Game tables where players score points by directing balls to targets, pockets, and other objectives.
The Pinball Expo '88 tour arrives at Williams Electronics, Inc. A technician solders parts on a Williams Taxi playfield. Williams Taxi pinball machines undergo test and burn-in before shipment.

A highlight of Pinball Expo '88 was the tour of the Williams Electronics pinball machine factory. We watched metal parts fabrication, playfield construction, component wiring, cabinet assembly, final testing, and crating for shipment. The two dozen photos that accompany this story show how raw materials were transformed into Williams Taxi pinball machines.

David Silverman lectures about pinball at the Smithsonian. David Silverman traced pinball's origins to the Château de Bagatelle. David Silverman's lecture slide shows Knock Out's playfield, backglass, and art David Silverman's games, Nugent and Indiana Jones, in the atrium at the Smithson

Pinball machine collector David Silverman brought nine of his games to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC on Halloween Day 2009 to promote his planned National Pinball Museum. Smithsonian visitors could play Silverman's games before and after his 90-minute lecture about pinball history and art.

Diagram of Monster Bash pinball machine screen printed onto an old book page. Artist Sara Selepouchin at the Crafty Bastards! Arts & Crafts Fair. Artist Sara Selepouchin explains her design and printing process.

Sara Selepouchin designs offbeat diagrams of everyday machines, which she silkscreens onto handy household items. I could not resist buying her pinball machine diagram featuring Williams' Monster Bash.

Dickson Nickelodeon Fall 1974 cash box receipts page 1 Dickson Nickelodeon Fall 1974 cash box receipts page 2 Dickson Nickelodeon Fall 1974 cash box receipts page 3 Dickson Nickelodeon commission statement for October 13, 1974

My friends and I operated the Dickson Nickelodeon, a pinball arcade/coffee shop in the basement of a dormitory at Cornell University. We had acquired 23 (very) used coin-operated machines: pinball machines, arcade games, vending machines, and a penny scale.

During the 16 weeks of the fall 1974 semester, I recorded the cash box receipts for each of the 17 working machines. I don't know why I retained those records; I wish I had kept all the machines instead.

Can you guess which games were the most popular?

Whiffle pinball game ready to play Whiffle pinball game with its disassembled base Upper playfield of Whiffle pinball game Decal identifies Whiffle pinball game

Automatic Industries of Youngstown, Ohio manufactured the first coin operated pinball game, Whiffle, in 1931. Soon they offered a bewildering array of games with the Whiffle name, including this game, which was converted (or built) to operate without coins.

Crating Taxi games for shipment at Williams Pinball Factory Playing Williams Taxi at Pinball Expo '88

In the shipping section, we watched the final step in the birth of a Taxi pinball machine. Packers folded the backboxes down onto the lower cabinet and tipped each game into a waiting cardboard carton. Legs, coin boxes, manuals, and other loose items were packed in the cartons before they were sealed.

We rode back to back to Rosemont in charter buses for afternoon sessions and dinner. When the exhibition hall opened at 7 PM, we found a half dozen Taxi pinball machines ready for us to play.

Testing Taxi games at the Williams Pinball Factory Troubleshooting Taxi games at the Williams Pinball Factory

In the testing section, we saw dozens of completed, legless Taxi pinball machines powered on and ready to play. Testing technicians ran through self test sequences and briefly played each machine. The games were left on to stress any faulty electronic components into early failure.

Defective games were repaired in place or pulled aside to the troubleshooting area. Here technicians had more sophisticated testing tools to diagnose and correct problems. As we saw in the playfield wiring section, some playfields were returned for rework.

Data East Laser War whitewood playfield Data East Laser War whitewood upper playfield Data East Laser War whitewood lower playfield

Joe Kaminkow designed Data East's first pinball machine, Laser War. This whitewood playfield, dated 1/22/1987, has a layout similar to the production game released in March 1987. Data East displayed this whitewood at Pinball Expo '88.


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