I owe my love of pinball to my older brother. He is a great guy and always took me along when he went to the bowling alley with his friends. Of course they bowled a few games but eventually made it over to the arcade where they would spend the rest of the evening playing pinball. I wasn't very good at playing, but I could watch them for hours.
The first game that stuck in my mind was a 1981 Stern Freefall. Looking back - no wonder I remembered it so well: scantily clad women on a gorgeous backglass, electronic voices, and that ingenious mechanism that would stairstep the pinballs down after each lock. They would rack up a few free games and let me bat the ball around but I didn't have the playing skills that they did...yet!
Fast forward a few years and we're in the video game boom. I would go to the arcade with some friends, each of us with a couple of bucks, and found that I could make my money last for a couple of hours - as long as I stuck with the pinball machines. After thirty minutes my buddies, out of money, would find me playing Comet or Space Shuttle with enough money in my pocket to buy some candy on the way home. I was hooked.
I continued playing pinball regularly but never dreamed of having one at home. Occasionally an arcade would place signs on the machines with sale prices but they were always upwards of $2-3k and it may as well have been a million bucks on my part-time after school retail wages. I put the thought away and just enjoyed playing games when I could.
Down the road, I'm living the dream: married, house, career, etc and I stumble upon Mr Pinball Classifieds on my dialup internet. Not only is there someone in town selling a pinball machine, but it's only $600, and it's a High Speed - one of my favorites! I contact the guy and he invites me over to see his collection. After playing some of his 20 machines(!), I hand him the cash and join the ranks of pinball ownership.
There's always a large learning curve when you begin a new hobby and this was no exception. Despite measuring all the door frames, the game wouldn't fit into the den (or any other room in the house) but we could get it into the kitchen. I found out that High Speed has a slightly larger backbox than normal and I didn't know how to remove it! Three days later the left flipper stuck in the upright position. So now I have a non-working pinball machine crammed in next to the breakfast table. I am very thankful for an understanding wife!
Twelve years later, I'm enjoying pinball as much as ever. I keep up with all the newsgroups, attend the local shows, and even do some repair work on the side. I've learned so many things thanks to all of the helpful and generous people in the hobby.
Thanks for reading!