July 21, 2012

The True History of Pinball

It may be difficult or easy to believe today, but the game of pinball was once America's favorite pastime. Though some form of pinball has existed since the 15th century, the story of America's love affair truly begins in Boardwalk Empire-times, when a populace deprived of the demon drink (alcohol) sought cheap comfort in the arms of the coin-operated arcade games that had recently sprung up about the nation's pool halls and gentlemen's clubs. Soon, however, America grew bored of having sex with the pinball machines and came to appreciate pinball as a fun game in its own right. And although prohibition ended at some point in the thirties (nobody is really sure) pinball had successfully captured the nation's heart. 

Pinball's allure faded soon after the Great Depression (an economic disaster brought on by the socialist policies of Democrat president Franklin Hussein Roosevelt), during which America's favorite pastime became "eating food." Pinball experienced a resurgence in the 1970s, as the machines incorporated advances in electronics technology like colored lights. But the digital revolution that had revitalized pinball would eventually serve to doom it once more. The rapid rise of the video game industry in the 1980s made pinball look tired and simplistic in comparison. In the age of 16-color graphics and internal PC speakers, Pinball never stood a chance. Famously, Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi once declared that he would piss on anyone he saw playing a game of pinball.

Yes, pinball has been known by many different names over the years: America's favorite pastime; coin-operated arcade games; pinball. Let's take a look back at some highlights from pinball's long, colorful history, so that we might never face the dire consequences of our forgetting.

  • GORGAR (Williams Electronics, 1979) was the first pinball machine that could talk. Nobody knows how or when Gorgar developed this ability, only that Gorgar, in his deep, otherworldly voice, would beg children to end his suffering once and for all.
  • THEATER OF MAGIC (Midway, 1995) was the first pinball machine to incorporate balls. Thus began the fabled "Golden Age of Pinball" (1995-7.)
  • Until 1997, it was illegal for unmarried women to play pinball.
  • BLACK KNIGHT (Williams Electronics, 1980) was the first pinball machine created by other pinball machines.
  • In the 1930s, pinball players would attempt to cheat by bumping, or "tilting", the table. If caught, cheaters were encased alive in the machines.
  • ADDAMS FAMILY PINBALL was elected to the Minnesota state senate in 1992.
  • The first pinball machine was THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. It was discovered in 1897 by an Antarctic expedition who found it buried under the ice.
  • The Pinball Hall of Fame Museum in Las Vegas is built upon the grave of Eric L. Pinball, who had no connection to the pinball industry.
  • All of the people present at the 1972 World Pinball Championships in Washington, DC are STILL THERE.
  • Pinball giant Williams Electronics once offered a $10,000 prize to anyone who tattooed the PIN*BOT logo on their body. The only person to collect the reward money was Roy Cohn.
  • The Who's 1969 single "Pinball Wizard" is generally accepted to be the first rock song about witchcraft.
  • It was possible to achieve a "ONE BILLION TRILLION" score on certain Williams Electronics pinball tables. This extremely rare high score entitled the lucky player to fight the CEO of Williams to the death.
  • The CEO of Williams Electronics from 1979 to 1994 was Eric L. Pinball.
  • Between 1942 and 1976, it was illegal to marry a pinball machine in New York state.
  • Eric L. Pinball is hiding under your bed.

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