How it's made: Understanding the inner workings of a pinball machine

Oct. 27, 2017

While everyone has played a game of pinball, only a few really understand how these intricate machines work.

Few can resist the allure of a pinball machine. The face-paced movement, the flashing lights, and the sounds are triumph are truly mesmerizing. While everyone has played a game of pinball, only a few really understand how these intricate machines work. At the recent Maker Faire Denver, Mark Gibson, a longtime restorer and collector of pinball machines, curated an interactive exhibition highlighting the creativity and ingenuity of the original pinball machines.

According to Tyler Winegarner for Make: "Fun With Pinball is an exhibit dedicated to helping people understand the world of electromechanical pinball machines. Back in the 60’s and 70’s, pinball games had all the gameplay sophistication of modern machines, but their game state was maintained entirely without the help of transistors, computers, or solid state storage – it was managed entirely by solenoids, relays, and mechanical devices. In the exhibit, Mark Gibson has presented many of the mechanisms that went into these games as a single interaction – you can actuate them yourself with buttons that allow you to see how the mechanics take place."

According to David Grossman for Popular Mechanics: "Built from used pinball machine parts, 'Fun With Pinball,' as Mark Gibson's exhibition is called, has been traveling the country since 2013. 'The devices are all from electromechanical (EM) pinball machines which were made until the late 1970s when solid state (SS) machines built with electronics took over,' Gibson explains on his website. 'Most of these devices are well used, having been replaced during a game restoration, but still work well enough for demonstration purposes.'

The mechanics of these pinball machines offer a depth that may not be noticeable when you're in an arcade. There are switches and currents, electromagnets and acceleration, musical chimes that resemble small glockenspiels and vibrations emanating out of the box."

About the Author

Alexis Gajewski | Senior Content Strategist

Alexis Gajewski has over 15 years of experience in the maintenance, reliability, operations, and manufacturing space. She joined Plant Services in 2008 and works to bring readers the news, insight, and information they need to make the right decisions for their plants. Alexis also authors “The Lighter Side of Manufacturing,” a blog that highlights the fun and innovative advances in the industrial sector. 

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