; not only those who eat at the banquet. After reminding us of the designers, artists, and authors autograph session on Saturday afternoon, Rob gave some scheduling information regarding the "Flip-Out" pinball tournament which is held in conjunction with each year's show. Rob then told us that the plant we toured the previous day could produce custom-made wooden pinball legs at a cost of $20 each.
Expo Exhibit Hall Chairman Mike Pacak then came up on stage and again welcomed all to the show. He then commented that he never thought years ago that the Expo would continue for this many years! After telling us that lunch would be available in the lobby area near the Exhibit Hall at noon, Mike reminded us of the game auction to be held on Saturday. He then told us that (like last year) the Exhibit Hall would be open all night both Friday and Saturday nights.
Finally, Mike asked for a show of hands to determine if next year's banquet should be as in the past or served buffet style? The vote appeared to be almost even. That ended the Opening Remarks.
THE MOST COLLECTABLE PINBALL MACHINES
Rob Berk then came back up to introduce the first seminar speaker Dick Bueschel to do his presentation "The Most Collectable Pinball Machines (of the Last 10 Years)". Rob described Dick as "an advocate of all coin-ops" and "the historian of pinball".
Dick began by commenting on the Expo being up to it's eleventh year, but saying that probably the second show paid for the first, etc.. He then started telling of his projected series of 10 books covering pinball's history, as well as illustrating/describing 1000 collectable pingames covering all eras of pin production. Dick then joked that he would probably be editing the tenth book "on his death bed".
After remarking that slot collectors collect primarily because of historical interest, but pinball collectors are also players, Dick said there were several things he wanted to do that morning. He then made the comment that "the best pin ever" to most people is one they played as a kid, and that for this reason it is hard to get a group of pin fans to decide on "the 100 best".
Dick then told of asking several people (including this author) a few years ago to each nominate "100 most collectable pinball machines". As a result he said that Steve Young, Gordon Hasse, John Fetterman, and yours truly each came up with their lists. Rob Hawkins, Dick went on, came up with only 78, and a fellow named Bill Triola named 25 plus 9 more of "special historical significance". From these Dick said he compiled a final list of some 333 pingames.
We were then told by Dick that he tried to "weigh" this list by using only those games which received more than one vote. This, he said, pared the list down to 104. What was missing in that list, Dick then commented, were games manufactured in the past 10 years. At that point he passed out to the audience copies of his 104 game list which indicated how many votes each game had received.
Dick next asked how many in the audience had computers, and a majority of us indicated that we did. Then he started through the list he had just passed out, making a few comments as he went concerning the games which got the most votes. After again commenting that what was missing was the last ten years, Dick remarked that most people think that he personally only likes pingames from the 1930's. But, Dick told us, what he likes is "the ones I'm currently working on."
At that point Dick asked people in the audience to nominate candidates for the best pingames of the past ten years, and why they thought they were? The first game chosen was Williams' 1984 game SPACE SHUTTLE which was the game that "brought pinball back". Next came HIGH SPEED from the same manufacturer in 1986 which was said to have ramps, etc., like most of the later games. Also, it was pointed out, it was the first pin with a "flash- lamp dome", and also was "fun to play".
The next nominations included: Bally ADDAMS FAMILY (1991) - had a record production run; Bally ELVIRA (1989) - good graphics, etc.; Williams FUN HOUSE (1990) - talking head and 2nd plunger; Williams BANZAI RUN (1988) - vertical game in backbox; Williams FLASH (1979) - "wire forms" and "light show"; Williams BLACK KNIGHT (1980) - two level playfield and "magna save"; Bally EIGHT BALL DELUXE (1980) - memory and good drop-targets; and Williams GORGAR (1979) - first game with speech.
Further nominations included: Bally HARLEY DAVIDSON (1991) - low production and went up in value because was collectable by cyclists; Stern ORIBITOR (1982) - wavy playfield; Williams CYCLONE (1988) - only game of that era without multi-ball; Williams PIN BOT (1986) - good "integrated design" plus spawned two "follow-ons"; Williams SWORDS OF FURY (1988) - last reasonably difficult game; Williams TAXI (1988) - translated skill into difficulty, also Marilyn Monroe on early glasses; Bally FLASH GORDON (1980) - digitized sound related to movie; Bally BLACKWATER 100 (1988) - last "Bally Bally"; Bally XENON (1979) - first female voice; and Gottlieb DIAMOND LADY (1988) - first designed by a pinball fan/player (Jon Norris).
Other games named, but without comments, were: Williams TERMINATOR II (1991), Data East CHECKPOINT (1991), Bally CENTAUR (1981), Gottlieb HAUNTED HOUSE (1982); Gottlieb BLACK HOLE (1981), Williams COMET (1985), Williams WHITEWATER (1992), Williams EARTHSHAKER (1989), and Data East JURASSIC PARK (1993).
A final vote was then taken from a pared down version of the original list (based on the previous vote). The top five games chosen (from 1st to 5th) were: Bally ADDAMS FAMILY (1991) - 37 votes; Bally EIGHT BALL DELUXE (1980) - 23 votes; Bally TWILIGHT ZONE (1993) - 21 votes; Williams FUN HOUSE (1990) - 19 votes; and Williams BLACK KNIGHT (1980) - 14 votes.
After the final results were tabulated Dick said we should look to see what the top games had in common? First, he observed, most were made by Williams (including their "Bally line"). In addition, he continued, they are all fun to play (appealing to both novices and experts alike), and three of the five were designed by Williams ace designer Pat Lawlor.
When Dick next asked the audience what they thought was the worst pin of the last decade, the almost unanimous opinion was Williams 1993 game POPEYE. Dick next thanked us for our help, commenting that this may be "a continuing thing" at future Expos.
Dick then commented about his forthcoming pinball book, "Pinball 2". He said it will be given to Steve Young for publication at the end of 1995, and might be out around April or May of 1996. He then added that it was "elegant" to work with Steve and Gordon Hasse in producing his book.
After telling us that the book will contain a picture of "a 1932 flipper game", Dick told us that the book will have 16 pages in color. That drew a round of applause and ended Dick's presentation.
