PINBALL EXPO '96
(The Year of Coincidences)
By Russ Jensen
Well, the Pinball Expo - the "king of the pinball shows" - celebrated it's twelfth year in 1996! The 1996 edition was held on Nov 14 through 17, 1996 at the Ramada O'Hare Hotel in Rosemont Illinois. The show activities covered four days (Thursday through Sunday) with the first event being a tour of the Electrical Windings coil and transformer manufacturing plant on Thursday morning, but I decided to pass on that since I had toured that facility two years ago and to do it again this year would have meant flying to Chicago a day earlier and spending an extra night in the hotel at their high room rates!
This year I was lucky to have all my Expo expenses (plane trip, hotel room, registration fee, meals, etc.) paid from gambling winnings at the local (well it's ninety miles away - but there is a free bus) Indian Bingo facility. My wife and I had been extremely lucky starting in July 1996 and, in fact, I am still "playing on their money"! LONG LIVE INDIAN GAMING!
Even though my trip was financed by "Indian money", I was still concerned about the way Expo expenses keep going up. The full admission to the show this year was $100!, and has been increasing by about $5 a year since the show began in 1985. The same is true of the rooms at the Ramada which (including tax) are also about $100 per night! If it wasn't for the fact that I usually share a room that cost would be overwhelming!
This year my Expo roommate for the past several years, John Cassidy, could not attend the show because he was attending a good friend's wedding, so I had to make other plans. So about a month before the show I made arrangements to share a room with my good friend Sam Harvey (my roommate at all the early Expos) and our friend Gordon Hasse from New York. This resulted in a very favorable room cost for all of us.
I also got a great deal on air fare this year! About two months before the show my travel agent secured for me a round-trip ticket from Los Angeles to Chicago for just slightly over $200! The only hitch was that I had to leave from the big LAX airport (which is about 75 miles from my home) instead of the smaller and more convenient Hollywood/Burbank Airport I had been using for the past several years. But, there is a special bus from our town to LAX and I was also able to get a special discount on the round-trip bus fare!
On Thursday morning at 4:30 AM my daughter Cheri drove me to the bus stop. I had mistakenly read the bus schedule and thought that was the bus I had to take to get to the airport in time for my 9:30 AM flight - I could have taken a later bus! Well, when I arrived at the airport a little after 7 AM I checked my baggage and found out that I could take an earlier flight which put me into Chicago at half-past noon, instead of about 2 PM.
The flight to Chicago was pleasant and we arrived on time. After getting my bag I called for the shuttle bus to the Ramada. When I got on the bus, sitting across from me was Bill Ung a user of the "rec.games.pinball" ("r.g.p") Internet newsgroup - a person who I had previously told via email that I would like to personally meet at Expo after corresponding with him via email. In fact, he and his friend were on the same flight from L.A. and I didn't realize it. But more about "r.g.p" shortly.
After arriving at the hotel I checked in and went to our room. Upon entering I found it to be the largest room I had ever had at the hotel. It even had a sofa (which I found out later made into a bed - in fact, that's where I ended up sleeping) and even a refrigerator and a bar! I then went downstairs for my first Expo event.
THE BUMPER BLAST
The next event on the Expo agenda was a little "mixer" dubbed the "Bumper Blast" by Expo producers Rob Berk and Mike Pacak. It was held in a small room, light snacks were served, and anyone who wished to could visit with other attendees. When I first arrived I encountered my old "Expo friend" John Campbell from West Virginia, who like me, has attended all 12 Expos.
Soon after John and I sat down at one of the tables and started talking pinball, we were joined by another pin-fan, Harold Sund from Seattle, who like John and I, really loved the pingames from the 1940's. Harold began showing us pictures of some of his games.
Before long we were joined by another collector, Stan Jankowski from Minnesota, who had a large album of photos of his prize games. While looking at Stan's photos I discovered that he owned a game whose artwork I "fell in love with" after seeing a black and while photo of it somewhere in the past. The game was Genco's SILVER FLASH from 1937 and it's artwork was very "futuristic", similar to my Genco METRO from 1940. I asked Stan if he could send me photos of the game and he said he would. We had a good time visiting and looking at photos for about an hour.
THE FIRST "FIRESIDE CHAT"
This year, as has happened at the last two Expos, there was an informal get-together (actually this year there were TWO!) which Rob Berk dubbed "Fireside Chats". This year there was one on Thursday night and another on Friday. The Thursday night chat was with long-time Gottlieb pinball designer Wayne Neyens, accompanied by his lovely wife. Wayne and his wife sat on a couch in Rob's suite with all us visitors sitting on a few chairs, but mostly on the floor.
Host Rob Berk asked Wayne some questions about his extensive career, Wayne also fielding questions from the audience. As I have said in past Expo articles, the details of this session are beyond the scope of this article, but needless to say we all enjoyed hearing stories of Wayne's fabulous career!
THE "INTERNET GET-TOGETHER"
At the conclusion of the Fireside Chat the next scheduled event on Thursday evening was the "Internet Get-together". Before describing this event I would like to provide a brief explanation of what that event was all about, and how I became involved in the world of "cyberspace".
Among the many facets of the worldwide "Internet" computer network, there are a multitude of what are known as "Usenet Newsgroups". These consist of groups of people who electronically correspond with each other on a multitude of specific topics - almost any topic you can imagine. For pinball fans the newsgroup is called "rec.games.pinball" (recreation - games - pinball) and is called "r.g.p" for short. People "post" questions or comments to the group which anybody reading the group may read and answer (or provide comments) either to the group as a whole or privately to the poster if desired.
Last year at the Expo the first formal "Internet Get-together" was held, where r.g.p people and others (like myself) interested in learning more about the pinball stuff on the Internet met for about an hour and witnessed an actual "on-line" demonstration of the facility. Even after attending that session last year, it wasn't until June 1996 that I finally got "on-line".
But, I have been active in r.g.p ever since then, and as a result have become "acquainted" with many new "cyber pin friends". Among those is a young man named Scott Tiesma who maintains an extensive bibliography of pinball related magazine articles - and who has recently added all of mine. Scott was one of the r.g.p people that I made arrangements to meet in person at the Expo. Another was Bill Ung who, as I said previously, I met on the shuttle bus going to the hotel.
I ran into Scott, by the way, while standing in line to enter the "Internet Get-together". When we were all seated the "host" of the event, Dave Marston from New Hampshire, began telling everybody that "projects of interest" concerning the Internet and "r.g.p" would be discussed. He then asked for a show of hands of all those present who were active in "r.g.p" - most everybody rasing their hand. He then asked how many had "Websites" (on the Internet "World-Wide Web") connected with pinball? Many raised their hand. Dave then asked what each would like to do on their site?
