Wednesday, October 24, 2012
· 8 Illustrated Song Machines with 1 set of 12 views and 1 record each, plus 8 extra sets of 12 views
· 5 Quartoscopes and 10 sets of 4 dozen views
· 5 Automatic Phonographs with 1 record each plus 5 extra records
· 3 Illusion Machines
· 1 new Owl Lifting Machine
· 1 new Owl Dumbbell Lifting Machine
· 1 new Owl Flashlight Lifting Machine
· 1 new Owl Chimes Lifting Machine
· 1 Flashlight Grip Machine
· 1 Submarine Lung Tester
· 1 Rubber Neck Lung Tester
· 1 Hat Blower
· 1 Searchlight Grip and Lung Tester
· 1 Bag Punching Machine
· 1 Pneumatic Punching Machine
· 1 new Vertical Punching Machine
· 1 Sibille Fortune Teller plus 2,000 extra cards
· 1 large Horoscope Fortune Teller plus 2,000 extra cards
· 1 Conjurer Fortune Teller
· 1 pair Jumbo Success Fortune Teller (one for ladies, 1 for gentlemen)
· 1 Madame Neville Palmist with 1,000 letters plus 1,000 extra letters
· 1 Cupid Post Office with 1,000 letters plus 1,000 extra letters
· 1 Mills Perfect Weighing Machine
· 1 Large Electric Shock Machine
· 1 Doctor Vibrator
· 1 Lady Perfume Sprayer
· 1 24-Way Multiple Postal Card Machine with 2,000 cards plus 2,000 extra cards
· 1 Emblem Embossing Machine with 600 emblems plus 500 extra emblems
· 1 Windmill Candy Machine
· 1 Combination Money Counter for pennies
· 1 Automatic Pianola with 1 roll of music plus 2 extra rolls (4 pieces to the roll)
· 1 Cashier's Desk
· 1 Repair Outfit
· 1 Key Board with lock
· 48 Key Rings
· 96 Key Tags
· 36 Coin Bags
· 100 Perforated brass 1c brass slugs
· 50 Weekly Statement Sheets
· Various signs
The Illustrated Song Machine was a combination peep show and automatic phonograph.
Anyway, I know they're not video games, but I think these machines are pretty neat if you can find them. The Musee Mecanique on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco has a bunch of them. I think Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum in Farmington Hills, MI has them too, but I've never had the pleasure of visiting.
Monday, October 22, 2012
The website is Lance Carter's History of Racing Games and had a LOT more info about the game (including quotes fro Dr. Foerst himself).
The first thing I noticed is that I spelled Reiner's name wrong - it is actually Foerst, not Forest.
You can read the articles yourself, but among the many fascinating details
- The first Nurburgring game was started in 1973, maybe even earlier (it isn't entirely clear from the website, but the idea may have come in 1971, before Pong)
- Midway co-founder Iggy Wolverton visited Foerst and led him to believe that a licencing deal was in the works (or at least Foerst somehow got that impression)
- Foerst produced a version of the game in a tilting sit-in cabinet, another in a rotating cabinet, and even a "competition" version that allowed 8 machines to be linked together (and this was in 1983/84).
- Interesting info about the game's sounds.
- Foerst claims that after he and Ted Michon met in the Dusseldorf bowling alley (where they bowled together), Michon called his "boss" and then became nervous, told Foerst he had no choice but to end the conversation, and left (though he does say that he and Michon continued to correspond afterwards, which matches what Michon told me).
Friday, October 19, 2012
First up is this patent filed on January 30, 1978 by John Romano and Roger Hector of Atari, Inc.
It is for a two-player, head-to-head ifle game (non video).
The screen in between the players had obstacles like trees and islands that blocked your opponent's shot. It also displayed the score. The object was to hit your opponent's target.
Here's another Atari patent. This one was filed on April 28, 1977 by Steve Bristow and David Dean.
Off the top of my head, I don't recall seeing this one either. It doesn't look anything like Qwak or Triple Hunt.
Of course, just because they patented something doesn't mean it got to play testing. I don't know if it even means they built a prototype.
This one's not quite as interesting. It's another Atari patent (actually, there were 2 patents). This one filed on September 23, 1977 by Peter Takaichi and Andrew Graybeal.
This one is for a booth-style video game cabinet. I know that Elcon Industries made a cabinet like this.
Finally, here's one from Williams. Filed July 5, 1983 by Leo Ludzia and Romeo Ishaya.
BTW, Ludzia also got patents for the duramold cabinet (with Gary Berge) and the Joust cocktail cabinet (with Eugenia Akopian).