Rob then introduced the speaker for the next seminar, "A Game Is Not a Game Without Rules", ace Gottlieb pingame designer Jon Norris. When he then listed several of Jon's great games, such as DIAMOND LADY (1987), VEGAS (1990), and CUE BALL WIZARD (1992), it drew a round of applause.
After thanking Rob Berk and Mike Pacak for putting on a great show for eleven years, Jon began giving us a synopsis of his employment history in the industry. He began by telling us that he started with Premier (the current maker of Gottlieb pingames) in 1986 on a "6 month trial basis", then remarking that he barely passed his first review. Jon then told us that he first served as an apprentice, working under two of their top designers John Trudeau and Joe Kaminkow. At that time, he went on, he had only a little bit to do with game "rules". He then said that his "first break" came about 6 months after he designed his first pingame DIAMOND LADY.
Jon continued, saying that John Trudeau was involved primarily with the basic design of his games and not too much with the "rules". He then said that the original prototype of their game EXCALIBUR, which came out in 1988, was not too much fun to play so he asked for a crack at improving it. He then told us that he was only allowed to change the "black line screen" meaning that he couldn't change any of the colors. Jon said that he went home one Friday and stayed up all weekend working on it.
When he went back to work Monday morning, Jon then told us, he had a complete new rules set for the game which improved it. This he said showed the company what he could do. Jon then commented that game rules used to be decided in a meeting and that this wasn't a very good way to do it.
His next game, Jon then told us, was BAD GIRLS which also came out in 1988 and for which he did the rules himself, then commenting that games were simpler in those days. Nowadays, he went on, he does rule sets under a 4 to 6 week deadline.
At that point Jon started explaining exactly what game "rules" were. Going back to the 1950's, he used "bingo pinballs" to help explain. He said that early bingos had just one card and all the player did was try to get the balls into the proper holes to line up numbers on the card. Soon, Jon went on, Bally started adding more and more extra features to their bingo games, making them more complex as the years went by. He then told of the bingo "OK Feature" of the early 1960's, which he said only experienced players could understand.
Jon then commented that the point of this was that the only way to teach a player the "rules" of a game is to have someone explain them to him. Today, he went on, game rules are very complex and there's nobody to explain them to the player.
At that point Jon told us that he was going to try a little audience participation exercise involving game rules. He said he would provide the rules for his 1992 game CUE BALL WIZARD and have us modify them to change the game to an "ET - the Extra-terrestrial" game. Before he started that, however, someone from the audience asked a question regarding "game features". Jon's answer to that question involved a few minutes of discussion, which was followed by another question regarding game "modes". After more detailed comments from Jon on that subject he decided to abandon his litter exercise and concentrate on answering questions from the audience.
The next question regarded the "modes" (sorry folks, but I don't know much about these modern pingames) on Gottlieb's 1989 game LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION which Jon then explained. Following that someone asked why certain special game features (such as "Extra Ball") often only stay enabled for a short time? In answer to that Jon began by saying that the designers generally try to "balance" things out. At that point my friend Sam Harvey made a comment from the audience that many games of the 1960's were hard to get "specials" on. After Jon made another comment regarding the modern games, he and Sam had a little more dialogue.
Jon then remarked that games today are more "score based" than older games which often used "specials". After that Sam made a comment regarding his (and many others) pet peeve - the increasing price per play on modern games which were often not well maintained by operators.
Someone from the audience next made the comment that some European coin- op magazines have been saying that "something big is coming" to help reverse the current slump in pingame play around the world. Jon then remarked that his next game would have a new feature (for which a patent was pending) which costs a little extra to produce, but will help both the novice and experienced player. After telling us that he couldn't say any more about that now, Jon commented that he has been asked by his company's management to make future game rules "more back to basics pinball". He then commented that only a small percentage of pinball players "play for rules", but those who do put lots of money into the games.
The next question had to do with problems with what the questioner called "mode games", Jon answering that they are currently trying to solve such problems. It was then asked how the designers decide "bonus and bonus multiplication rules"? Jon then tried to explain how he tries to do this.
At that point Jon showed a "rules change sheet" which would be given to the programmer and used to correct things that don't work right on a new game. He then remarked that their company policy is to never change the "rule set" after a game goes into production, unless there is a serious error in it.
Someone then had a question on "multi-ball" features, essentially asking what is the true purpose of "multi-ball"? Jon answered that the main goal is often to make a game that "appeals to all skill levels" of players.
An interesting question was next asked, namely do most players play pinball to get replays? Jon immediately answered "yes", but added that that brings up another important question - will a person play a bad "replay game" rather than a good "extra ball" (Add-A-Ball) game? Jon then said that the answer to that was probably "no, a person won't play a bad game at all"! Sam Harvey then asked the question - doesn't which games you like better, Replay or Add-A-Ball, depend on which were available where you grew up? Jon then commented that if both Replay and Add-A-Ball games are in the same location the replay games will be played more - adding "we must design for what people will play".
An operator in the audience then commented that he thought that simpler rules were better for players. Jon replied that a game must be "fun to play", adding that some games have features that are only understood by one percent of players. Following that there was more discussion regarding "more basic rules" and "modes".
Someone then asked Jon if he has any say in playfield design of their games? He replied that they sometime asked his opinion, but it's often too late in the design process to make much difference. Jon then remarked "I've got some say, but I'm not a 'playfield designer'".
The next question for Jon was whether "random features" on games are primarily for novices? He answered "sometimes, but not always" as some are not truly random but depend on past play. Jon then added the comment that "truly random" features must be disabled when the game is used in the "Tournament Mode".
The next question dealt with built-in game "audit features" found on new games, asking if the designers use information from these (on how often game features are enabled, etc.) to decide what features to use on future games? Jon replied "yes", commenting that they often evaluate "audits" of past games for that exact purpose.
When someone again asked about game "modes" Jon told us that some of the newer games have "Help Modes" where a player, before he starts playing, can get detailed instructions to supplement the rather simple game "instruction card". Jon was then asked if anyone uses that feature? He replied by remarking that he himself doesn't usually even read the card before starting his first play of a new game, adding that possibly the "help Modes" are used occasionally.