A fellow named Jonathan Dietch then told everybody that on his website he is "registering" Bally's 1993 game TWILIGHT ZONE, collecting serial numbers and locations of as many of those games he could find. When Dave next asked what the people in the audience would most like to see on the Internet, the almost unanimous vote was for reactivation of the "r.g.p archive", a database of past postings on r.g.p which had been discontinued (at least for awhile). Dave next remarked that one of the reasons for holding this get-together was so that r.g.p users could have a chance to "match names to faces" of the people they had been corresponding with.
At that point Dave introduced a visitor, David Byers from Sweden, who maintains the large "Internet Pinball Database" (which attempts to provide information on all pinballs ever made) which is part of the large website (The Pinball Pasture) which he maintains. David told us that he would like to get more information on pinball industry people to put in his database.
Next Scott Tiesma told of his pinball bibliography and said that he would work in conjunction with a fellow named Doug Landman who had just put up a giant pinball bibliography, "The Pinball Literature Index", on his website. After that someone remarked that he'd like to see more places to play pinball posted on the Internet. When someone then mentioned posting images of older pinball advertising flyers on the Internet, a brief discussion as to copyright problems this might bring then ensued.
At that point pinball designer Jon Norris got up and told of an idea he had for putting a "coin-op museum" on the World-Wide Web. Jon then mentioned that one thing he might put on it were images of game instruction cards that people could download and print out for their games. Dave Marston then commented that possibly much of what Jon wants to include in his "museum" may already be available on the Web.
Jon then listed things which he thought people could use his museum to obtain. These included: looking at pictures of their favorite games; getting game restoration information; getting copies of schematics; looking at some pinball price lists; and even getting information on the proper sizes of rubber rings for a particular game. He listed a few other items as well.
Jon next commented that he was sort of "thinking out loud" about his museum idea. He then said that his idea for the museum was that it also include information on other coin-ops such as jukeboxes, slot machines, etc.. Jon then said that it would be nice to get a "sponsor" for the museum, and that he might even have small "shows" on different coin-op subjects at different times on the proposed website. When Dave Marston asked for reactions to Jon's idea, that brought little response.
After Scott Tiesma suggested that someone interview "living legends" and put them somewhere on the Internet, Dave Marston said that for those people who are currently not on the Internet, it might be nice for them to know what kind of things are available on the Net. He then passed out a sheet of paper for people to list the "locations" of their websites. Dave then commented that possibly next year people's email addresses could be put on their Expo badges.
After that different people gave more information on what they were doing on the Internet. There is not enough space here, however, to mention all of that. Finally Dave Marston gave a brief summary of what went on during the session, dismissing it formally. At that time we were free to mingle and talk with other "r.g.p'ers". That ended the official Thursday Expo events - except for the opening of the Exhibit Hall which will be discussed later.
Friday morning we all gathered in the seminar area for the Expo Opening Remarks by Expo producers Rob Berk and Mike Pacak. After welcoming everybody to the Expo, Rob said that this year they have a special "sponsor" for the show, an outfit called Interplay which produces computer simulations of pinball games - he then thanked them for their sponsorship.
Rob next reminded everybody about the second Fireside Chat that would be held that evening with pinball artist of the 1970's Dave Christensen. He then mentioned other special events such as the Autograph Session and the Art Contest. After mentioning the fact that this year there would be two additional special tournaments (in addition to the usual "Flip-Out Tournament), one played on a 1950's machine and another of a 1960's game, Rob said that the national PAPA tournament would be held in Las Vegas in July 1997 back to back with Herb Silvers' PINBALL FANTASY '97 pinball show.
Rob then solicited donations for the Charity Auction which was again to be held during the Saturday night banquet. After then mentioning the fact that at midnight an "infomercial" for Todd Tuckey's TNT Amusements would be shown for those who wished to view it, Rob introduced his con-producer, Mike Pacak.
Mike began by thanking Sega Pinball for providing the new games to be used for the Flip-Out Tournament. He then reminded everybody that the Exhibit Hall would be open all night on both Friday and Saturday nights. Mike then reminded us of the game auction to be held on Saturday morning. After that he introduced a young lady named Lisa who represented the show sponsor Interplay.
Lisa showed a video about her company's products. She then said that today "entertainment software" (Nintendo, etc.) is a big industry, adding that her company's product, the pinball simulation software known as "Pro Pinball", was one of the best such products. That ended the Opening Remarks.
RESEARCHING AND WRITING THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PINBALL
Rob Berk next got up and introduced the speaker for the first Expo seminar, coin machine historian and author Dick Bueschel - a man Rob said "needs no introduction". That brought a round of applause!
Dick began his talk by saying "it's a joy to be here". He then said that he wanted to share with us "the adventure of researching his new book Encyclopedia of Pinball - Volume 1". Dick then said that because of problems with a previous proposed set of pinball books he had to "start all over".
After telling us that he went to Steve Young and asked him "what'll we do" to produce a new series of books, Dick said that Steve, Gordon Hasse, and Tim Feranti formed a "team" to help him get the new books into publication, which he said was projected to be a six volume series. He then asked for questions from the audience?
Before Dick fielded the first question, however, he sort of volunteered to pose and answer a question himself - that was "when will work start on Volume 2?" Dick told us that as soon as the publication costs of the first volume have been paid off work on Volume 2 will begin immediately! Someone then asked Dick when he does start work on the next volume, how long will it take to complete? Dick answered approximately 12 months. He then began listing things that are necessary to produce a book.
First he said you need research and of course an author. You also must have a "designer" who in the case of the new books was a young fellow from Virginia named Eric Hatchell. After mentioning that illustrations have to be prepared, Dick said that the actual writing of the text takes about 12 months. After that, he went on, you need "pre-press/design" which he said takes about 90 days. And finally the actual printing.
Dick then commented that if he got the "go ahead" for starting Volume 2 by January 1st, the book could be ready by October 15. He then said that he has much of the information for the next volume stored in boxes, and that he has already "blocked out" the other volumes as well.
Someone next asked Dick what the "date ranges" were for the "history sections" of the six proposed volumes? He replied that Volume 1 went up through 1933; Volume 2 will be 1934-36; Volume 3, 1937-47; Volume 4, 1947-61; Volume 5, 1962-81; and Volume 6 would finally be 1981-2000!
At that point Dick said that he would like to tell us a little about coin machine industry pioneer David Rockola. He began by remarking that the United States and Canada were the only real industrialized nations that were not devastated by World War 2. He then commented on the many "revamped" pinballs which came out during the war with "anti-enemy" themes, telling of a German game called "Bombing London" - in German, of course. Dick then remarked that you can hardly find any German pinballs these days, and only a few made in France.
