I fell in love with pinball when I was around seven years old. I remember playing Gottlieb's El Dorado with my brother in a diner called Mike's(now called the Curve) in Madison, WI. Not only do I remember knocking down the big line of cacti drop targets, but also the attempt by our father to pull us away from the game to eat. Trust me, it was a TOUGH job. Quite honestly, we would always pick restaurants based on whether they had an arcade or not. :)
Shakey's Pizza Parlor was always a favorite. They seemed to have the best vids and a few pins as well. Pac-Man, Asteroids, Donkey-Kong, Space Invaders, and of course, Pong...
In grade school I played Williams Flash, designed by the great Steve Ritchie, at an Ice Cream Stand and delinquent hangout called "the Shops" near West High School. It was a smoke filled room, "bad" words were sometimes thrown around, and I would just stare at the hot blond on the backglass. What a time to grow up. We would "sceetch" our way over to the place. "Sceetching" was done during the winter months when you would have tons of snow in Wisconsin. You basically grab the rear bumper of whatever vehicle was speeding by. Not a real safe endevor, but fun and transportation none the less.
The first pinball that I owned was Williams Jungle Lord. To this day it is the greatest gift I have ever received. Imagine your brother and dad telling you that you need to enter another room to see your gift. Rather confused, I followed them into an area they were trying to block me from seeing. To my unbelievable surprise, there it was, all lit up in it's glory. My brother said, "it's all yours" and I was like, "yeah, right!"(in shock as I was). He said, "No, seriously". I would have fainted if not for the adrenalin and extreme want to push the start button...
My first purchase of a pinball machine came in 1995 when I bought Williams Black Knight 2000, again designed by Steve Ritchie. I still believe this to be one of the greatest pinballs of all time. Revolutionary in sound, art, multi-level playfield design, and besides Circus Voltaire's Ringmaster, the Black Knight insults you like no other machine can. "HA, HA , HA, HAAAA!!!!" "No, Way!"
Pinball is a way of life...it is definately more than just a hobby. You learn something new every day which is why it keeps evolving. You can never master it. You can only hope to contain it.