Watch on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjFjubsrTMI
Pinball Hall of Fame Las Vegas - Computer Space, Atari Pinball History And Electromechanical Games!
Pinball, arcade games, mechanical games and more - getting hands on with vintage and retro gaming history at the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas! Learn the history of Atari’s pinball division and Syzygy’s Computer Space, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney’s first ever arcade video game from 1971. Of course, I also check out 100 years of pinball history and some more familiar arcade games too.
This is the world’s first arcade video game from 1971.
These are some newer arcade games - including some really weird ones I’d never seen before.
And here are some wonderful old electromechanical games, just like the ones I got to play with in my previous video at the Musée Mécanique.
This, well, this is a cat. You’ve probably seen those before.
…oh, and as we’re at the Pinball Hall of Fame, I suppose I should mention the hundreds of pinball tables, including some very rare examples of video game giant Atari’s short lived foray into the pinball market in the late 1970s.
But you don’t need to go to Las Vegas to see all of this - I mean, I recommend that you do because it’s really cool - but if you can’t make it right now don’t panic because I’m about to show you some of my personal highlights.
So let’s begin. You may recognise this iconic view across the Nevada desert - it is, of course, the world famous Las Vegas Strip and…
This is the brand new 25,000 square foot custom built home of the world’s largest pinball collection.
Now, I’m approaching this from the perspective of someone who isn’t really a pinball guy. Don’t get me wrong, I love the designs and I enjoy playing it - or at least attempting to play it and failing miserably most of the time - but the game’s heyday was a little bit before my time, and it certainly wasn’t as big in the UK as it was over the pond, which is a real shame.
The collection of over 400 tables ranges from the 1930s believe it or not - and these photos are from their website because I somehow managed to miss this one on my wander around - and of course they go all the way up to the present day.
The museum was the brainchild of pinball collector Tim Arnold, who got his very first table at the age of 16 way back in 1972, and has been collecting and charging his friends to play ever since. The Hall of Fame is free to enter and pretty much everything here is either 25c or 50c to play, which if you ask me is a much better investment than the slot machines down the street - in fact the ones in our casino weren’t even working because they’d been hacked. Oops.
Anyway, back to The Pinball Hall of Fame. It’s a registered nonprofit with proceeds going to benefit various charities, and it’s staffed by volunteers from the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors’ Club, who you’ll see pottering around with tools and opening up the machines for maintenance, which is a very cool part of the experience and they’re quite happy to chat about their work too.
This is very much a handmade affair, and I really enjoyed all of the signs, ranging from game instructions to asking people not to put money in so-called “dark” (ie switched off) machines or even attempt to switch them on.
I bet there’s a story there.
The volunteers’ humour really comes across in these and I enjoyed reading them as I went around - including this one for “Super Duper Man” from Atari, which apparently Tim bought new in 1979.
Of course, as an Atari fan I have to take a minute to talk about its short-lived pinball division. You may be familiar with the dedicated Video Pinball console from 1977 - something that I’m going to be covering at some point in the future - or indeed the arcade version from the following year, or even the version on their 2600 console, released in 1980.
In the early 1970s Atari was basically in the process of inventing the entire video game industry - but they certainly weren’t dumb and knew that pinball was big business.
So in 1976 they threw their hat into the ring and released The Atarians, quickly followed by 6 other tables over the following 3 years, including this Superman, one of their final models, in 1979.
Atari was a very innovative company at the time, and their pinball tables weren’t like most of the older ones you see here. For a start, they didn’t bother with all of that old fashioned mechanical stuff, playing to their video gaming strengths and designing their tables entirely around solid state PCBs, meaning that their tables required a lot less maintenance. Other players in the industry also experimented with the technology around this time, and solid state very quickly became the standard way of doing things.
Atari also committed to something called a “widebody” design, which - as you can probably guess from the name - was wider than the more commonly available tables making them more visually imposing - all the way up to the rather enormous Hercules which went down in history as the biggest commercially available pinball table ever made.
Sadly they don’t have one of those here.
As a newcomer to the industry Atari did have its fair share of problems - including inventing a new type of flipper that proved to be unreliable - and after losing the Superman licence - which up to that point had been their best selling table - new owners Warner decided to shut down the entire pinball division after 3 short years.
And that was that.
I did also spot these 4x4 and Road Runner tables which as far I can see online were actually prototypes that were under development when the division was shut down. It’s a real shame I didn’t get a chance to check these out but hey - it’s all volunteer run and they do an incredible job as it is, so it’s a good excuse to come back one day.
There are photos of all of their tables on the website, so I’ll just admire those and of course I’ll link to that in the description along with all of my sources for this video.
And I suppose before I move on from Atari - it is very local, being based a couple of hundred miles away in California after all - I should talk about this.
This weird looking thing is certainly something you don’t see every day, and something that’s a bit more in my wheelhouse. Computer Space was released by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney in 1971, under the company name Syzygy Engineering.