Dick then began his story of David Rockola by saying that he was born in Canada and as a young man owned a cigar store. Later, he went on, Dave moved to Chicago and worked for awhile at the plants of two major slot machine manufacturers of the day, Mills and Jennings. After telling us that Mr. Rockola was friends with two slot machine pioneers, Charlie Fey and Jim Watling, Dick said that by 1927 Dave was selling coin-op scales.
In the middle of 1932, Dick continued, Dave Rockola got into pinball with a game called JUGGLE BALL which featured a rod in the middle of the playfield which a player could use to attempt to "manipulate the ball". He said that that game didn't do very well and left his company $120,000 in debt. But, Dick went on, Dave convinced his creditors to loan him even more money and he was eventually able to pay them with profits from the very successful games, JIGSAW, and WORLD SERIES.
Dick next told us of an interview he conducted with Mr. Rockola around 1976 or 1977 during which Dave told him the story of JIGSAW. Dave told him that people in speakeasies he knew liked to work jigsaw puzzles, which gave him the idea to convert a jigsaw puzzle into a pingame, which he did. He then told us that Dave even advertised the game nine days before the game came out. Dick then commented that Rockola made around $73,000 from JIGSAW and their also successful game WORLD SERIES. He then added that he and Dave had talked many times over the years before he died.
At that point someone from the audience asked Dick when Rockola started contracting out the production of their pingames? He replied "from the beginning". Dick then commented that there were no pingames at the 1931 coin machine show, but there were sixty at the 1932 show! He then said that the company known as ABT sold parts to many pingame manufacturers, making it possible for small outfits to put out games. Dick then remarked that by 1933 there was a "shakeout" of pingame manufacturers with only 40 exhibitors at the 1933 show, adding "the big got bigger and the small disappeared".
The next question that was asked was why did Rockola get out of the pingame business? Dick started answering by remarking that his researching of the coin machine industry has shown that most companies who produced pingames also produced other types of coin machines, many also producing jukeboxes.
Dick then commented that when Prohibition ended in 1933 President Roosevelt said "I'll repeal Prohibition and new businesses will start within ninety days". At that time, he continued, taverns opened up and without that pinball would probably have "died". Dick then said that Wurlitzer got into jukeboxes and Rockola followed and that they even at one time produced a piano/game combination called the "Profit Sharing Piano". He then remarked that money was important to Dave Rockola and when he found he could make more money by selling jukeboxes rather than pingames he got out of pingames.
Someone next asked Dick how much duplication there was between his earlier book "Pinball 1" and the new "Encyclopedia Of Pinball, Volume 1"? Dick said that the history section of the earlier book was "elegant", but "somewhat naive", adding that when he started on the new book he considered it "a whole new ball game". He said one reason for this was that he learned a lot more about the early history of the game since Pinball 1 came out - finally remarking that there was perhaps "a twelve page overlap" between the history sections of the two books, or put another way "the new book is about 95 percent new."
When asked if there was any duplication in the "100 games sections" of the two books, he replied there was none. At that point Gordon Hasse asked Dick to explain how games were chosen for the "100 games section", remarking that some people don't seem to like his choice of games. Dick replied that if people would let him know what games they own or like he could include them in future volumes. He then invited people to send him pictures, especially if the games are "not of the norm" - saying "send pictures!"
Dick then began telling some stories about other pinball pioneers. He first said that Alvin Gottlieb, son of Dave Gottlieb, loaned him many photographs, many of which Alvin had used in his past Expo banquet presentations - including many pictures of Dave, flipper inventor Harry Mabs, etc.. He said that he considered those photos as "the best bunch of stuff I've ever hit", also showing scenes in the Gottlieb factory and the people who worked there - adding that many of those photos will be used in the series of books.
Next Dick started telling a little about another pinball pioneer, Charlie Chizewar. He said that Charlie had a machine shop in Chicago and began producing a coin-op grip tester which he "reengineered" for a customer. They went over so well, he continued, that the customer asked for 50 more, and later another 100! When Charlie then went on vacation, Dick went on, he returned to discover that his customer had stolen his foreman. That customer he then said, was none other than Dave Gottlieb himself!
Chizewar, Dick then remarked, was so mad at this that he started putting out his own HERCULES GRIP TESTER, forming the Hercules Novelty Company. A while later, Dick then told us, Dave Gottlieb went to Charlie for help ("what a hell of a business!") and the two became good friends! Chizewar, Dick then commented, became an "original equipment manufacturer" (OEM) supplying parts to many game manufacturers.
Someone then asked Dick if Chizewar's Hercules Novelty Company did well? Dick replied that they did better than Gottlieb with grip testers, doing a "raging business". He then made some comments regarding Chicago and the 1933 World's Fair, starting with the question "how could Chicago not make it big after the fair?"
Dick began by saying that planning for the Fair actually began in 1929 - quipping "what could go wrong?" He then said after the Great Depression hit, by 1932 people were saying "how can we do the fair?" Well, Dick continued, Roosevelt won the election and Prohibition was repealed. This, he said, resulted in there being 32 restaurants at the Fair with only one not selling beer - resulting in a "very successful fair".
Connecting this to Dave Rockola, Dick then said he "stole" the picture of the fairgrounds from a Chicago newspaper to use on the playfield of his very successful pingame JIGSAW. A little later, Dick then said, the photographer who had taken the newspaper photo discovered what Rockola had done, but Dave offered him a "royalty" of a penny for each game sold, over 73,000 being sold.
Someone then asked Dick about the Keeney Company? He said that Jack Keeney, his father Bill, and another brother, started the company and that Bill had previously operated console (floor model) slot machines with the boys helping on the route. Dick then said that Jack soon became proficient at fixing broken machines and understood their mechanisms pretty well. He said that they founded the company J.H. Keeney and Sons in 1927 and that the father died around 1931 or 32. Dick then said that at one time they manufactured BAFFLE BALLS for Gottlieb. He then commented that Jack Keeney was a "technical person" and even made a few pingames after World War II.
When Dick was next asked if legendary pinball artist Roy Parker did art for Keeney games, he replied "I think so". When someone then commented that "all you can do to determine that is compare similarities" Dick agreed. He then commented that in the future pinball backglasses might be considered "rare art".
Dick then told us that Expo exhibitor Larry Bieza had obtained a copy of Roy Parker's Death Certificate which contained the Chicago address where he was living . He then told us that that week Larry was going to ring the doorbell at that address and see if the current residents know anything about Roy.
At that point Dick began talking about Rob Berk and the Pinball Expo and how the show has "changed things". He said that he has been able to gather more information about the industry as a result of the Expos than he was able to do in the past. Dick then related something that happened to him when he was still working in the advertising business.
He said that one time one of his associates told him about Eddie Ginsberg who had once been associated with the coin machine industry, whom he then interviewed. He told us that Eddie told him that once he was asked by someone to get involved with the pioneer pingame BINGO, but he declined. He told Dick that he later handled Gottlieb's BAFFLE BALL. Dick said that Eddie did not drink alcohol and really "loved the industry".
