Never played pinball in my life

By Cenobyte

April 24, 2012

11 years ago

Not long ago I never played pinball in my life. I guess that's something most people here can't say, but it's true for me. I might have played a game once or twice in the past, but that experience did not stick with me because I can't remember it. I'm not sure why...

In 2002 our company moved to a new location and I suddenly had 1000+ square feet left that used to be our office. I started building a large slot race track, because that was my main hobby at the moment. After completing this 75 feet three lane track I still had lots of space left and was wondering what to do with it. A second track maybe? I had a bunch of friends that came over on a regular basis for a beer and a couple of laps around the track and we started talking about what to add to our "Man Cave". At first a couple of arcade games entered when somebody mentioned a pinball machine. "What?? Can you actually buy these things privately?"

By then it was the year 2010 and I started looking around (like in "surfing the internet") and soon found lots of info. There were machines for sale, but what to get? I did not know anything about EM, SS, DMD or any of these abbreviations. What to do? I became a member of a Dutch forum and started asking questions there. I started reading stuff about pinball machines and I found out what the top machines where by reading websites like Pinside and IPDB. I also started watching Youtube video's about pinball machines and I started to like what I saw!

It wasn't until 2011 that I made the decision to buy one. Watching websites for local machines for sale, I focused on a "top 10" machine because I wanted a good start. On April 9th of 2011 the pinball hobby officially started for me when I bought a Star Trek: The Next Generation. It had been sitting in a barn for a couple of years, but otherwise looked in very nice shape. This machine would be my introduction to pinball, with all it's ups and downs...

The first week I had my Star Trek I played it a lot and had tons of fun! I did not know the first things about "rules of a game", but that did not matter: keeping the ball in the game and hitting stuff was all it took at that time. After a week my friends came over and I proudly revealed the game to them! Fun all around... for about an hour. Balls were getting launched on the play field and the machine started acting more strangely by the minute. We finally had to shut it down, ending the evening in disappointment...

If I knew then what I know now about this ST:TNG I would have probably set fire to it right there and then (well... I might have pushed it out of the game room first). This machine had gremlins in it that probably drove the previous owner insane just before next of kin sold this cursed machine off for $50,- It took me 8 months to figure out that two faulty connectors were the reason that this pinball used up LM339's like it used to consume quarters in an earlier life. But after fixing it myself and proudly posting this fact on numerous fora, I enjoy the hell out of it and I'm glad that I did NOT knew then what I know now ;-)

Going back to that first misfortunate night with friends & my ST:TNG fiasco, I did what any man would do in a situation like this. No, I did not have it fixed. No, I did not fix it myself (I wasn't able to identify a coil, let alone stick a soldering iron between these tender components). What did I do then? I bought another one so we could play pinball while I could figure out what to do with Captain Picard's gremlins. A Gottlieb Stargate soon joined the SciFi line up. And while I was at it: being a Corvette fan I also ran into a nice Corvette pinball machine needing some TLC.

At that moment I had a friend that came over to race slot cars when he saw my pinball machines. He told me that he also had 3 machines that were actually kind of in the way at his house. Would it be possible if I stored them for a while? Ofcourse I could play them if I did. Hmm, win/win situation, so this deal was closed quickly. Within a couple of days I could add a Johnny Mnemonic, a Pinball Magic and an Apollo 13 to "my" collection. The A13 was kind of a project, so unfortunately I did not ever see this machine in action... The PM was having problems and the JM had a hand that did not function. The Stargate had developed a small malfunction as well, so this hobby was going nowhere very fast...

I decided I needed help in saving this hobby and through a Dutch pinball forum I found somebody near me that wasn't trying to rip me off. This guy came over and helped me fix a couple of things and we had a great time working well past midnight on a couple of machines. He pointed me in the right direction on some technical stuff and told me to just dive in and start trying repairs myself. I bought some soldering gear and supplies (bulbs, fuses and other small components) and soon I was repairing the Stargate myself (after wrecking some more stuff first, but I guess that comes with the territory). I got rid of the A13 disaster (this project was still way beyond my abilities) and tossed in the PM to get a perfectly shopped White Water in return. Soon I also repaired Johnny's hand and in the meantime I was trying to figure out what was wrong with the ST:TNG.

And this is now. At this moment I am enjoying the pinball hobby a great deal. I added a nice Tales of the Arabian Nights and bought a Funhouse with a little work. I really enjoy working on these machines as much as I like playing them. I fixed a broken down whirlpool on my WH20, replaced stand up targets and fixed the DMD on my TOTAN and replaced transistors on my Stargate. I finally got my ST:TNG generation completely bug free and all these accomplishment give me great satisfaction. Oh, and then there's the pinball game itself! ;-) Playing these machines is great fun, especially with friends and especially if you can fix things yourself. I'm 42 years old and I can't understand why only now I discovered the magic Silver Ball.

Story photos



11 years ago

Welcome to Pinside Cenobyte. Thanks for sharing your story. Nice collection of pinball machines you have. Sounds like you have learned a lot about pinball in the last year or so.

11 years ago

Yes, I sure learned a lot! The first couple of months I was afraid of things going wrong with a machine, afraid that I had to call somebody to have it fixed. Now, only a year later, I'm fixing stuff myself and I'm enjoying it as much as playing my pinball machines. I'm even looking for ways to improve the (looks of) my machines, like touching up damaged cabinets and stuff. It's lot's of fun!

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