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The History of Pinball

A Coin-Operated Arcade Game

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Pinball Machine with Skulls

Pinball Machine with Skulls

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Pinball is a coin-operated arcade game where players score points by shooting metal balls on a inclined playfield, hitting special targets, and avoiding losing their balls.

Montegue Redgrave & Bagatelle

In 1871, British inventor, Montegue Redgrave was granted US Patent #115,357 for his "Improvements in Bagatelle".

Bagatelle was an older game that used a table and balls. Redgrave's patented changes to the game of Bagatelle included: adding a coiled spring and a plunger, making the game smaller, replacing the large bagatelle balls with marbles, and adding the inclined playfield. All common features of the later game of pinball.

Pinball machines appeared in mass, during the early 1930s as countertop machines (without legs) and they featured the characteristics created by Montegue Redgrave. In 1932, manufacturers began adding legs to their games.

First Games

"Bingo" made by the Bingo Novelty Company was a countertop mechanical game released in 1931. It was also the first machine manufactured by D. Gottlieb & Company, who were contracted to produce the game.

"Baffle Ball" made by D. Gottlieb & Company was a countertop mechanical game released in 1931. In 1935, Gottlieb released a electro-mechanical standing version of Baffle Ball with payout.

"Bally Hoo" was a countertop mechanical game with optional legs released in 1931. Bally Hoo was the first coin-operated pinball game and was invented by the founder of the Bally Corporation, Raymond Maloney.

The term "pinball" itself as a name for the arcade game was not seen until 1936.

Tilt

The tilt mechanism was invented in 1934 as a direct answer to the problem of players physically lifting and shaking the games. The tilt debuted in a game called Advance made by Harry Williams.

Powered Machines

The first battery operated machines appeared in 1933, Harry Williams made the first. By 1934, machines were redesigned to be used with electrical outlets allowing for new types of sounds, music, lights, lighted backglass, and other features.

Bumpers, Flippers, and Scoreboards

The pinball bumper was invented in 1937. The bumper debuted in game called Bumper made by Bally Hoo.

Harry Mabs invented the flipper in 1947. The flipper made its debut in a pinball game called Humpty Dumpty, made by D. Gottlieb & Company. Humpty Dumpty used six flippers, three on each side.

Pinball machines during the early 50s began to use separate lights behind the glass scoreboard to show scores. The 50s also introduced the first two player games.

Steve Kordek

Steve Kordek invented the drop target in 1962, debuting in Vagabond, and multiballs in 1963, debuting in Beat the Clock. He is also credited with repositioning the flippers to the bottom of the pinball playing field.

The Future of Pinball

In 1966, the first digital scoring pinball machine, "Rally Girl" was released Rally. In 1975, the first solid-state electronic pinball machine, the "Spirit of 76", was released by Micro. In 1998, the first pinball machine with a video screen was released by Williams in their new "Pinball 2000" series machines. Versions of pinball are now being sold that are completely software based.

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