And while we're on the topic of cabinet desginers (who rarely get any credit), here are a few more I've found:
Brad Chaboya - Atari - Gravitar
Regan Cheng - Atari - Puppy Pong, Hi-Way, Stunt Cycle
David Cook - Atari - Tank 8
Michael Cooper-Hart - Exidy - Robot Bowl, Star Fire
Terry Doerzaph - Gottlieb - Q*Bert
George Gomez - Midway - Tron, Discs of Tron, Spy Hunter?
Chaz Grossman - Atari - Puppy Pong
Mike Jang - Atari - Starship 1
Phillip Kearney - Atari - Wolfpack (prototype)
Verl Olsen - Gremlin - CoMotion
Lonnie Pogue - Gremlin - Hustle
Robert Runte - Fascination, Ltd - Fascination
A. Ryan - Bally/Midway - Tron
Kenneth Sauter - Atari - Indy 800, Quiz Show
And some cabinet artists
Ray Maninang - Exidy - Crossbow, Cheyenne
Constantno Mitchell - Williams - Robotron
George Opperman - Atari - lots
Pat "Sleepy" Peak - Exidy - Alley Rally, Death Race, Score, Spiders From Space (prototype)
Kazunori Sawano - Namco - Galaxian
R. Scafaldi - Midway - Tron
Richard Taylor - Midway - Tron
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Exidy also released the cocktail-table game Table Pinball, presumably a cocktail version of TV Pinball.
This game looks virtually identical to TV Pinball except for minor variations in the cabinet and possibly different color overlays. Some sources list the game as coming out in 1973. If it is the same game, it seems a bit odd that Chicago Coin's version came out first as it seems more likely to me that they would have licensed it from Exidy rather than vice versa. For instance, they did license Exidy's Destruction Derby, which they released as Demolition Derby.
|Screnshots from the flyers of Chi Coin's TV Pin Game and Cinematronics' Flipper Ball. Or is it Flipper Ball and TV Pin Game?|
Video Pinball (Atari, 1979)
Now HERE was a decent attempt at a video version of pinball. Designed by Ed Logg, Dave Stubben, and Dan Pliskin, it used mirrored-in graphics to provide images of an actual pinball playfield (which was designed over a foam core painted with fluorescent paint). It had flippers, drop targets, rollovers, and thumper bumpers. It even let you nudge the game by pushing on the control panel. Atari made 1,505 of them and the Replay operator's poll ranked it as the 10th best-earning video game of 1979. .
Chicago Coin made just about every type of coin-op game under the sun but they were rarely the top producer in any genre. During the 60s they ranked well behind Gottlieb, Williams, and Bally in pinball (though they might have been a distant fourth). Looking at this thing from a distance, you wouldn't know that it wasn't a pinball machine. It had an honest -to-gosh pinball cabinet complete with backglass, flipper buttons, and plunger. When you got closer, however, you knew there was something amiss when you saw the playfield.
I hate to admit it, but this thing actually looks pretty darned interesting to me. The ball started off moving left and right across the playfield. Pulling the plunger caused it to shoot downwards into play (OK, that part doesn't sound so interesting). The flipper buttons consisted of a sliding mechanism with a hole in it , that separated a light and a photocell. The further you pressed the buttons, the more the flippers moved.
This was the same basic idea as Super Flipper. Meadows took it to the 1975 MOA show where it flopped and they never released it. Designer David Main ha this to say about it:
All of the information comes from the January, 1982 issue of Replay, from which the following photo was taken (please excuse the very poor quality - I scanned it in black and white several years ago because, at the time, I was only interested in the text. I threw the actual issue away since I didn't have the space for it).
Monday, October 15, 2012
On September 14, 1982, a year before Williams died, Russ Jensen talked to him on the phone.
During the conversation, Williams said that he was currently designing video games for Stern and for an unnamed Japanese company.
That is interesting enough in its own right, but he also mentioned that he had designed a video game/pinball combination that he sold to Gottlieb.
The video game portion had a Rubik's Cube theme and he thought that Gottlieb was going to call the finished game The Cube or Paparazzi.
AFAIK none of Williams' video game creations were ever released. Gottlieb did release the video/pin combination Caveman but that doesn't sound anything like the game Williams' described.
The two things that really jump out at me are that he said the game "used mirrors" and that the pinball and video game portions were "fully integrated".
From the description, that sounds an awful lot like the Pinball 2000 concept that Williams developed in the late 90s (chronicled in the documentary Tilt).
For those who don't know, Harry Williams was one of the absolute legends of pinball.
