Saturday, June 30, 2007

Pinball machines

Yesterday evening I went with my brother to pick up a pinball machine he had bought. He already has one in his home: a worn down 1975 Bally Kick Off machine.

It's still fun to play at times, but it could use some restoration. So... my brother decided to buy a second machine. After some searching on the second hand sales sites he finally bought a 1990 Williams Funhouse.
It's a pretty well known machine, since it's very colorful and has a moving head in it.

While talking to the seller I once again realized that pinball is really dying. Twenty years ago we'd have at least four or five arcades nearby where we lived. And each arcade would have at least somewhere between 10 and 15 pinball machines.
The biggest arcade had at least 50 of them. That was so much fun. More fun than all the other video games they had, even though those drew the bigger crowds.

But with video games moving into the living room, the arcades were not making enough money anymore. So these days most of them have closed down. And the ones that are still there, have switched to only having slot machines.

Which isn't exactly the same thing as a pinball. Especially not when you try to nudge them a bit, which is really frowned upon by the arcade owners.

So with no arcades to host the machines, vendors shut down one after the other. Today there is only one big vendor left: Stern. They're a relatively new company, so not a survivor from the old days. But still, Stern makes pretty well designed pinball machines based around things like movies. They lack some of the character and originality of the older machines, but they're real pinballs and as long as Stern is the only company still making pinball machines I won't be complaining too much.

But there are also a lot of pinball aficionados our there, keeping the hobby alive. They buy old machines, restore them with a lot of skill, time and dedication and then send or sell them off to someone else - hoping they too will pick up the love for pinball. In this case the receiver was my brother, who doesn't need to pick up the love. He likes pinballs almost as much as I do. But he does have to little kids (ages 5 and 7) that still need to learn to appreciate it.

One thing I didn't really realize until yesterday was how heavy pinball machines are. They actually need to be quite heavy to withstand all the kicking, shoving and nudging that used to go on at arcades. But nudging a 140 kilo machine isn't exactly the same as trying to lift it into a car. My arms are still hurting....

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