Jon was then asked about a so-called "replay booster" feature found on some games. He replied that that was an "auto-skill feature" which will "tighten" game features when a player wins replays. (AUTHOR'S NOTE: That is a similar idea to the "reflex play" principal used on gambling "1-Ball" and "Bingo" pingames in the late 1940's, 1950's, and later.)
Next someone asked Jon what he thought about the "score inflation" (games scoring up into the 'Billions') which has occurred in pingames in recent years? Jon said he would like to see scores go back to the 'Thousands', but that it depends on "what the players like". He then added that their earlier game CAR HOP in 1991, which had two player selectable modes ("Normal" and "Nostalgia"), changed the scoring and sounds - the "Nostalgia" scoring using "non inflated" scores.
Jon was next asked which games from each of the current manufacturers he believed had "the best rule set"? He began by quipping that for Capcom (the new manufacturer) that was easy, naming their only game so far, PINBALL MAGIC. For the now defunct Alvin G. and Co. he said it would be their 1993 pin MYSTERY CASTLE. For Data East/Sega Jon named STAR WARS (1992), for a Bally game he chose ADDAMS FAMILY (1991). Jon's nomination for the best rule set for a Williams pin he said was STAR TREK - THE NEXT GENERATION (1993), and finally; for his company, Premier, he quipped "my next game". That drew a round of applause.
The final question was asked by Sam Harvey which was "do you think that 'auto percentaging' (the machine making itself 'looser' for a low scoring player) keeps the good players away?" Jon replied that the program looks at many past games to determine the "payback percentage", not just the current one, which essentially "levels out the location" - not a particular player. That essentially ended Jon's presentation, which drew a good round of applause for him.
FOR IMPORT ONLY
The main speaker for the next seminar, Dave Marston, next came up on stage to introduce the presentation officially titled "For Import Only - American Made Pinball Machines For The Italian Market". Dave then introduced his guest expert Italian collector Federico Croci.
After thanking Rob and Mike for letting him and Dave put on this presentation, Federico told us that he owns more than 200 pins - showing a slide of his warehouse. Dave then told us that they had a translator available so if anyone had any questions for Federico they could be quickly translated into Italian so he could answer them better. He then told us that Mr. Croci would eventually have a book published on the subject which was to be presented.
Dave then began the main part of his presentation by telling us that there have been, over the years, more than 50 American made electro- mechanical pins made for export to Italy, remarking that sometimes the names of those games were new and others not. He ten showed a slide of the Italian version of Bally's 1967 game ROCKET III. Why special pins for Italy? Dave said the main reason for this has to do with "luck versus skill". He then went on to explain the situation in Italy which made it necessary for the American pingame manufacturers to make special game versions for the Italian market
Around the time of World War II, Dave told us, Italian dictator Mussolini outlawed all forms of "gambling machines" in Italy. By 1965, he went on, the Italian government passed a more definitive coin machine law, the main purpose of which was to get rid of competition with state run lotteries from any coin-ops which could in any way be used for gambling purposes. Among other types of games, the law forbad any "flippers" (the generic term in Italy for pingames) which gave "replays". This resulted in the Chicago manufacturers starting to put out special versions of their pingames for the Italian market which would not violate Italian law.
Dave then showed a slide of ELECTRA POOL, the Italian version of Gottlieb's FLIPPER POOL of 1960, and the first such special Gottlieb game. We were then told that the word "flipper" had to be removed from any games exported to Italy (even on the schematics) because that meant a "gambling machine" to the Italian government, since all of that type of machine in Italy at that time gave replays.
When he then showed us Bally TRIO (1965), Dave remarked that the letter 'C' in a Bally model number indicated the Italian version of that game. We were then shown the Italian version of Chicago Coin's HULA HULA (1966). Dave showed us how that company modified the "out-hole" in their Italian versions to provide what they called "kick-ups". He then showed us that company's KICKER of the same year.
Dave told us that "kick-ups" were Chicago Coin's way of getting around the crazy Italian law. He said the Italian government decided that if a player was awarded five or more "extra balls" that was equivalent to the outlawed "replay". So instead of allowing the player to shoot additional balls, they allowed the player to earn "kick-ups" which meant that a ball destined for the out-hole could be "kicked up" back into play, thus getting around the "letter of the law" since the player did not actually shoot any "extra balls".
We were next shown how Gottlieb used an "alternator unit" in their Italian pins to allow two plays for one coin. Dave then showed slides of three Gottlieb Italian versions, namely: HAWAIIAN ISLE, FIRE ALARM, and ICE SHOW, all from 1966.
At that point Dave showed us that on their Italian versions Gottlieb added "special objects" to the backglass art to indicate when "extra balls" were available for play. When we were next shown that company's Italian version of HURDY GURDY (1966), Dave pointed out how the original artwork on the backglass had been modified using a more European scene, and also the 5 monkeys on the tree which lit up to indicate the extra balls.
We were then shown the flyer for Gottlieb's Italian game HYDE PARK (1966) which had 5 colored circles on it's backglass to represent extra balls. Dave pointed out that there was no descriptive text on game flyers sent to Italy so that the Italian distributors could add Italian text if desired.
Next we saw Gottlieb's GRANDE DOMINO (1968), the Italian version of DOMINO, and RANCHO (1966), their version of COW POKE, on which the mechanical animated horse on the American version had been changed to a bull. Dave also noted that the word "special" had been removed from the playfield since that was a "forbidden gambling feature" in Italy. When we were then shown the Italian version of Bally's 1965 pin LOOP-THE-LOOP, Dave told us that it employed an "Add-A-Ball Kit". This, he then told us, included a special coil to shoot the ball back into play in place of a "special".
We next saw Gottlieb's 1967 Italian version pin SOLITAIRE, which had an "out-hole diverter" which could kick the ball back into play (similar to Chicago Coin's "kick-ups") when an extra ball was earned. This was followed by HIT-A-CARD from the same year which we were told was a new version of SOLITAIRE with a different transformer.