He started in the coin-op industry in 1929 and over the years he designed pinball games for just about every major manufacturer. His two most famous innovations were probably the first tilt device and Contact (often credited as the first machine with electricity, sound, and a kicker - though there were actually other machines that used them first).
It's hard to pick just one story from his career, but how about the tilt device?
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
One humorous incident involved the game's high score board. As was common at the time the default high score board consisted of the designers' initials. By tradition initials were listed in the order in which people contributed to the game. Joe Ulowetz listed his initials first but put those of his girlfriend (now his wife) second, though she had nothing to do with designing the game. As if that weren't enough, Ulowetz added an easter egg. Get a high score and enter his initials and you receive the message "You have the same initials as my Author." Enter his girlfriend's initials and you get "You have the same initials as my Angel". The bucking of tradition and the sappiness of the message demanded a response so one of the game's programmers altered the EPROMs on some versions of the games to replace the word "Angel" with something a bit more humorous.
McVey's first 6 attempts at the world record were unsuccessful (during one he passed out). On January 15, 1984 he tried again. With Pac-Man champions Chris Ayra and Billy Mitchell cheering him on, he began the arduous journey to the mythical billion-point barrier. Then, around the time he reached 800 million points, a friend burst into Twin Galaxies holding a certified letter claiming that someone else had reached not just one billion but TWO billion points. McVey was heartbroken. Until someone notice that the two billion point game was actually accomplished by a two-man teams who switched on an off. Reinvigorated, McVey pressed on. As he approached the record, the crowds grew. The local TV station sent a camera crew over to capture the event live and the glare from their camera was blinding. When he reached 990 million points, McVey had just six men left. Finally, at 10:45 AM on January 17th (he'd started at 2:00 PM on the 15th) McVey reached his goal and walked away from the machine after almost 45 hours.
He then made the short walk to his house, sat on the edge his bed and told him mother he was hungry. While mom made him macaroni and cheese, Tim, exhausted, fell backward onto his bed and fell asleep. When he woke up and asked for his mac and cheese, his mother told him he could have it but it might be cold – though it had been warm two days ago when she made it. McVey had slept for 38 hours straight. Unfazed, he heated up his victory dinner, wolfed it down, and headed back to Twin Galaxies. For his record smashing efforts, McVey got a free Nibbler game and a key to the city of Ottumwa, which later declared January 28th Tim McVey Day. The Nibbler game did not last long. McVey soon found himself out of money and wanting to play games. As he looked for a source of ready cash, his eyes fell on his Nibbler machine. Since the last thing he wanted to do was play more Nibbler, and the machine was doing nothing more than taking up space, he sold it to a rival arcade down the street from Twin Galaxies – according to Walter Day for about $50 worth of tokens - a decision he now regrets. McVey’s record did not last long either. In September 1984, an Italian teenager named Enrico Zanetti played the game for 40 hours and 15 minutes in a bar in Legnano, Italy on the outskirts of Milan, scoring 1,001,073,840 points. Zanetti had first read about McVey’s records in the pages of VideoGiochi ("VideoGames"), the leading Italian video game magazine of the time. In April 1984, the magazine had announced the formation of the AIVA (Italian Organization of Video Athletes) and began printing national record scores for various games. The next month, the magazine printed a chart of Twin Galaxies’ scores where McVey’s billion point Nibbler marathon stood in stark contrast to the then-Italian record score of 350 million points. Fascinated, the 15-year-old Zanetti decided to try and break the Italian record. After honing his skills at Chip’s Game arcade in Legnano, he switched to a bar called Bar Grillo, where the joystick was more to his liking. By late September, Zanetti was ready for his shot at glory. After the bar owner agreed to let him play on a Monday, when the bar would be closed, Zanetti started his assault on September 27. By Tuesday morning, he had passed the Italian record, which by then stood at 577 million. Still going strong, he decided to press on and try for the world record. By Tuesday afternoon, word had begun to spread and between 8:30 and 9:30 that evening, with Zaenetti’s score at over 900 million points, the news crews began to arrive. At 12:33 on Wednesday morning, Zanetti finally called it quits with 38 lives remaining. While Zanetti’s record drew a good deal of coverage in Italy, it went largely unnoticed in the US. Twin Galaxies could not verify it and McVey claims he did not hear about it until years later – though Twin Galaxies apparently did later list Zanetti’s record for some time before taking it down. As for Zanetti, in October 1984, he participated in a Heineken-sponsored Nibbler challenge in Turin, but finished second. He then retired from competitive video gaming for good, turning instead to ping pong, karate, and kick boxing.
