What an amazing transition through time. Starting out as a form of entertainment during the great depression and becoming so popular that almost 150 pinball machine manufacturers sprang up in the early 1930's.
Over the years we have seen some pretty amazing inventions: Electricity allowed games to become more automated. Bumpers, flippers and lights were all great inventions. Those are what elevated the popularity of pinball in the early days and are the main ingredients that go into almost every single pinball game.
In the early 1950's, score motors were used when a player would start a game, score 5 points or when it was required for the game to add and count down a bonus. Motors were also used in some games to put on a light show. All of this without the use of any electronic circuitry. A motor mounted to a disc would turn around 11 RPMs. Another disc attached to several lights in the game would create the desired effect that was used for the theme of that particular game. All of this was done without the player knowing there was a motor being used. Bally's 1972 Time Zone is a perfect example of this. In the early 1990's pinball began Turning heads with the creation of The Bride of Pinbot. Bride of pinbot used a motor attached to a rotating head to morph it from a robot into a beautiful woman. The motor was not continuous and would only turn when a player had reached a new level in the game.
Rudy the talking dummy is the main attraction in the Williams Funhouse amusement park. Rudy has eyes that follow the ball and his mouth moves while he talks to you. Even a talking dummy gets tired and falls asleep. All of this wonderful effect is created with movable gears and coils.
Indiana Jones allows the player to control a mini playfield separate from the main playfield. Two coils operate like a "sea - saw" effect allowing a player to control where the ball will travel for higher awards and points.
Twilight Zone uses magnetic powers to "flip" the ball on it's mini playfield. The magnetism gets its power from two magnets under the mini playfield. Each located just in the same spot a flipper would be if placed on top of the mini playfield. A well timed shot and the ball crosses over into the Twilight Zone.
So there you have it. Some pretty awesome inventions to make pinball more challenging and exciting. Please tune into my next article about pinball and it's relationship with our culture.