Recognise those names? Of course, the company was rebranded as Atari for the release of Pong the following year - and while they didn’t have one here, I did spot one in the Musée Mécanique in San Francisco which you can check out in my previous video. I’ll link that at the end of this one.
Computer Space was famously based on SpaceWar! - a game that had been doing the rounds on University PDP computers since 1962. The story goes that Nolan spotted it and knew that he could charge normal people money to play on it. So this was the result.
Of course, actual computers were very expensive in 1971, so the game was completely redesigned to use discrete components. So this doesn’t contain a CPU or RAM or ROM chips like later machines. It was manufactured by Nutting Associates and the distinctive fibreglass enclosure was actually contracted out to a local hot tub manufacturer.
This iconic machine’s other claim to fame is that it appeared in Soylent Green in 1973, marking the first time that a video game was featured in a movie.
Hopefully the volunteers will be able to get it back up and running and again I’ll have to try to pop back when it is!
Maybe if you’re local to the area and have the skills you could get in touch with them. I’m sure they’re very glad that I didn’t have my soldering iron with me.
Anyway, after paying one of many of this trip’s visits to Zoltar and my wife Kathryn wishing that I could be big - perhaps even as big as MrBeast one day - it’s back to reality and checking out those lovely historic pinball tables.
I mean, MrBeast’s 6’2. Zoltar can’t work miracles.
Chicago-based Gottlieb was of course very well represented, being one of the biggest and most iconic pinball manufacturers in their heyday, and I may not know much about pinball but I know what I like and I like the design of their tables very much indeed.
It’s interesting to see how the gameplay evolved over the years and how manufacturers started to incorporate more and more computerised elements to add depth and sophistication - qualities that I can certainly relate to. Ahem.
This Gottlieb Wipeout from 1993 was the kind of thing I grew up with on the odd occasion that I did encounter a pinball table and I’m including some footage of it in action here because, well, you haven’t really seen me playing with any stuff yet because I was generally the one doing the filming and everyone else was off having fun when it was my turn to be filmed. I can’t say I blame them.
As for the older mechanical games, I spotted some more of those as well, including this Williams Space Pilot from 1968 which looks really interesting and apparently uses actual fans to make the spaceship float around the playfield, and this Goalee, which is a really fun mechanical ice hockey game released by Chicago Coin way back in 1946.
I was really intrigued by this Bromley Little Pro Family Golf Game, which is an interesting mashup of pinball and golf and wasn’t actually as old as I thought - dating back to 1990. But it is very rare indeed, with only 250 ever being manufactured.
So after a quick stop to bother a cat - this volunteer told us that there are a few strays that like to hang out in the museum and they’re very friendly - it was time to check out the arcade games.
There’s a huge 4 player Daytona USA, and finding one of these in working order is a rare sight indeed these days.
They also have a really eclectic collection of classics - everything from Scramble to Enduro Racer, Burger Time, Ms. Pac-Man, and yep, even a Prop Cycle. I haven’t played this in a very long time.
This “Wacko” caught my eye for reasons that should probably be obvious. I hadn’t even heard of this Midway game from 1982, let alone seen its weird wonky cab before, and I probably would have benefitted from reading the instructions. Novelty cab aside though, I didn’t think it was all that great as far as arcade games go, but still a cool looking thing.
If you’re bored of baseball, why not check out the exciting new sequel Baseball II! It’s in this boneyard area awaiting restoration, but I’m sure it won’t be too long before visitors can get their hands on it along with the others here.
If you enjoyed this video you’ll probably also enjoy taking a look around the Musée Mécanique, a hands-on museum of all sorts of antique gaming machines in San Francisco which is up on screen right now. But that’s all I have for this one, so thanks to my Patreon and Ko-Fi supporters and YouTube Channel Members for providing the quarters today, and big thanks as always for watching.
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1934 Rockola Jigsaw Pinball Table: http://pinballmuseum.org/games/makehtm.php?game=1934%20Rockola%20Jigsaw,rockola_jigsaw,Pre-War
Tim Arnold / Museum Historical Photos Credit: http://pinballmuseum.org/history.php
Early Atari Employee Photo Credit: https://www.computerhistory.org/revolution/computer-games/16/185/769
Atari Pinball Info & Photos: https://www.pinballnews.com/site/2018/04/17/atari-pinball/
Atari Hercules Photos & Info: https://www.ipdb.org/showpic.pl?id=1155&picno=14950
Atari Road Runner Photo: http://pinballmuseum.org/games/makehtm.php?game=1979%20Atari%20Road%20Runner,atari_roadrunner,Atari
Atari 4x4 Photo: http://pinballmuseum.org/games/makehtm.php?game=1983%20Atari%204%20x%204,atari_fourbyfour,Atari
SpaceWar! Browser Emulator: https://www.masswerk.at/spacewar/
Williams Space Pilot Info: https://www.arcade-museum.com/game_detail.php?game_id=5573
Little Pro Family Golf Info: https://www.ipdb.org/machine.cgi?gid=5312
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