My name is Nick, in the local pinball community here in Pittsburgh I go by JQY, which I use as my high score initials. By day I do property maintenance, by night I do pinball Repair. I work for a local operator that strictly does pinball on route. I also am contracted by the Replay Foundation as a technician for the world pinball championships as well as some smaller tournaments. Occasionally, I teach pinball tech classes to those interested in pinball repair as well.
Pinball Repair is my passion. I’ve been playing, collecting, repairing and maintaining Pinball Machines since 2010.
My Pinball Story
Since 2010 I have been fascinated with Pinball. Being that it wasn’t that long ago, I can remember my first experience, the first machine I played, Twilight Zone (at the soon to be (or now) closed Beehive in the south side), which is still my favorite to this day.
Before I purchased my first machine, I was already tinkering with the mechanics of them. My friend Chris [CDS], introduced me to the game. He had a Bally/Midway X’s and O’s (which I now own), and I had my head under the playfield constantly.
I joined the Pittsburgh Pinball League in late 2010. I can still remember my first league night at Chris Eddy’s house. I had no clue what I was doing but I had a blast. Chris Eddy is an electrical engineer. Loves pinball as much as much as the next guy. I mean, he’s constantly developing new replacement parts that are better than the original and also parts that are obsolete. I learn a lot from him.
Over the years I learned how to fix machines by reading literature as well as hands on work. I am fortunate that we have such a large community here in Pittsburgh. There are others that are wise at repairs as well. Someone might be stronger at EM stuff and weak at solid state stuff and vice versa. We are all constantly learning from each other.
I bought my first machine in 2011, a Williams Hurricane. After a year of having it the Ferris wheel was getting weaker and weaker until the ball was unable to be picked up by it. The belt wore out so it would just stutter when the ball was up against it. It was one of the first major repairs I had to do, only because you had to remove pretty much the entire playfield to get to it. I got everything off the playfield and thought to myself “welp, I might as well shop it out now”.
I worked my first tournament in the fall of 2013 at the PAPA (Professional and Amateur pinball Association) World Championships as a scorekeeper. I worked the late evening shift, scorekeeping for the seniors division. It was after 10 pm so you could imagine how many people were actually there. The whole time working, I was envious of the techs, watching them work. Fixing stuff. It was what I wanted to be doing.
That next year PAPA switched the PAPA WC to spring so for that one year they were back-to-back. I decided that year to take a shot as a tech. I followed veteran techs Steve Eck and Rich Vario everywhere. Eck formally a Technician for Bettson and still works as PAPA now. While Rich owns a vending repair company and has been around since the reprisal of PAPA when it moved to Pittsburgh, although he hasn’t been around for the last 2 Pinburghs. I learned A LOT and had a lot of fun doing it. Which is why I continue to do it every year rather than competing in the event. The Pinburgh format is, in my opinion, the best format for pinball competition but I feel I’m needed more on back ended of some events for the greater good of pinball.
Pinburgh came that fall and it was insane. Back then there were only 300 competitors so the 3 of us were only needed. Mark (Steinman) and Doug (Polka) were TDs back then but could also do minor tech stuff so more techs weren’t really needed. I used to prefer it that way. Running around like a mad man when a tech light would go off every 2 minutes.
Fast forwarding to today, I’ve done tech work for many tournaments including my own. I organize my own yearly leagues/events, including a team-based league with an all original format.
I also serve the Greater Pittsburgh Area as a Pinball Repair Technician on the side on evenings and weekends. Working for an operator who does strictly pinball on location as well as myself. If I could make a living off of it, I’d do it full time. Until then..