When Gordon Hasse asked Dick "are you up to doing Volume 2?", Dick replied "Yes, I want to see what happens?" Someone then asked Dick about the Stoner Company? Dick began by saying that the Stoner family had been in the home building and carpentery business before the Depression hit. He then said that the first pingame they produced was called WALDORF which they made for Chicago Coin.
After that, Dick went on, the Stoner brothers decided to produce games for themselves as well as contracting with other companies. Dick then said that when Pacific Amusements (PAMCO) moved to Chicago to manufacture Harry Williams' famous game CONTACT, they contracted with Stoner to build some of them.
Dick then told us that Harry discovered that Stoner was not producing the playfield correctly by not placing the pins and holes in precise locations - then remarking how accurately this type of thing was done on Bally's BALLYHOO. He said that Harry took the job away from Stoner causing them to hire a game designer who several years later designed a game for them called ZETA which was the earliest pingame to use a "powered bumper". (AUTHOR'S NOTE: When I was a kid I owned one of those neat games).
At that point someone asked Dick what his criteria was for choosing the "100 collectable games" for each volume? After remarking that there were probably over 2000 pingame models which came out in 1932/33, Dick told of his session at the past year's Expo in which he had the audience vote on which pins they considered "collectable". Dick then commented "whatever you want - we'll put it in".
The final question asked of Dick was regarding a company called Baker who put out a game called DOUGHBOY in 1940? He replied that they did not produce any of their games, but that they were made for them by Chicago Coin. Dick ended his presentation by saying that when he gets the "call" he will go forward with Volume 2. He was then given a good round of applause.
THE CREATION OF THE FIRST MICROPROCESSOR PINBALL
Rob Berk next got up and introduced the speaker for the next seminar, Dave Nutting, who was to talk about the creation of the first microprocessor controlled pingame. He said that Dave was an Industrial Designer by trade and that both modern pinball designer Pat Lawlor and artist Dave Christensen at one time worked for him. Finally, Rob told us that Dave had created a "question and answer" coin machine called "IQ" and that his company, Nutting Associates, had once been involved with Bally.
Dave started out telling us that he and his wife now live in Colorado, having left Chicago in 1985, the year Bally decided to "get out of the arcade business". He then said that he was going to talk about the "exciting period" from the early 1970's up to the early 1980's - a period he said of "technical advances we'll never see again".
We were next told that his company created the first solid- state pingame around 1973 and that they were also involved in developing video games for Bally/Midway, also developing the "Bally Arcade" home system. Dave then said that his company "played a major role in Bally's success".
At that point Dave started telling us a little of his background. He said that he was an Industrial Designer by trade and at one time was involved with the design of the "Jeep Grand Wagoneer" vehicle which was in production for over 25 years! Dave next told of being involved with a coin-op "IQ" game which was his brother's idea - saying that he redesigned it and got it into production. He then said that his brother also built COMPUTER WHIZ the very early video game.
After that, Dave told us, "I found myself in a business I knew nothing about" - adding that he thought at the time "how can we compete with the big companies?". He then told us that he hired a young engineer named Jeff Fredrichson to help him, giving him the task of developing a solid-state pinball system.
When four months had passed, Dave told us, Jeff thought he had it, but it didn't work right. Then one of their vendors told them about the new "microprocessor". So they went to seminars to learn more about that new technology. In 1970, Dave continued, his company became a consultant to Bally, and at that time he only had his engineer Jeff and one technician. He said they started designing games for Midway while watching the development of the microprocessor.
By mid 1973, Dave went on, the Fairchild Company announced a new microprocessor product in the form of a "development system" which he bought. But, he then told us, we didn't have a computer which was necessary to program the microprocessor. Dave told us that they found a "specialty computer" which cost $150,000! He next told us that Jeff had some teletype machine repair experience - which he said was a "4 bit digital system". So, he continued, they purchased a teletype machine and Jeff interfaced it with the Fairchild microprocessor system.
We were then told by Dave that at one point Bally sent them some pinball machines to work with and Jeff decided to try and use a "multiplexing matrix" to decipher playfield scoring. He then said that Jeff put printed circuit (PC) boards on the underside of the playfield. For lamps, Dave went on, Jeff used "snap-in" automotive lamps which he purchased from a local Ford dealer.
Dave then told us that Jeff used a test program to "cycle" his system for testing and the system appeared to work fine. But, he continued, when you hit a bumper there were problems! Dave then told us that Jeff tried to solve the problems with both hardware and software - trying to "address each problem separately" even getting a $5,000 oscilloscope from Bally to help in his troubleshooting.
The problem, Dave commented, was that of "two worlds" - the "electro-mechanical world" where things occurred in tenths of a second, and the "digital world" where things occurred in microseconds. He said that Jeff solved the problem of "switch chatter" using "software timers" and "optical isolators" and finally got things working. Jeff, he then said, went on to program the game, and to work on the displays.
As far as displays were concerned, Dave then told us, NIXIE tubes were too expensive to use, and LEDs (light emitting diodes) were not bright enough. To solve this problem a "7 digit, 1 1/2 inch readout" was devised and wired up.
Dave then said that in August 1973 the Bally representatives were invited to come over and see the new system. But, he then told us, when the system was "fired up" it didn't work because there was a circuit missing. When they finally got it to work, Dave remarked, the Bally people were amazed! They could see something for the idea in their future.
So, Dave went on, they next got up a meeting with the "Bally brass", including CEO Bill O'Donnell, who all arrived in a limo, also bringing a "computer expert" with them. Dave said that they gave them a presentation which included playing the games and also showing them the insides. Dave said that one of the Vice Presidents couldn't believe what he saw, even looking into a closet to try and find "the computer running it". He just couldn't believe a little "chip" could do all that! The executives, he said, went back to Chicago and had to decide "what to do next"?
Dave then told us that his company continued designing video games for Bally/Midway, always updating their circuitry as new technology evolved. Then in 1976, he went on, the first commercial "microprocessor pinball", SPIRIT OF '76, was released by a small Arizona company, a company he said who went out of business shortly afterwards.
Bally, Dave then said, put out their first microprocessor controlled pingame in 1977 - adding "when Bally came out with a solid-state pingame the industry could see that electro-mechanicals were out". But, he then told us, shortly after that a "patent war erupted over microprocessor controlled pingames".
There was a lawsuit, Dave told us, pitting Bally against Williams and Gottlieb, with Bally claiming that the other outfits stole their idea. Atari, he then said, had also developed a microprocessor pin around 1974 and had patents on it, but, he continued, they gave up trying to enforce them. Dave then said that both Williams and Gottlieb copied Bally, deciding to "worry about patents later". But it turned out that in a surprise decision the judge ruled for the defendants stating that "the design was obvious".