Another group of 1967 Gottlieb Italian versions we were shown included: HARMONY (version of MELODY), TROUBADOUR (a new version of HARMONY), and SEA SIDE. Switching to Chicago Coin for a moment, we were shown the Italian version of BEATNIKS (1967) which Dave said was the last Chicago Coin Italian version, pointing out the musical notes on the backglass to indicate "balls to play". Next Dave showed two Italian versions from Williams, starting with their 1967 pin LUNAR SHOT which had stars on it's backglass to indicate extra balls. He then showed MAGIC TOWN from the same year which he said could award additional points rather than extra balls if desired.
It was then back to Gottlieb, and into 1968, looking first at ELITE GUARD (the Italian version of PALACE GUARD). Then we saw TIVOLI which Dave said was similar to another Italian version, FUN FAIR, which we were to see later. Then came BIG JACK taken from the American PAUL BUNYAN. We were then shown the previously mentioned FUN FAIR, the Italian version of FUNLAND.
The first 1969 Italian versions shown were HI LO (from SPIN-A-CARD), and BUMPER POOL (from TARGET POOL). Dave then commented that at about that time Italian manufacturers started to build some games of their own. After showing WILD WILD WEST and SUPER BOWL, we were shown the flyer for AUTO RACE, no copy of that game having ever been found according to Dave, which he said was probably from the American game ROAD RACE.
Going into 1970, we first saw CARD TRIX. This was followed by PSYCHEDELIC which Dave said came from the American games GROOVY and CRESCENDO. He then commented that even though it was made for Italian import it was indicated by Gottlieb for some reason that it was meant for Brazil!
We next saw a Bally Italian version, KING REX, of which Dave said there were only 275 produced. He then commented that the extra ball "special objects", which were usually unlabeled, in this case had the words "Extra Ball" next to them. Finally, Dave told us that the game had a "3-way adjustment" capability which could be set for either "step up Ball In Play" when extra balls were earned, step up the "extra ball objects", or a "Novelty Mode" where the game's "specials" awarded score to the player.
Gottlieb Italian versions for 1971 were next shown which included: GALIXIE, STAR TREK (which Dave said had no relation to the popular TV series), and CARD KING. Dave then began talking about Gottlieb's WIZARD which he said was rather unusual. He told us that WIZARD was sort of an Italian version of ABRA-CADABRA, but with an entirely different playfield. He then remarked that this was the first Italian version with an "end of ball bonus".
Going into 1972 we saw the following Gottlieb Italian versions: TEXAS RANGER (from SHERIFF), SPACE ORBIT (which had a "vari-target") and PLAY POOL. Then from 1973 we saw Gottlieb's JUNGLE LIFE, and TEN UP (from KING PIN). At around that time, Dave then remarked, Italian manufacturers started making "copies" of American pingames.
For 1974 we first saw Gottlieb's SKY DIVE and ROYAL PAIR. Dave then told us that around that time the Spanish pingame maker Segassa started making pins for Italy under a license agreement with Williams. One of the last of these, he went on, was a game called BIG GUNS. Also from 1974 we were shown Williams' STAR ACTION, which Dave said was produced both for the American and Italian markets. He then remarked that on this game extra balls were indicated by "stars" on the backglass, it also having the capability of giving two plays for one coin.
For 1975 we first saw Gottlieb's TIGER, which Dave pointed out had special backglass art for Italy. We then saw their LUCKY STRIKE. Dave then made the comment that around that time "replay machines" could be found in some parts of Italy. In 1976, Dave then commented, Italian versions of American games were beginning to disappear. He then showed us Gottlieb's SPOT POOL, HIGH SEAS, and KICKER from that year.
Finally, the last Italian version we were shown was Gottlieb's LUCKY CARD from 1977. Dave then told us that ROCK STAR (from the American BLUE NOTE) was also produced by Gottlieb, but he did not have a picture of it. He then told us that by that time even the taboo word "flipper" was again used on schematics, etc. in Italy.
After commenting that by 1977 Bally was starting to produce solid-state pins, Dave again reminded us that Federico would have a forthcoming book on the subject just discussed. He then asked if we had any questions?
The only question asked was if the English instruction cards on most Italian versions caused any problems? Federico answered, "no, even when translated into Italian they weren't very useful". That ended the presentation which drew a good round of applause. We then broke for lunch!
The afternoon seminar session began a little bit earlier than originally planned due to the "added event" Rob Berk had spoken about during his opening remarks. It was a video tape made by a young British design student showing a project he did as part of a college course.
Rob Berk first got up and introduced John Wyatt from the British "Pinball Owner's Association" to tell us a little about the video and it's maker. He told us that the young man who produced it, James Askey, was 17 years old, and that one reason for showing it at the Expo was because the young man's goal was to work for one of the Chicago pinball manufacturers after graduating from college.
John then told us the game design shown on the video was accomplished between April 1993 and May 1994 and used Bally's 1979 solid-state pin FUTURE SPA as the "raw material". He went on to say that James added new features to the original game as well as creating new artwork for the backglass and playfield. The tape was then started.
The young designer narrated on the tape telling what he did each step of the way showing "close-ups" of each area as he described it. His presentation was divided into three major design areas.
First was the cabinet (or "case" as he called it). We were told (and shown) that the cabinet of the original game was entirely repainted with his new artwork. He said he made stencils, glued them to the cabinet (after it had been primered, of course), painted each color, then removing the stencils and glue. The finished cabinet art was then shown which was quite attractive.
Next he showed the playfield (or "deck" as he called it). We were told how the new playfield was produced, and shown photos of many of the artistic details. He then said that the repainted field was protected by a final coat of lacquer. We next saw how he added the various components to the playfield. We were then told that he rewired the electronic components which were mostly taken from the original FUTURE SPA machine. Then he told of making new "side rails" and finally how he created the "deck plastics" for the game.
The last major section of the project was the creation of the backglass (or "head glass", as he called it). We were told how he designed the artwork and had it screened onto the glass. He then described cutting the holes in the light panel behind the glass and wiring the backbox. Finally, the "screen printing" process was described in more detail.
