I'm a writer, born in San Francisco in 1963.
In the mid-'70s, I played my first pinball in the back room of a barber shop down the street, and the bowling alley across town. I remember a King Pin by Gottlieb that I liked very much.
Later in the decade, I worked in a comic book shop with a small arcade next door. The cool kids were usually gathered around a Darling by Williams. I snuck in to play their Darling a time or two — compared to the Gottlieb Sing Along on the same aisle, it was drab and lifeless. (No surprise that 40+ years later, we made Sing Along #26 and Darling #276 on the Pinside EM List of 286.)
An EC Comics collector named Daryl played Sing Along with me. He reminded me again and again to concentrate. Once, a friend of his joined us to kibitz, and I made a good nudge: The ball bounced hard and fast off the right slingshot, lighting the white hole for special and straight in. "Wow", said the fellow.
"I didn't...." I started to say.
"You knew exactly what you were doing," Daryl said. "Now *concentrate*."
When I feel like I'm one with the machine, it's for the concentration that Daryl the EC collector insisted on. I'll always thank him for that.
That was 1977 or '78. I haven't played much pinball since then, because Sing Along is the only machine that is — there's no other way to say it — one with me.
Sing Along's gameplay is minimal. In pinball, in writing, in life, less is more. Every bell and whistle, every ramp and spinner, every special dot matrix effect that they've added to pinball machines detracts from the experience for me. (Though there was a Williams Whirlwind at the burger joint near my home at the turn of the '90s, and I enjoyed that greatly. "Looks like rain!")
In 2020, I lost my place in San Mateo, Calif., and moved in with family across the bay in Hayward. That made it convenient to visit the Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda (between home in Hayward and work in Berkeley on Interstate 880). When the museum reopened post-pandemic this June, I joined for a year, and declared this my Summer of Sing Along.
My eyesight, reflexes, and hand-eye coordination aren't the same as they were in 1979 and 1991, that's certain.