Dave then commented that at that time Bally's "main thrust" was to get into the New Jersey casino business and decided not to appeal the decision in the patent case. Our company, he then said, "went on with videos". He then remarked that in 1983 Bally came out with the pinball/video combination game BABY PAC-MAN and after that the pinball market started to decline.
At that point Dave said he was going to give us a few brief "notes" regarding himself and his company. First he told us that in 1975 Bally hired a "financial expert" whose name was Rom. He said his name often got confused with a "solid-state term". Dave said that once when he was overheard making the remark "go blast that ROM" he was later told that Rom was a bit concerned about "being blasted" by Dave.
Later, Dave then told us, game designer Pat Lawlor will speak, saying that Pat came to Dave's company years ago wanting a job designing games. When Pat was asked what experience he had he told them he had worked in a tire store, but Dave said they gave him a job anyway. He then asked for questions from the audience?
When someone asked what games they were given by Bally to experiment on in 1972, Dave answered that he could not remember the names? When someone then made the comment that "video modes" in today's pingames should be capable of being turned off by a player, that drew a round of applause. When a question was then asked about a legal problem involving a company known as Universal Research Labs, Dave said he knew the people in that organization, but was not involved with them.
At that point my friend Sam Harvey asked Dave about the home model of Bally's FIREBALL, and other Bally "home versions", and whether Bally put out brochures for them? Dave replied that they probably did. Someone else then remarked that at least one of the "home games" was also put out as a "Heathkit" do-it-yourself kit. The final question Dave was asked was "who first decided to use the 6800 microprocessor in pinballs?" He answered that it was Bally. That ended Dave's presentation and he received a round of applause!
WHAT'S HAPPENING AT SEGA PINBALL
Rob Berk next introduced the speaker for the next seminar, Joe Kaminkow, who's topic was "What's Happening At Sega Pinball" Rob said that in 1987 Data East Pinball started in business with just two people - Joe and Gary Stern - remarking that that company "started from scratch". After 1987, Rob continued, Joe went "behind the scenes", helping to make the company "a driving force in the industry".
After that Rob told of Joe's participation at past Expos, including his actual building of the BABY IN THE HOLE game (the idea for which came from old-time pinball designer Harvey Heiss) to display at the show. Rob then remarked "Joe makes things happen". He then told us that Joe has been responsible for innovations in the industry, including "digital sound", the "solid-state flipper", dot-matrix displays, etc.. That brought a round of applause!
Joe then got up and began by saying that when asked to talk this year he had to come up with a subject. He then said that he was going to tell us some "fun stories". Joe then said he brought a video to show which, among other things, showed company President Gary Stern "bunjee jumping".
After telling us that he also brought some games which were never produced, Joe told us that he would be unable to attend this year's Expo banquet due to other commitments. But, he went on, Sega did contribute an item for the banquet charity auction which had been autographed by NASA astronaut Jim Lovell. That elicited a round of applause.
Joe then told us that they have "lots of fun in their business", then mentioning that they have even manufactured special pin games with "wheel chair access" - and also with "sip and puff control", including one for disabled actor Christopher Reeve. He then said he was going to ask the audience some "trivia questions" (regarding their games over the years) giving the people with the correct answers prizes. That then followed.
After that Joe started talking about some games that never got into production, showing some of the artwork, etc., which might have been used. First, he told us, they almost did a game with a Mad Magazine theme, saying that they got "cold feet", then showing the proposed backglass. After telling us that they almost did a "Crash Test Dummies" game, Joe told a little of their experiences with "Slash" of the Guns'n'Roses rock group. He next showed the promised video which promoted some of their games, but also showed Gary Stern "bungie jumping".
At that point Joe handed out a little gift to everyone in the audience - a "power prism" which contained many small round candies. This was followed by another round of "trivia questions" and the awarding of small prizes. He then told the story of producing a special "custom game" for the wife of TV producer Aaron Spelling to give to her husband for his birthday - a game costing her $175,000, a price which he said she had no trouble with! He then showed both the playfield and backglass for that game.
Getting back to "unusual stuff" which they never produced, Joe told of a PULP FICTION game which was never produced - only a backglass. We then saw the first prototype of their JURASSIC PARK backglass, followed by the original art for their LAST ACTION HERO game, which Joe said Arnold Swartzenegger wanted changes made to.
After showing a "mock up" of another idea which was never produced, DEATH BALL 2000, we were shown the original glass for their TOMMY pin. Joe then showed a "proof" of the art for PLAYBOY, and told a little about the making of their TOTAL RECALL pin - then telling of his company's "can do attitude". He then asked for questions from the audience?
When someone asked Joe how many of their STAR WARS games were produced, he answered "10,400". He was next asked "who makes the decision to 'pull' (not produce) a game?" Joe answered "me". Someone then asked if they came close to producing the OPERATION DESERT STORM game? Joe answered "not at all!" - then adding that that artwork was done as a "test" drawing of an artist who was applying for a job with the company.
When Joe was then asked if they were going to produce an X- FILES game, he replied "yes". When next asked why their KING KONG game was "pulled", Joe replied that it didn't make much money "on test".
At that point someone asked Joe about the cost of "licensed games"? He replied that it was "expensive to very expensive", but that he couldn't say precisely, adding that Roger Sharpe who is directly involved with that would know better. He then said that JURASSIC PARK was their most expensive license. Someone then asked if a licensed game's characteristics are closely related to it's theme, Joe replied "almost always".
Joe was then asked if they can use actors or other celebrities to promote their games? He answered "occasionally". He then remarked that many of their games are shipped overseas and that the U.S. is a small market today because in this country "so many things are pulling people in many different ways and there's no time to play pinball". He then added "nobody cares about pingames and video games nowadays - home games are more popular" - then remarking "young people are not our market".
When someone then asked Joe if they had ever considered doing a "home game', he answered "no". He was then asked which of their past games he would have "pulled" if he had known ahead of time how it would do"? Joe answered "TORPEDO ALLEY". The final question asked of Joe was regarding the "cost factor" involved in producing games? He replied that their company tries to keep costs down, but that he doesn't think that's what hurting pinball today.
Joe ended his talk with some brief remarks regarding the new backbox design they had recently introduced, telling us that a game using it would be on display in the Exhibit Hall. He said they refer to is as the "showcase", then commenting that they hoped it would increase earnings from their games.
Finally Joe said that they were going to get back to lower score numbers (instead of the "billions", etc., they were now using) and that they were trying to "save pinball by giving it a new look". That ended Joe's presentation, him drawing a round of applause.
SHIPPING A PINBALL MACHINE
At that point Rob Berk introduced the next seminar speaker, collector/dealer Herb Silvers from California, who was to talk about how to ship a pinball machine. Before Herb started his talk, Rob mentioned the new pinball show in Las Vegas that Herb puts on, "Pinball Fantasy", the first show having been put on in July 1996.