The last part of the video showed the final game, which he called HIGH VOLTAGE, being tested and played for a little while. That ended the video. John Wyatt then got up again and asked if we had any questions?" The only question asked was if the "rules" for the new game were the same as those for FUTURE SPA? John answered that some changes in the original game rules were made.
That ended the presentation. Rob Berk then made the remark that he tried to get James to come to the Expo, but he could not attend.
THE STATE OF THE PINBALL INDUSTRY
At that point Rob Berk introduced the next speaker, Don Hesch, to present his talk titled "The State of the Pinball Industry". He told us that Don was deeply involved with both "The Illinois Coin Machine Association" and AMOA ("Amusement Machine Operator's of America").
Don then began by telling something of the work of AMOA and that they hold an annual convention, which that year was held in New Orleans and had over 7,000 attendees. He then started describing some of that organization's services. We were told that one of AMOA's goals was "industry standardization". Don then told us that they also try to provide education to the members, including seminars as well as a University program which takes approximately 2 1/2 years to complete. He then said they are also trying to "promote jukeboxes" through the media.
Don then told of their "Darts Association" which has a scholarship program which has provided college scholarships to around 200 people so far. He then told of a "new concept", that of a "National Amusement Network" which links video games all over the country together. Don then remarked that AMOA also tries to promote better "government relations" with the industry.
On a more personal note, Don told us that he was "2nd generation" in the industry, his father also being in it. He then said that in 1983 or 1984 he "made a big mistake"! Don then told us that at that time he had to run his brother's company when he died, and when he discovered about 175 electro- mechanical pingames in the company's warehouse he "threw them out"!
Don then got to the main theme of his talk, the current state of pinballs in this country. He began by telling us that back in 1979 and 1980 there were approximately 800,000 pinballs on location, each of which took in about $44/week. In 1995, he continued, there are now around 830,000 pins which take in about $54/week. The problem, he then told us, was that the cost of new games have doubled in the intervening years. Don then remarked that some people in the industry today say that at present the pinball business is in the poorest shape it has been in since 1983. At that point Don tried to "rate" the various categories of locations in which pingames can be found today as to what types of games do the best in each category.
In "taverns", he then told us, jukeboxes are best, followed by (in order) pool tables, darts, miscellaneous games, pinballs, and videos. For "gamerooms" the list (again in order) was video games, "redemption" games, and pinballs. Don then commented that his company in Chicago owns 325 pins (approximately 10 percent of their games). He then remarked that "sports bars" are about the best locations for pingames.
After commenting that "young players like 'interactive' games", Don remarked that there are fewer games on location than there were six or seven years ago. He said that the reason for that is the "high cost of new equipment" and "high license fees". Don then told us that at a recent AMOA meeting a manufacturers' representative commented that "movies and music are doing well, but pinball is doing poorly". At that point Don told us that he had recently talked to Roger Sharpe (of Williams/Bally/Midway Games) who told him that a major problem for operators is keeping pingames clean. He remarked that that was a "big task", but maintenance is important, commenting that it's just like with restaurants - if they serve bad food people won't come back.
Don then began telling us what he thinks of modern pingames. First, he said, he thinks the artwork is "phenomenal" and brings players to the games. He then remarked that he always thought pingames were interesting, but never plays himself. Don then commented that in pingames "the ball never acts the same as before" in direct contrast to videos.
The question "what can we do to improve the pingame business today" was then broached by Don. Do we need simpler or more complex games? Do we need longer or shorter shots? Is there too much on the playfield? These are some of the questions, Don told us, that need to be answered in order for manufacturers to be able to keep on producing pins.
Don then mentioned the age old question, what about increasing the price per play, maybe to $1.00? He then commented that in Europe and other countries the price of a game of pinball is higher than in the U.S.
At that point Don remarked that today there are four pingame manufactures in Chicago, including "the new kid on the block", Capcom. He then commented that they must think there must be a future for pinball because they keep on designing and producing pingames. He then remarked that the new Sega game, APOLLO 13, has a "13 ball multi-ball" capability!
Don ended his talk by asking us to "keep up the good work" by playing the games, thus keeping a market for pingames. He then drew a round of applause. Don then asked for questions?
The first question asked was what was the manufacturer's typical "spare parts budget" for a game - and what he thought about poor maintenance of games? Don began by telling us that there usually was no budget for spares, the manufacturers keeping up an inventory only. As for maintenance, Don said that many operators don't have the personnel to properly keep up modern pingames.
The next question had to do with the idea of players finding out via the Internet computer network about good places to play pinball in a particular area - the questioner asking if the industry could help in this area? Don answered "I'd love to", commenting that he thinks the Internet "could be great" for this kind of thing.
Don was next asked what operators and the AMOA were doing to promote pinball? He answered that the main thing he does is to put pingames in the best locations they know of. He then commented that the AMOA once tried tournaments (with their "International Flipper Pinball Association" (IFPA)) but eventually had to drop it because the project was too expensive.
Someone from the audience then asked what he as a player should do when he finds a poorly maintained game on location? He then suggested that operators put a card on each machine indicating a "point of contact" to get the game repaired (possibly including an "Internet address") or use of an answering machine to collect such information. Don answered that his company has their name on all their games, but that other operators may not. He then told us that approximately 40 percent of his employees are "mechanics", as service is a major problem. More interactive discussion on that topic then occurred.
When someone again broached the subject of AMOA promoting pinball, Don answered that since IFPA failed AMOA doesn't know what to do to promote pins, adding that that is not "high on their list" of priorities. Don was then asked how his company "rotates" pingames between locations? He answered by saying that they usually try to rotate a game every four to six months.
When next asked about using "dollar-bill acceptors" on pingames, Don told us that they have them on all games purchased in the last three or four years, adding that this will help them in the future to be able to increase to "one-dollar play". Someone then asked who "drives" price increases in game play? Don answered that this was driven by the manufacturers and operators, not AMOA.
