Before Pac-Man, before Pong, before Space Invaders there was pinball. And it was good.
While we were in Las Vegas this week for CES 2014 we had the distinct pleasure of stopping by the Pinball Hall of Fame, an amazing space dedicated to all things electromechanical. I spoke with Tim Arnold, Director of Things And Stuff (or, alternately, Stuff And Things) who has made it his life’s mission to maintain some amazing amusements.
Arnold has a collection amassed over many years. He was – and still is – a trained Bally’s pinball technician and he has hundreds of machines in storage that he has amassed in fire sales back at the tail end of the pinball craze. He rebuilds many of the machines from scratch, using good parts from bad machines to make one uber machine that anyone can play in his nondescript museum.
Arnold has it all: Gottliebs, Ballys, Midways, and more. He has standup arcade games, as well, including amazing electromechanical games like Bally Road Runner, one of the first arcade games to use transistor controlled electronics. He also has a mini workshop in back where he repairs the old machines, keeping them in working condition even 60 years after they rolled off the factory floor.
There’s a lot of history – and a lot of fun – to be found in the Pinball Hall of Fame. Arnold is a tinkerer and a dedicated maker. He recommended that young makers learn to build things, not just mash things together. By being good with your hands, he said, you ensure your job and your skills are always in demand.
Visiting a place like the Pinball Hall of Fame makes you feel in touch with the long arc of history that led from the first bells and gears of the original pinball parlors to the ultra-realistic game machines of today. It’s mind-boggling to think that we moved from the pinball machine – essentially a glorified gas pump – to the arcade machine to the home console in a less than 20 years. Plus the games are really, really fun.