Herb began his talk by saying that "pre-planning" was required before shipping a game, and also some "pre-packing". He then remarked that if the game is damaged in a shipping accident there's not much you can do to replace it, but insurance sometimes helps by providing some monetary compensation. In that regard, Herb then commented, before choosing a trucking company you should call several and inquire about insurance and how much extra it costs.
Regarding types of trucking companies, Herb said that there are "personal carriers", which are usually one or two person outfits, who drive around the country. When using one of those for shipping a pinball, Herb said that the game should be first "blanket wrapped" and tied. The balls, etc., he went on, should be placed in a separate box and all legs should be packaged separately also.
Herb next told us that larger freight trucking companies were usually fast and reasonable. When using one of these, he went on, you must put your game in a box, crate, or strap it to a shipping pallet. He then said that he had with him a game box which he had obtained from a game dealer. If you use a pallet, Herb continued, it is nice if the game can be attached to it by a "professional". He then pointed out that a palleted game should be strapped carefully so the glass doesn't get broken, again suggesting that this be done by a "knowledgeable person".
At that point Herb gave a brief demonstration of how to pack a game in a box using the box he had brought. He then remarked that the boxes used for new games are somewhat larger than older machines. Herb next told us that both the head and the body of the game should be wrapped in "bubble wrap", then strapped and put into the box. The rest of the box, he went on, should then be filled with Styrofoam.
After commenting that the legs should also be "bubble wrapped", Herb said that you should either tape the top of the box or strap it. He then reminded us to mark the top of the box "TOP SIDE", and also label it with "DON'T FORKLIFT!". Finally, Herb said, you should fill out the paperwork and put it in the box. Herb ended his presentation by handing out to everyone a list of shippers he has used with good results.
MEET THE PINBALL ARTISTS
Rob Berk then introduced the next seminar, a panel discussion titled "Meet The Pinball Artists", briefly mentioning each of the guest artists. Kevin O'Connor, he said, did the art for such classic pingames as Bally's STAR TREK, KISS, and FLASH GORDON, and many, many more. John Youssi, he then told us, was responsible for GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, FUN HOUSE and many more. After telling us that Greg Freres did the art for many games including ROLLING STONES, FATHOM, and PARTY ZONE, Rob said that Kevin O'Connor would start off by telling of his background.
Kevin began by telling us that early in his career he did video game art. Later, he went on, he went to Data East for awhile. He said he then went to Williams, working with game designers John Popaduik and John Trudeau, doing such games as JUDGE DREAD, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and THE FLINTSTONES. Kevin then told us that he was currently working on a new game (the name of which he could not reveal) with designer George Gomez.
At that point John Youssi got up, and started by telling us that he'd been in the "pin business" for a relatively short time. In 1971, he then told us, he did some game art, then going into his own business as an illustrator for awhile. John then said he got back into pins doing the backglass art or Williams' 1990 game WHIRLWIND, then naming some more of his games. One of his other games he said was HURRICANE, adding that he also does art for new video games and even slot machines.
Next up was Greg Freres. He began by saying that he started working for Bally in 1978 and that Kevin "got him in". He told us that he brought a "portfolio" to show at his Bally interview and was interviewed by veteran Bally artist Paul Faris. Greg then said he did a painting for his "try out" and it ended up being the art used on Bally's 1980 pin SKATEBALL. He then told us he had done the art for about 20 games, and also works in management. Greg then said his last project was SCARED STIFF, and is currently busy on another game.
At that point John Youssi told of also doing music album covers, including some Country & Western albums for Mercury Records. We were then asked if we had any questions?
The first question asked was what pinball artist Dennis Nordman was doing? One of the panelists answered that he was currently working on "novelty games", but was hoping to get back to pinballs. Someone then asked the artists who influenced their work? Kevin answered that for him it was probably "movie poster" or "fantasy" artists. John Youssi answered "adventure artists" and illustrator Charles White. Greg then said that he agreed with the others, but was also influenced by the artists who did Mad Magazine. Finally, Kevin said that he was also influenced by Dave Christensen.
Someone next asked Kevin about his musical background? He replied that he "moonlights" playing guitar and also singing in night clubs. Rob Berk then asked Kevin about his use of computers"? He replied that he uses them more as a "tool", commenting "I can get a better flare with my hands", but that they were great for "typesetting".
Kevin was next asked how much influence the members of the "Kiss" rock group had in the Bally game of the same name? Kevin said that they only supplied them with reference material, remarking that it's not like doing a "license game" today. He then said that he did the artwork more or less "by the seat of my pants", adding that seeing the group perform was a big influence to him, but he never met them in person.
When Kevin was then asked if he did any of the changes to the KISS game requested by the German distributors, he replied that only his painting was used, and others made any changes to the final glass. When someone then asked the panel who gets what projects at the company, Greg replied that in the old days the game designers usually chose the artist, but nowadays it's "whoever is ready to work".
Rob Berk next asked the panel how much influence the artists have on the game designers? The answer given was "none at all". Rob then asked the artists who "oversees" their work? One of the artists answered that they have pretty much of a "free hand", but that if the designers choose to get involved "you have to make them happy".
Continuing his questions to the panel, Rob asked when the score numbers were still part of the backglass art was it harder to do the art? John Youssi answered "yes, it was". Rob then asked if the European market had any influence on the artwork? One of the panelists said that it really didn't, the art being really a "theme solution problem".
When someone next asked if any of the artists ever tried to "personalize" their work, the answer was that "we all do that in some ways". The artists were then asked about their favorite pinball art - both of their own work and that of others? Kevin began by saying that "your latest is always the nicest", naming his last game, CONGO, as an example. As far as his past art was concerned, he said it would probably be Bally's 1976 pin MATA HARI.
John Youssi next answered saying of his own art his favorite was probably TWILIGHT ZONE. As far as others work was concerned he named Kevin's CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and Greg's LOST WORLD. Greg said that of his work he liked SCARED STIFF and STAR TREK - THE NEXT GENERATION. For others work he named CAPT. FANTASTIC, MATA HARI, SILVER BALL MANIA, and TWILIGHT ZONE.
The panel members were next asked if any of them had any enthusiasm for pinball before getting into the industry? Kevin said that he just answered an ad from a large coin-op manufacturer. John Youssi told us that he always has been "mesmerized" by the arcade scene, and that it was more than just a business to him.
Greg then told us that he grew up in Chicago where pinballs were not allowed. But, he continued, on family vacations in Wisconsin he saw a baseball machine and thought it was "cool". When he later went to college, Greg said he began a rapport with pinball, playing such games as WIZARD and SPANISH EYES.