Someone then asked about "IRS depreciation" of games? Don answered that right now it's 7 years for pins and 3 years for videos, adding that they are working on getting it reduced to 3 years for pins. At that point someone else told of once offering to help a technician working on a game but being refused.
The next question Don was asked is if he thought the Government will ever produce a new one-dollar coin? Don replied that the vending machine people want that, but the amusement people are not that concerned. He then commented that there are still more "Susan-B's" left and that the Government is now concentrating on the new paper money just coming out. Finally, he said that when the "Susan-B's" run out the Government will have to decide if they want to put out a new dollar coin, adding that he himself would like to see one.
The final question was what about operators providing a "comment sheet" at each location where players could indicate problems with the games for the technicians to look at? Don's only comment was that operators don't care much for pingames because they are "too hard to maintain".
Don ended his presentation by saying "there is only so much money out there for amusement", commenting that today there is much more competition than in the past for that "amusement dollar". At that point Don drew a round of applause.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
At the past several Expos there has usually been one seminar concerning pingame maintenance, usually hosted by Las Vegas super-collector Tim Arnold. This year, however, the task was taken up by Arizona pinball maintenance guru Joel Cook, owner of "The Pinball Lizard" in Tucson.
Rob Berk introduced Joel, talking of his company which has been in the business of repairing solid-state pinball circuit boards, etc. for some 22 years! He then told us that Joel was an Electronic Engineer, has been collecting pins for the past six years, and was attending his 4th Expo.
Joel then passed out handouts to the audience which had the same title as his presentation, "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly". He then congratulated Rob and Mike for putting on such great shows, which again drew a round of applause. At that point Joel asked for a show of hands of how many in the audience worked for game manufacturers - not many raising their hands. He then told us that the object of his presentation was to give us some information on various problems encountered in solid-state pingames.
Joel next made the comment that he often learns from his customers, and that he wanted to convey some of his knowledge to us. Also, he went on, I would like to run through some of the specific problems with each manufacturer's games. Joel then said that he would go over the "44 steps To Get Your Pinball Up and Running" listed on the back of his handout.
The first bit of information Joel imparted to us was that "batteries will always leak", and as a result he suggested that they be "taken off the circuit board" if possible. Then turning to the digital displays, he commented that they are fairly expensive to replace. After telling us that damaged circuit board connectors should always be replaced as they are inexpensive, Joel said a few words about ROMs ("Read-Only Memory") chips. He told us that the newer ROMs can store more data than in the past, then making a brief comment regarding the "erasable" variety called "EPROMs.
At that point Joel turned to problems with Bally circuit boards. He told us that they can get tarnished on the top side and sometimes can break. It was then suggested that older Bally boards be replaced by later models. Joel's next subject was digital displays. He first commented that they often collect dirt, again remarking that they are time consuming and expensive to replace. Finally, he told us that 10 percent was a typical "failure rate" for those tubes.
The final areas of Joel's Bally comments concerned "sound" and "speech" boards, "CPU" ("Central Processing Unit") boards, and the "High Voltage Power Supply". After telling us the "sound" and "speech" boards are expensive, Joel said that Bally CPU boards are the easiest to fix (the factory providing good trouble-shooting information). We were then told that the "High Voltage Power Supply" on Bally games should always be completely rebuilt.
Joel then turned to Williams games. He first told us that their later "Level 7" CPU boards will often work in older games. We were then told that the battery problem previously described was also true of William games, also suggesting that a person put "dates" on batteries so they know when they should be changed. After commenting about some mislabeled "Blue Flipper ROMs", Joel told of three versions of Williams "driver boards" and how they can be "upgraded" to the latest version . He then advised that when replacing bad resistors the proper wattage should be used.
After mentioning a "switch matrix change" on some Williams games, Joel talked a little about upgrading Williams power supplies. We where then told how to replace rectifiers in these units. Joel then ended his Williams discussion by talking of problems encountered with connectors on their CPU and Driver boards.
Joel next turned to Gottlieb, beginning by telling us that they have a book that can help with problems. After again mentioning battery problems, he told us that there currently is no source of parts for old Gottlieb CPU or Sound boards. Joel then suggested that the "fingers" on the edge of the circuit cards be cleaned. The final comment concerning Gottlieb was that old model display tubes are no longer available, but he is trying to find a vuitable replacement for them.
Turning briefly to Stern games, Joel told us that they used Bally boards, but they are not always 100 percent exchangeable. He then told us that he was currently preparing a Stern trouble-shooting guide. As for Game Plan and Atari games, Joel told us that they have poor documentation and also some "interchangeability problems".
When Joel then asked for questions the only one asked was concerned with battery leakage and cleaning, which he answered. That ended Joel's presentation and drew a round of applause.
IS OVER-RESTORATION TOO MUCH?
The speaker for the next seminar "Is Over-Restoration Too Much?", Herb Silvers, introduced himself. He began by posing the question "how much is too much restoration?" For years, Herb then told us, many people have told him that his pinball restorations are better than any others.
Herb then told us that he was going to attack his question "from the business sense". He then commented that he personally thinks that a good restoration makes a game "close to the original condition at a reasonable price". At that point Herb told us that he was going to show us "how he does it". As an example, he said that a client wanted a Gottlieb BUCKAROO (1965) to look like it came "out of the box". He then started explaining the "steps" of his restoration process.
"Step 1", Herb then told us, was to take off all of the chrome parts and have them re-chromed, remarking that in California a good re-chroming job costs about $200. "Step 2", he continued, was to "shop" the playfield, including converting the "action components" to "D.C. power" to increase their speed. Continuing with that step, Herb said you should clean and file all electrical contacts. Turning to the backbox for a second, He told us that you should clean or replace all the score reels, and also replace all lamps with type 454 "flashers".
The "third step", Herb then told us, was repairs to the game's cabinet. First, he said, you have to copy the artwork patterns on tracing paper. After that, Herb went on, you sand off the old paint and fill in any indentations in the wood with "Bond-O". The cabinet can next be primered. At that point, Herb continued, the "base coat" paint should be applied, usually an "off white". Next a "pattern" for the graphics is cut out of a thin sheet of vinyl (using the previous tracings) which is "heat treated" onto the cabinet and allowed an hour to dry. Each color is applied using different "patterns". Finally, Herb told us that the cabinet is then "spider webbed" (or "splattered"), adding that that can also be done to the inside of the cabinet if desired.
