You ever get sick of the change in your pockets wearing you down? You know what the best use of that unnecessary weight you’re carrying around is? Well, last month I would have said dropping it out of the 6th floor windows of the Tattoodo offices, but since I’m not allowed to do that, I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s playing pinball. I’m a mid-level pinhead (which is what pinball enthusiasts call each other, unfortunately), but there are some hardcore pinball lovers out there —and some hardcore pinball tattoos.
Modern pinball really begins in 1947 when the Gottlieb company released a machine called Humpty Dumpty which featured the first appearance of flippers. There is a rich history of games similar to pinball dating back several centuries before, but with no player control, they were more games of chance than games of skill. Flippers put actual control of the ball at the player’s fingertips, and this revolutionized the game.
Gottlieb and other companies had spent the previous decades improving pinball, which had evolved from a 17th century game called bagatelle. Early pinball games were rather crude and hinged upon getting balls into holes by bouncing them off of pins. This, of course, was up to physics and chance and not in the player’s hands. In 1931, Gotlieb’s Baffle Ball became the first coin-operated machine to hit the market. It was met with resounding popularity as people were keen on new forms of cheap entertainment during the Great Depression. In 1933, Pacific Amusement launched Contact, the first pinball game to feature electrical elements, another giant leap in pinball technology. By the end of 1932, no less than 150 companies in the US were producing pinball games. Two short years later, stiff competition reduced this number to a mere 14.
During World War II, the pinball companies used their resources to produce machinery for the war effort. Post World War II, pinball enjoyed another golden age of popularity and evolution – including mechanisms for detecting tilt, the fan-favorite multiball, and the the addition of replays for high scores.
1975 saw another explosion in the world of pinball possibilities with the introduction of solid-state electronics. What was once accomplished by an intricate series of scoring reels and electromechanical relays was now accomplished entirely on a circuit board. This also allowed for the introduction of digital displays and digital sound.
Sadly, the video game boom of the 1980’s forever dethroned pinball as America’s number one arcade amusement. But that didn’t stop the progress, or the love, of the game. To see proof, look no further than these amusing pinball tattoos.
Don’t these cool pinball tattoos just make you want to grab all those quarters you’ve been saving for laundry and run down to the arcade for endless minutes of fun? Me too, but in NYC a game of pinball costs a buck, so I usually only play on the days I donate plasma.