Friday, March 4th, 2011

Things You May Not Know About Pinball

"While it may seem quaint and nostalgic now, pinball has surprisingly illicit roots: It was declared illegal in New York City in 1942 because the machines were considered gambling devices, and according to news reports at the time police officers seized some 3,200 machines. Legend has the police smashing them with sledgehammers and hurling the remnants into the river, though actual accounts say that the metal parts were melted down to make bullets for the war effort. In any case, the law was finally overturned in 1976, when a 26-year old pinball wizard named Roger Sharpe predicted—and made—a predetermined shot in a courtroom, thus proving that pinball was not, in fact, a game of chance."
Huh! I didn't know that. (Or if I did know it at one time, I'd forgotten it.) So that means that The Who's Tommy, which came out in 1969, was totally based around illegal activity—besides drugs and child molestation, I mean. There are a number of interesting things about pinball I didn't know, it turns out. Like that Chicago's Stern Pinball, Inc. is the last pinball machine manufacturer in the world. That makes sense, I guess, what with Xboxes and Angry Birds and whatnot. As does the fact that there is a competitive pinball league in New York and that its players say things like, "Just relax, take it easy, focus, and the ball will come to you." Those guys are total Zen masters.

8 Comments / Post A Comment

mukmuk (#10,226)

Yo, Stern had a few bad years there but pinball is coming baaaack! They all up with making a Rolling Stones machine and then there are rumors of a Tron pin being made too. Awesome. Actually I always think pinball is getting huge again until I venture away from Seattle. People look at you like you are some kind of broken confused leper from the past if you ask where the nearest pinball machine is.

GailPink (#9,712)

Ooh, thanks for the video! Nice Flash Back!

deepomega (#1,720)

I saw Tommy when I was like… 8? And it took a long time for me to figure out that pinball was not actually a cool thing for dudes to do. (They mad it seem SO COOL.)

scully (#10,214)

Attack From Mars pinball is pretty much the most fun you can have for fifty cents these days.

permafrost (#2,735)

One of the best places on earth if you are visiting Las Vegas is:

Pandemic Endemic (#3,825)

Makes me sad that my parents never ended up naming my brother Tommy, like they'd originally planned as an ode to my father's love of pinball and pachinko.

I'd also like to second what mukmuk said – we in Seattle are really lucky to live in this magical bubble where it seems like pinball rules the world. Hope to run into you all at Shorty's sometime!

lexalexander (#2,960)

I haven't tried it in a few years and don't know if it has been maintained, but Pinmame used to offer free download of a pinball simulator for PC, as well as links to sites from which you could download free simulations of hundreds of pinball games, including Addams Family (at the time the best-selling pinball game in history) and Xenon (the first digital pinball game). Anyone feeling adventurous, and needing a timesuck, is welcomem to check it out.

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