It was a game that morphed from the French game of bagatelle. In the 1930s, it really exploded as a gambling thing, and that’s where pinball got this gambling association.
Coming out of World War II, the gambling laws were changing in the United States. In particular, in 1950, the Johnson Act made it difficult for slot machines or any sort of gambling device to be used in public. It was a federal offense. So, pinball had to shed its gambling association to become a game of skill. In 1947, they came up with this crazy idea of adding flippers to the machine.
Gottlieb came out with the first flipper machine. Instead of just letting the ball fall into a hole worth points or money, now the player actually had some control over the ball. With flippers, you could steer the ball into different point areas. All the companies jumped on this flipper technology—Gottlieb did not patent it. Soon everybody was using flipper machines, and it made all the pre-flipper machines of the ’30s and early ’40s—the pre-1947 stuff—obsolete.
In the ’60s, games became more technologically advanced, and in the ’70s they were still using the same electromechanical principles of coils (which are magnets), relays, and stepper units, which are, more or less, one-bit memory units, in a mechanical sense.
By about 1977, 1978, the companies all dropped the electromechanical stuff and went to solid state, using microprocessors to control the games as opposed to having everything hardwired with relays and stepper units. I collect the pre-solid state games.
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