Hi! My name is Brannon and I'm 46 years old (in 2013).
I remember as a kid in the 70's, you could find arcades everywhere, and I remember playing an Evel Knievel pin that I was able to get replays on pretty easily. That allowed me to play that game for a long time on 1 quarter. I played other pins of course, but this one stands out.
I didn't think much about pinball shortly after that due to the arrival and allure of video games! All the convenience stores had a game or two, even! Of course we had to have the Atari at home, so played that to heck. I talked my dad into buying me (and my brother!) a TRS-80 Color Computer when it first came out in 1980. I started playing with the built-in computer BASIC programming language and completely fell in love with programming. I knew that was what I wanted to do for a living (I was 13-14 years old). Of course, it kind of gave me an excuse to play video games (this is my future! I would say...)
I did get my Computer Science degree in 1988, and it really is the right career for me. I started working for Harris in 1996 and they sent me to Alaska to work on a project with the FAA in Anchorage. In the break room at the FAA's ARTCC (where I worked at every day), they had a couple of pins. My boss and I would play nearly every day, with the loser treating the winer to a coke. They rotated in Demolition Man, Star Trek The Next Generation, Twilight Zone, Terminator 2, and No Good Gofers while I was there. I saw how much better pinball had become as far as goals, modes, rules, TOYS, etc.
A couple of years later, I was back home in Florida and thought it would be awesome to have my own pinball game. I found one for sale in a local classified ad - Bally's Dungeons and Dragons! Since I was a fan of D&D at the time, I thought this would be perfect! (I knew nothing about the machine at all!) So I bought it, I think it was $700.
I also didn't know a thing about REPAIRING pins, so the first time something went wrong I was completely lost. I had to call a local pinball company for help. They were happy to have my money, er... business! Another $700 for repairs and "shopping" the machine later, I decided I had better learn how to fix these things! So I bought a pinball repair book from the web and started learning.
My next machine was another local ad, Bally's Hardbody. This one was only like $400 though. I found out soon it was from the same designer as Dungeons & Dragons (Ward Pemberton) and the same era too (1987). What a strange coincidence!
I started looking for the machines that I loved from Alaska. I really liked Demolition Man a lot, and I found one from an arcade company in Orlando. Their price seemed high, so I tried to be smart and research what a good price to pay was, so I looked to eBay completed auctions. I was able to talk their price down to $1700, and even though that price was still high, they assured me it came with an in-home warranty. Since my repair skills were still not up to snuff, I thought it would be nice to have a hassle-free machine! I also agreed to buying a Last Action Hero pin, because I was a big Arnold fan and thought it looked like fun.
Well, there were problems with the machines. Simple things like lights not working to more complex things like magnets not functioning. I had them come out to the house a couple of times per their warranty to fix things. They never could fix the Last Action Hero problems, so they offered me a Lethal Weapon 3 as replacement, which I agreed to. But still, problems kept creeping up and they got sick of me calling them. The owner said, "Maybe you shouldn't own pinball machines, how about video games?" But I didn't want video games (I had computers and MAME already!) I realized I had paid too much for their machines and told them to just take them back and give me a refund. And they did!
By then I had learned enough by watching their repairs and doing my own research - I was ready to look for the machines I wanted at prices that were fair. I found a Demolition Man nearby for $700! I really wanted a STTNG too, as I was a big fan of the show and the machine was amazing, so I found one in Orlando for $2000. I really wanted a TZ too, but there were none available locally. I found a guy on eBay with a good reputation who had a clearcoated TZ and I bought it. I think it was $3000. He also had a Medeival Madness, which was a machine I had never even heard much about, but as I looked into it, it seemed like everyone thought this was either the best or one of the best pins ever. He wanted $4500 for it, so I bought that as well.
When I received the MM, I was stunned at how incredible the game was. They were right - this WAS the best pin I had ever played! I kept that MM for 3 years, and by then I was ready to part with it. I sold it for $7500 in 2006, which was a good price back then (of course, NOW...!)
My first NIB was a LOTR in 2004. I absolutely LOVED the movies and had read the early hype on this pin and simply had to have one! Even though the game was "clunky" (especially early on!) I really loved it. And it was a game that kept getting better as new ROM releases came out (thanks Keith!) I actually liked LOTR more than MM, and I still feel that way today. The layout is similar enough, but the rules for LOTR are inspired, especially if you enjoy the movies as much as I do.
I've bought and sold many pins over the years. I've had most of the 'A' titles, at least for a little while. Some lasted longer than others. I've owned several titles multiple times: DM (3x), STTNG (2x), TZ (3x), IJ (2x), LOTR (2x). Those are the games that I have probably enjoyed the most.
Below was my collection at one time, perhaps 2004.
I also had my own "linked" NBAFB's. I built my own cable - that was fun!