When someone next asked if the game PARTY ZONE was a "license game", the answer given was "no". Rob Berk then asked Kevin about his miniature toy collection? Kevin said that he started collecting antique toys years ago, adding that he also has an extensive library of books.
At that point Greg said that he wanted to tell something about late game artist/sculptor Jerry Pinzler. He told us that Jerry had worked for Bally for seven years, doing things for many games including their 1990 pin DR. DUDE. Prior to that, he went on, Jerry had been a toy designer. Greg then said that Jerry died while working at Williams. Finally, he talked about Jerry's great character and aptitude, adding that he worked on 34 pingames over a period of seven years!
Someone then asked the artists if they had any games at home? Kevin began by saying he has WORLD CUP SOCCER, and THE FLINTSTONES. John Youssi then said that he owned a couple pins including WHIRLWIND. Greg then told us that he has a "long list" of games at home.
One of the artists then began talking about some people "behind the scenes" at Williams. He first mentioned a Paul Barker who works on dot-matrix displays, and acts as "production/art coordinator". The next person mentioned was a lady named Linda Deal who also works behind the scenes, the person speaking remarking "we don't do everything ourselves - we try to have one person accountable for the 'entire look' of the project". Then it was said that artist Margaret Hudson does their "color separations".
Rob Berk then asked the artists if paintings exist for all the game art? One of the artists answered "yes - all of the paintings do exist, although some are 'layered' in pieces". He then added that paintings for some of the older games are in an "archive". At that point some of the artist's artwork was displayed.
Kevin showed his art for CONGO and THE FLINTSTONES game, including the cabinet art. John Youssi displayed his art for WHIRLWIND, and his sketch for FUN HOUSE, followed by the art for JOHNNY MNEMONIC, the "first rough" for TWILIGHT ZONE, and finally SAFE CRACKER, which he said was the last game he worked on.
Rob Berk then asked the artists' opinions of 1950's and 1960's pinball art? Kevin was first to reply, saying that the early pinball art was more "stylized", where today there is more "realism", the abstract not being too acceptable. John then remarked that he loves the art of Roy Parker. Greg then told us that he had learned a lot from past art, adding that it "set precedents for what's expected of pinball art today".
Someone next asked the artists if there ever was anything they had wanted to do, but were not allowed to? After Kevin said he couldn't think of anything, Greg said that he "agonized" over Data East's decision to use "photographic backglasses" rather than drawings. John Youssi then replied that with him "it happens every day with small things".
Rob Berk then thanked the artists for appearing on the panel, that drawing a round of applause. After that there was a short period when people took pictures of the displayed artwork. Then we broke for lunch!
THE REPRO-PARTS TRUTH IS OUT THERE
The first Friday afternoon seminar featured Steve Young of The Pinball Resource, a major supplier of parts and literature involved with repair/restoration of pinball machines. The title of Steve's presentation was "The Repro-parts Truth Is Out There".
Rob Berk introduced Steve, first saying that Steve has been a big part of Pinball Expo since it's beginning. After remarking that Steve is involved with publications and parts, he commented that reproduction of pinball parts was Steve's "forte".
Steve then began his talk by welcoming everyone to the Expo. He then thanked all the people "behind the scenes" at his outfit The Pinball Resource. Steve then began to present a slide show depicting what they do. He first showed pictures of some of the reproduced pinball items they provide including: flipper linkages, Gottlieb front and back doors, bell assemblies, and rebound rubbers.
We next saw some views of their parts and storage area, their UPS shipping computer, and bumper cap storage. This was followed by some scenes illustrating the reproduction bumper cap production process which was done at Donal Murphey's Electrical Windings plant in Chicago. After that we saw where reproduction bumper bodies and Gottlieb and Bally drop targets were produced. Steve then asked for questions from the audience?
The first question Steve was asked was if there ever was any "waste" when more items are made than are subsequently ordered? Steve answered that as orders increase making extras of an item is best. He then said a little about how they try to eliminate "big color variations" in the parts they reproduce - adding that their products have to pass the "buyer test", which he remarked was more stringent than the tests the original manufacturer put them through. Steve then told of various people/collectors all around the world that have helped him with some of his projects.
Some one then asked Steve if he has any trouble with current game manufacturers objecting to him reproducing pinball parts? Steve answered "no, they're actually 'endorsing' it". He then commented that Premier was great while they were still in business, and that Williams is a little harder to deal with, but are "OK".
Steve was then asked how he "breaks even" in his business? He first replied jokingly "I have lots of cheap help". Steve then said that his parts reproduction partner, Donal Murhpey, tries to keep from using his paid employees and often works on their parts during his lunch hour. He then commented that customer gratitude, and orders (of course) really help! Finally, he added "if demand gets too heavy in the future for Donal we might have to go somewhere else".
Next someone asked Steve if he was considering doing pinball cabinet decals? He answered that others have done a little of that, but he didn't see his outfit getting into stencils or decal production, but that he could direct people to those that do that kind of thing. When someone then asked how many orders he receives in a month, Steve replied "approximately 700". Five years ago, he went on, I was doing this only part time and processed only about 40 orders per month - adding that his business has had "very significant growth".
Steve was next asked if he planned on reproducing "deco bumper caps"? He replied that currently there was a "hold up" on that because they were trying to figure out how to produce "marbleized plastic" - adding that their initial discussions on that subject brought up several questions which still needed to be answered. Steve then commented that it would probably cost 10 to 15 thousand dollars to come up with the special molds required.
At that point Steve said he wanted the audience to vote for what they would like him to produce in the future? The three most voted for items were: Bally "door skins" (which Steve said would sell for $70); BLACK KNIGHT 2000 targets (which he said might cause a copyright problem); and spinner targets (both metal and plastic). Regarding the latter, Steve said that he could do the plastic ones without much trouble, but for the metal ones they might need to use a decal rather than paint them.
Steve then thanked everyone and said he wanted to wrap up his seminar by recognizing four people who help him a lot in his endeavors. Those people he said were Donal Murphey who helps produce parts in his factory, Gloria Puller and Tim Ferrante who work for him, and Gordon Hasse. That drew a round of applause.
Finally, Steve said he would also like to praise the collectors who have collaborated with him, as well as the collector community in general who purchase his products, then asking and receiving a round of applause for them. The seminar then concluded with a round of applause for Steve.
THE PAT LAWLOR SHOW
The final Expo seminar was a little "fun thing" put on by modern pingame designer Pat Lawlor, assisted by some of his cohorts from Williams. Pat called it the "Pat Lawlor Show" and patterned it after the popular TV show "Let's Make A Deal".
Rob Berk began his introduction of Pat's presentation by saying "you've waited a year to see him - and now he's back". He then named some of Pat's designs, ending by saying he wanted to introduce "an Expo favorite - Pat Lawlor", drawing a round of applause.