Steps "4" through "7", Herb told us, are putting the cabinet back together, putting the game together, looking for problems, and adding the tempered top glass. The final step, he then told us, was looking for a "new looking" backglass.
On that subject Herb commented that "repairing" bad areas on a backglass usually looks "cheap" unless it is done by a professional artist. He then told us that you can use a good "reproduction" glass if one is available for the game, adding that that usually costs less than $200. At that point Herb began outlining the steps that he uses to have a backglass reproduced.
First, he said, he locates a decent glass for the artist to use to copy from, after which any "flaws" are corrected. The next step, Herb continued, is the "color separation" during which a separate "screen" is cut by hand for each color. From these, he then told us, the final "printing screens" are produced using a special machine. Herb then told us that the colors of the ink used in printing must be "matched" to the original colors by an expert. He then told us that after the actual printing process is started you must allow at least one day for the ink to dry before doing the next color.
Before the silver or black opaque paint is applied to the glass, Herb then told us, the colored areas are first checked for color or printing errors. The "final step" he then said was to "unveil" the new glass to the public.
At that point Herb made the comment that there really is no answer to the original question "what is too much restoration?" He then took out the eleven screens used to create the BUCKAROO reproduction backglass and laid them on a table for us to examine later. Herb then asked if we had any questions?
The first question Herb was asked was how to clean up pingame playfields? He answered that it depends on the game. Herb then commented that his artist also does playfields using oil-base paint, then covering them with mylar (except on games from the 1960's or earlier). He finally remarked that he uses "Wildcat" to clean playfields.
Herb was next asked if he used screening to fix playfields? He answered "possibly in the future", saying that maybe this could be done on either Bally's KISS (1978) or PLAYBOY (1976). When then asked how to remove a game's "side rails", Herb answered that he uses a special tool to remove the "French nails" which you can obtain from an upholstery shop.
Someone then asked if "laser scanners" could be employed in connection with backglass reproduction? Herb answered that with his rare 1957 Bally flipper game, CIRCUS, he experimented with that process, but found that color correction was difficult. He then added that you would have to have orders for a minimum of 15 glasses in order to do this at a reasonable cost.
At that point someone from the audience commented that during the tour of the Lenc-Smith plant a company representative made the statement that the "4-color process" could not be used on playfields. Herb said that this depends on whether or not the playfield is to be mylar coated afterwards.
When Herb was asked about "mirroring" on reproduction backglasses, he answered that it can be done when using the "full color" vice "4-color" process, adding that the "mirroring" must be applied first. The final question was what about reproducing a backglass on a thin plastic sheet? Herb answered that he might try that sometime in the future, adding that to do that you must start with a "perfect glass".
At that point Herb asked us what our ideas were concerning a "perfect restoration"? Someone answered that it should be such that the game looks "just the way it came from the factory". A discussion was then started regarding cabinet restoration. Dave Marston remarked that the base coat on a cabinet should not be "too white" or else it would not look like the original. There was then more interactive discussion regarding the type of paint to use in a cabinet restoration. Someone commented that the base coat of the restored cabinet should be close to the color which shows when the "side rails" of the original game are removed.
Herb ended his presentation by remarking that there are basically "three types of restorations". A "high end" restoration, he told us, makes a game "look like new". The next level, Herb continued, makes it "close to original". The lowest level, he said finally, makes the game "acceptable to the customer".
Finally, Herb passed out a sample of the screen material used in backglass reproductions. He then told us we could get up and look at the various "screens" he had previously laid out. Herb was then given a round of applause!
THE "PAT LAWLOR SHOW"
The final "seminar" (well, really not quite a seminar) was a presentation and "prize giveaway" hosted by Williams ace pingame designer Pat Lawlor, assisted by several of his factory cohorts. Rob Berk first got up and talked a little about Pat. Rob said that this is "a tough time for pinball", then telling us that this year Pat's Expo presentation would be a little different from what he's done in the past. He then commented that for the past five years Pat has told us "what it's like to design pingames", but this year he's going to quiz us.
Pat then introduced himself, and gave a list of some of the games he designed including: BANZAI RUN (1988), EARTHSHAKER (1989), WHIRLWIND (1990), ADDAMS FAMILY (1991), TWILIGHT ZONE (1993), and ROAD SHOW (1994). After that he passed out numbered tickets to each person in the audience to be used for "surprise drawings" throughout his presentation.
Pat then jokingly said that they "cleaned out their offices" at Williams and brought "all the junk" to give away to us by drawing one number about every five minutes. He then told us that this year we can ask questions of his "panel", but also the panel can ask questions of us. He then had his panel introduce themselves.
First was Williams' Head of Software Development Ted Estes who gave us a little of his "history" as well as a list of the games he's worked on. Next came artist John Youssi who gave a list of the games he did the artwork for. Following John was game designer George Gomez, who designed such recent Williams hits as CORVETTE and JOHNNY MNEMONIC, who told a little of his history, saying that he started at Midway right out of college designing video games. Then Williams' Director of Engineering and ex-programmer Larry DeMar gave a list of the pins he had worked on in the past.
The last panel member, Director of Marketing Roger Sharpe, was then introduced by Pat, saying that he was responsible for obtaining the celebrity "licenses" for Williams and Bally pingames. Pat then told of Roger's pioneer pinball book "Pinball" which came out in 1977, as well as his past game designs. After that the first prize number was drawn, the winner receiving a set of pinball "plastics".
Pat then told us that he would talk about the state of pinball in general, and what they've done in the last five years. He then remarked that seeing that their company and their competitors are all producing great games, he could not see why pinball is now doing poorly. Pat then said he would like to ask us what we thought?
