Being a person of a certain age I started selling pinball tables in the 1960’s and well into the 1970’s.
In those days there were three big players namely Bally, Gottlieb and Williams with Chicago being the pinball capital. I visited the Williams factory in the late 70’s and was amazed at the scale of the factory and the output which often bordered on between 7,000 to 10,000 units per game. Sales were worldwide with the UK one of the biggest markets. One of my customers had a permanent standing order for 10 of the latest model as they arrived. Pinball was flourishing.
Most pinballs in those early days were in pubs and arcades but with the gaming act restricting the supply to rental only in pubs the popularity declined with pool tables filling the void left.
These days there is a huge renaissance with pinball devotees buying for their own in-house entertainment
To the untrained the inside of the early pinball was repair nightmare. You had to be skilled at reading a schematic diagram and be patient enough to follow wires to the source of the fault. Solenoids and switches were also nowhere near as reliable as they are now. These days the advent of solid state electronics makes tables much more reliable and consumer friendly.
Game features have also come a long way and with celebrities such as Metallica and the Beatles endorsing pinballs they are appealing to a huge new generation.
Pinball manufacture is dominated by Stern Electronics in Chicago although there are some new emerging manufacturers confirming the increased popularity.
At the recent EAG exhibition in London you had to queue to play the latest machines just as you had to with video games in the past. The Beatles pinball played their music and showed videos of the band in action as you reached different levels of play.
The thrill of play is still there but technology has sent the games to an unprecedented level.