Pat began by thanking Rob for his "build up" which brought a round of applause. He then said that his presentation this year would be "close to last year's", adding "the views expressed will be ours, and not the company's."
Then getting to the "rules of the game", Pat said that we were allowed to ask them questions and that they had "a lot to give away". He said we could even ask about how bad the industry was doing, but could not ask "personal" questions, adding that they could not, however, talk about other companies. Pat then asked for a show of hands of how many "new Expo attendees" were present - quite few raising their hands.
Pat then introduced his cohorts, who he said covered all the "major disciplines" in the business. First was artist John Youssi, followed by game designer George Gomez. He next introduced their Head Of Software, Ted Estes, and Mechanical Designer John Crutch. Pat then introduced their ace marketing man Roger Sharpe, who he called "Mr. Pinball", who was in charge of their game "licensing". Finally, he introduced a "newcomer", Louis Koziarz who he said would help him distribute the prizes, and also Head of Engineering, Larry DeMar, who was in the audience. Each person Pat introduced drew a round of applause.
At that point Pat said "let's make a deal", telling the audience "you can ask us questions, and we can also ask you questions - it's all meant to be fun". He then asked for the first question?
The first question was for Roger Sharpe and was what was his all-time favorite pin? Roger answered that he was influenced in his earlier designs by Gottlieb's 1974 games FREE FALL and SKY JUMP, but that his personal favorites were that company's MAJORETTES (1964), COW POKE (1965), and HURDY GURDY (1966). Pat then told the questioner that he could choose as his prize either what he had in his pocket or what was on a card held by one of his cohorts. The person chose the card and received a sketch by artist John Youssi
Someone then asked the Williams guys why their new game SAFE CRACKER was made smaller than other pingames? The answer given was that the General Manager of the company asked them to try "something different", so they modeled the game after smaller European games, adding that they tried to make it "stand out". When offered the choice of what was in Pat's pocket or on the card in front of George Gomez, the questioner chose the latter, receiving a SAFE CRACKER backglass.
Continuing with SAFE CRACKER questions, someone asked if they had had any trouble with local authorities because the game dispensed tokens? The answer given was that the company lawyers checked the laws of various jurisdictions, and found that in most places they were "OK". The person asking that question decided to take what was in Pat's pocket, but after some "trading" ended up with a Williams tee-shirt.
The next question asked was whether it was easier or harder to design "licensed games", versus those done "from scratch"? Designer George Gomez answered that it was sometimes "each way". The "good thing" in favor of licensed games, he went on, is that everyone is exposed to the same "vision". On the "bad side", he continued, your implementation is "scrutinized" by the licenser, giving as an example his game CORVETTE. The person asking that question had a choice between Pat's hat and what was on a card in front of George. When he selected George's card he still got a hat!
Someone then asked Pat how he convinced Williams to produce their 1988 game BANZAI RUN? Pat answered that he first built a working prototype which he showed to company personnel. After seeing that, he went on, they decided to build it. When a question was then asked about the material used in the "power ball" used in their game TWILIGHT ZONE, it was answered that it was made of "a highly ground and polished ceramic" which was quite expensive and had the properties of being non-magnetic, light weight, and the same size as a standard pinball. When given the choice of a hat or tee-shirt the questioner opted for the shirt.
When Pat was next asked if there was a chance of a game similar to BANZAI RUN being made in the future, Pat answered "probably not in the foreseeable future" - the questioner then receiving a mouse trap as a prize. Roger was then asked if he thought it "ironic" that after helping to re-legalize pins in New York (showing they were not "gambling devices") that he now works for Williams who also produces slot machines? Roger answered "I guess it is". The prize offered for that question was either what was in Pat's pocket or on the card in front of Roger - he choosing Rogers's card and receiving an "eagle" from the top of Williams' 1993 game JUDGE DREAD.
Someone then asked, considering the current state of the industry, will Williams produce more "licensed games"? Roger answered that it was not "cost prohibitive" to use licenses, but they are not the only types of games they will do. The questioner ended up with some "stand-up" plastics from the game ROAD SHOW.
Somebody next asked about an "upright, 3-D, circus motif" game, asking what it was? The answer given was that it was "Top Secret"! That person's prize ended up being a backglass from NO FEAR. The next question was when trying to get a license do you ever get into "bidding wars"? Roger answered "sometimes, but we try to get out there early enough to prevent that. He then remarked that they had "sometimes gotten a license for less than their competitors because the license owner "likes us". When offered either a hat or what was on a card, the questioner opted for the card and received a CONGO backglass.
When the mechanical designer John Crutch was then asked if the design team has ever asked him to design something very difficult, John replied "not yet". The person asking that question receiving a nice coffee mug. When someone then asked when the playfield coating "Diamond Plate" was first used by williams on their games, it was said that it was on their 1988 game BANZAI RUN, the comment then being made that it "works great, and playfields made with it never go bad"! When the person asking that question was given the choice of a hat or Pat's pocket, he chose the pocket, receiving a "Slim Jim".
At that point Roger Sharpe was asked about the rumored "reprinting" of his classic pinball book of the 1970's, "PINBALL!"? He re[plied that he was "thinking about it" and had two choices - to either reprint the original version or "revise" it. Roger said that was a "tough call", adding that he might just reissue the original version, possibly next year. That questioner ended up being awarded a Williams "fun box" (containing plastics from two games), plus a coffee mug.
After that a few more questions were asked, and prizes awarded, but I think the above gives probably a good idea of how that went.
Pat next started talking about the question "where do you see pinball in the next four years?" Historically, he began, the industry has always experienced "peaks and valleys" - commenting that "games conform to current surroundings". Pinball, he then remarked, is not "revolutionary", it's "evolutionary". We were then told by Pat that he thinks the current "valley" has "bottomed out" and there are signs of recovery. He then said he believed that now the industry has a "chance to catch up", then adding that "games are a form of entertainment".
After commenting that some of the nicest people in the industry are "not hear anymore", Pat remarked that when people stop playing pinball, they won't need us" After telling us that there is new technology all the time, Pat remarked that the question for pinball is "is it a 'buggy whip' or a 'money making device'"?
On that theme Pat remarked that for pinball to survive operators need to get a return on their investment. Some operators, he then said, love the games and have faith in them. "Nobody knows the answer", Pat went on, then saying that the current mandate at Williams is "build the neatest pins you can to show the operators that pingames can be profitable".
"What will there be in 2000?", Pat then said, "I can't tell you now". That ended the seminar, Pat receiving a good round of applause. That also ended the Pinball Expo '96 seminars.
And that also ends Part 1 of my coverage of Pinball Expo '96. You'll have to wait until next time for Part 2, describing the second "Fireside Chat", the game auction, the autograph session, the Saturday night banquet, and the Exhibit Hall. You'll also have to wait to find out why I call Expo '96 "the year of coincidences"!
Use back to return to prior web page