Someone from the audience then asked why the manufacturers are putting a "video mode" (dot-matrix displays) on pingames, implying that he did not care much for that. Larry DeMar then asked the questioner if he thought all "video mode" games are bad? The person replied that he just thought that "pinball should be pinball". After Pat told a little of the history of dot- matrix displays at Williams (saying some are good, but others may be bad), someone else said that he likes "video modes" because "it's sort of a break from the basic game". At that point another prize was awarded.
Someone then asked the engineer on the panel about the possibility of using color dot-matrix displays in the future? Larry DeMar replied that they try to use new technology, but cost is always a factor they have to consider. He then defended "video modes" saying at their company they are "always looking at using what's new."
After that, designer George Gomez put in his "two cents" defending "video modes". He told us that they "change the pace of the game", adding that they are "not mandatory" on many games. At that point two more prizes were drawn, both posters for Williams' recent CORVETTE pingame.
Following that someone from the audience asked Pat to elaborate on his comment that pingames are currently in a "slump". Pat began by commenting that it's no secret that pins are in a "down cycle", going from selling a lot of games in the last 5 years to a much smaller number lately. What's even more puzzling, Pat continued, is that in the past the cash boxes of pingames were reasonably full, but more recently earnings for operators have steadily fallen off. Roger Sharpe was then asked if a "flat fee" was paid by the manufacturers for pingame licenses.
Roger began by saying that an important question regarding licenses was "does it add to the cost of the game?" He then told us that their company has "the best fee basis of any manufacturer in per unit royalty". He ended by commenting that they don't take out any game features to pay for the licensing cost.
After another prize was awarded, someone asked Pat how many new designs per year a company comes up with, and how does that affect the industry? Pat answered that they produce more models per year now than in the past (about 8 to 10 per year as compared to 6 to 8 previously), but have shorter production runs for each game because they "have to keep their people employed".
Another prize (a TWILIGHT ZONE "mini-field") was then awarded. A person next asked why pingames did not award tickets (vice replays) as is done on "redemption games"? Pat answered that it has been tried with only marginal success, adding that redemption games have a much shorter playing time per game than pingames. Continuing on that subject, Pat remarked that redemption games are actually "games of chance", commenting that if pins were operated that way a good player could "break the operator". Pat then told us that designers of redemption games have to convince the world they require skill so they will not be considered gambling devices, adding also that those games are meant for a different age group (young children) than pins.
Another prize (actually two) was then given away which consisted of both a speaker display cover and a plastic screen backglass. After that someone asked Pat if he thinks that the fact that players today only receive three balls for fifty cents might be why some people don't play anymore, adding that maybe games should use "timers" to allow so much time for a game? Pat answered that they were experimenting with a "novice mode" for games which would give the player a "minimum playing time", but no replays. Someone then asked if any thought had been given to using "video displays" in lieu of "dot-matrix". Pat answered that he is not allowed to comment on "future plans", adding "if we do, you'll see it"
After more prizes were awarded (CORVETTE key chains and a "plastic form"), someone asked about the special "magnetic device" used on their recent game JOHNNY MNEMONIC? After Larry DeMar described that, he asked the players in the audience if they had any problems hearing the "audio cues", provided on many new games, when the location has turned the sound on the game down? In that context somebody asked if headphones could be used to solve that problem? Pat replied that that was "a marvelous idea" except for a few "real wold problems".
One problem, Pat then told us, was that the headphone jack had to be "electrically isolated" from the rest of the game's circuitry in case somebody tried putting 110 volts into the jack which could result in ruining the machine. The other problem, Pat said, was that people might put chewing gum, etc., into the hole.
After another prize was awarded someone asked Roger Sharpe why they had not obtained any "sports licenses"? Roger answered that about 40 percent of their game sales were overseas, and most people in other countries are not very interested in American sports. After that another prize was given out.
At that point someone asked Roger what their company was doing to promote pinball? Roger answered that they were trying to use the media for publicity, mentioning the DISCOVERY and USA cable TV networks. He then told us of a one hour "history of pinball" documentary which was in preparation (Incidently, the producers of that were at the Expo filming show segments). Roger then added the comment that we could help promote pinball by supporting tournaments, etc.
Two more prizes (a "press proof" of the ADDAMS FAMILY backglass and a poster) were then awarded. After that Pat briefly explained their pingame "tournament mode" which they were planning, telling us that it can be turned on by the player for one game, and disables any "random" features of the game. Someone then asked Pat what he thought of the "score inflation" which has been creeping into pinball (scores now going up into the 'billions')? Pat began by remarking that many players can't even understand current scores because they contain "too many digits". He then commented that he thinks "enough is enough", saying that the industry is moving toward stopping that trend.
After the next prize (a ROAD SHOW display), someone asked if video game sales are currently down by the same percentage as pingames? Pat answered that sales of some video games are very good, while other videos have dropped off. Roger Sharpe then remarked that there is possibly a consistent sales drop in both videos and pins.
Another prize was then awarded, followed by a question as to whether people owning pingames at home help or hurt new pingames on location? Larry DeMar answered that they "probably help". Two more prizes ( a poster and another ROAD SHOW display) were then awarded.
Artist John Youssi was then asked what his favorite pingame artwork was? He replied that it was probably their game TWILIGHT ZONE. Someone then asked if their company kept old "screens", tooling, etc., so that they could go back into production on a previous game? Pat answered that they do keep such things for a limited time, then adding that to go back into production for an old game is almost as expensive as starting a new one.
The final prize of the afternoon, an ADDAMS FAMILY backglass, was then given away. At that point Larry DeMar was asked about his personal pingame collection? Larry replied that he owns 22 pingames, all of which are operational, which includes a few electro-mechanical games such as Williams' 1971 pin FOUR SQUARE.
Finally, Pat commented "we are part of the 'entertainment business', and are definitely a 'business'". That ended the Expo seminars and drew a round of applause.
That's all for this time folks. Next time in the second part of my coverage of Pinball Expo '95, I'll tell a little about the "Fireside Chat", and then tell of the game auction, the banquet, and the Exhibit Hall (including a listing of all the pingames displayed at the show). And you'll have to wait until then to find out why I dubbed Pinball Expo '95 "The Year of Sunshine".
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