McVey too went on with his life, but by 2008, his interest in Nibbler had been rekindled. By then, he knew about Zanetti’s score and was ready to establish himself once and for all as the undisputed Nibbler champion of the world. With Zanetti in retirement, however, he needed another opponent. He found one in Dwayne Richard, a Canadian multigame expert whose video game career had started around 1986. At the 2009 MAGFest 7 music and games tournament, McVey and Richard squared off in an attempt to set a definitive Nibbler record. Halfway to the billion-point mark, however, Richard’s game froze up. McVey continued for several hours, but when it became apparent he did not have enough men in reserve to break the record, he walked away from his game. Then, on February 14, 2009, playing in his own home, Richard set a new record, scoring 1,004,000,000 points in just 35 hours and 4 minutes – almost ten hours fewer than McVey had taken in 1983. The speed with which Richard achieved his record seemed too good to be true. And it was. When tapes of Richard’s and McVey’s gameplay were compared, Richard’s machine was observed to redraw the board much faster between rounds, shaving precious seconds off his time. When the discrepancy was pointed out to Richard, he voluntarily withdrew his score. While some suspected foul play, the difference was eventually traced to a single balky connector on the microprocessor on Richard’s machine. On July 31, 2011, McVey and Zanetti’s record was beat for real when Rick Carter scored 1,022,222,360 points at Richie Knucklez arcade in Flemington New Jersey. Carter’s unequivocal breaking of his record breathed new life into McVey and on Christmas day 2011, he settled the matter by scoring 1,041,767,060 points in his Iowa home. Meanwhile, on that same day, Elijah Hayter of Portland, Oregon, the son of Dig Dug world champion Ken House, was setting a new marathon record on Track and Field. In the summer of 2012 Hayter, set a new Nibbler Record surpassing Mcvey’s total by just over a million points. Then in November 2012, Rick Carter scored 1.2 billion points at Logan Hardware in Chicago to set a new Nibbler record that still stands as of this writing.
(for more on the Nibbler high score, see the following links:
and the recently-released documentary Man Vs. Snake - from which much of the above information was taken)
Life at Rock-Ola
|The Rock-Ola factory at 800 North Kedzie, Chicago|
…The plant also used to make, among other things, rocker arms for aircraft and tank engines. Some of the punch presses, still in use in 1982 for making vending machines, were 25 feet tall and had flywheels weighing probably 10 tons.
In that whole big building, there were only three elevators; one for office personnel, and two for the factory. Even though waiting for elevators was a major occupation of many factory people, anyone in a blue shirt or with grease on their pants knew better than to get on the office elevator.
One of the factory elevators was just large enough for a couple of can vending machines on it. The other was a personnel elevator for sending small parts between floors. The problem was that production of can vendors was done on two different floors. If you can imagine the elevator bottleneck trying to move 300 vending machines from the second floor to the fourth and then from the fourth to the first for crating and storage, well, it was a logistical mess.
The interesting spot in the whole place was the jukebox demo room, very well set up to resemble a darkly-lit, black-carpeted, leather couched cocktail lounge. I spent a lot of time in there.
Other floors were littered with 45s that were used to test the jukeboxes' loading mechanism. The designers would play kick Frisbee with a goalie at each end of the hallway.
And then You did some more writing and hopefully before you left that night you went through one more iteration. So basically we had…two code iterations a day. That's amazing when you look at these games where you get to see the results of your work and then make additions or modifications of corrections.
While they may not have been video game veterans, Rock-Ola's video game team didn't lack design skills. Jaugilas, Ropp, and Bak went on to design a number of successful home games at Action Graphics and Ropp became a top pinball game designer. The Rock-Ola designers, however, faced limitations that their cross-town colleagues did not.
The game developers at Rock-ola had an arm and leg tied behind their backs and were told to run the race and finish in the top 5. They made plenty of money that way. that is also why some of us were successful working on home game systems after Rock-ola. At least we got current technology to work with.
Rock-Ola didn't last long in the video game world. By the time Ropp was hired in 1982 the company was under a hiring freeze and beginning to feel the pinch from the coming crash. In addition the company's overall sales were in sharp decline. One VP tried to initiate the same bundling strategies they'd used with vending machines by requiring distributors to buy a certain number of jukeboxes for each video game they bought. Instead, the distributors bought neither and jukeboxes sales to 75 a week (from 750 not too many years before).
As for Rock-Ola, the company eventually moved to nearby (and much safer) Addison. David Rockola continued to show up for work each day into his 80s. In 1992 the company's jukebox assets were sold to Glenn Streeter of the Antique Apparatus Company who moved the company to Torrance, California where it still exists today. David Rockola died in 1993 at the age of 96.