So set the Wabac machine to around 1997 or so. I was a hard core home console game addict/collector. I had a fairly large collection of this stuff that I had been playing since as long as I could remember. One day I was playing something and started realizing that all of my entertainment was "on screen" and my eyes were getting tired doing this all day at work, then all night at home. I needed a new hobby, but what?
One night I was playing Microsoft Pinball Arcade on my computer. For those that don't know, it was a simulation of one real Gottlieb pinball machine from each decade from the 30's through the 90's. As I was playing Spirit of '76 I realized that's what I needed: a pinball machine! It's much more physical and real than video games and it doesn't involve a screen. So I talk with my wife at the time and ask her what she thinks and she says "Sure, but we don't have a lot of money we can spend on it.". At this time I don't know anyting about pinball except for a few vague memories of a couple games I played when I was younger and the games in the simulation I've been playing. Where to begin this search?
I start by looking in the newspaper and lo and behold someone has an ad listed: "Pinball - $250". I call and ask about it and surprisingly enough it's a game I've heard of. The lady tells me it's a "Black Knight" and it was her dad's but he recently passed. She says the game doesn't work properly but it will turn on. She lives about 20 miles or so from me. I ask if when we can go have a look and she says "I'm here now if you want to come". So we jump in my wife's Explorer and drive over. I spent about an hour or so looking it over trying to decide if this is something I might be able to fix (after all, who wants to drop $250 into a broken machine that you don't know how to fix? Especially when money is tight!). I decide after looking over the manual (yes, it had the manual and ALL original documenation in the original envelope) that I think I can do something with it. I offer $200 and haul it home.
When we get home, the first task is to figure out how to get it up to our second story apartment. This thing is too heavy for us to just walk up there. So I pull the glass off the game and take the playfield out and take it up, then the glass, then the lower cabinet, then the upper cabinet (you get the idea).
Eventually I get it in place and get everything set up and turn it on and it lights up! I can't start a game and there are some numbers in the display. After spending some time reading the manual it appears the batteries might be dead. Batteries? Pinball machines have batteries? Apparently. I replace the batteries and the game boots to flashing lights on the playfield and a regular looking score. Awesome! I still can't start a game, though. Further investigation shows that all 3 balls need to either be in the ball trough or the locks. Now I can start a game but nothing happens other than sound. I keep poking around and continue to find out things about this brave new world I've entered and eventually find a dead fuse. Eventually I'm able to actually play a real game and after about a hundred hours or so of poking around, figuring things out, and not electrocuting myself or the game, everything seems to work pretty well now!
This was the perfect game for me to start with as it was a light project that was a great learning experience and totally hooked me into a new obsession. Ironically, it never occurred to me that paint could wear, backglasses might flake, or other cosmetic issues existed since this game was about as minty fresh cosmetically as a game that old could hope to be. I got extremely lucky finding such a great game at that price (though I didn't know just how good of a deal it was back then) and if I got the same game today with what I know now, I could probably have it working in under 30 minutes.
Since then I estimate I've had somewhere around 250 or so games (my collection size usually hovers between about 6 - 12 at any given time for the last 10 years or so) since I started and I've learned a ton fixing them over the years!