(Topic ID: 255854)

1979 Open Letter From Gary Stern


By p1001

7 months ago



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  • 42 posts
  • 25 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 7 months ago by MrBally
  • Topic is favorited by 12 Pinsiders

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    27
    #1 7 months ago

    A little bit of pinball history
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    #2 7 months ago

    Very interesting, that was clearly a different time.......

    #3 7 months ago

    That may have been years ago but all those costs have kept going up and as a result the price of games is constantly going up just like everything in life.

    #4 7 months ago
    Quoted from thedarkknight77:

    Very interesting, that was clearly a different time.......

    Yeah, knowing from many what their wages were in the 70’s he was probably paying maybe 5 bucks an hour for these guys IF THAT.
    My grandmother told me about making $3.50 an hour working in accounting.

    Everything gets more pricey and Stern was practically scraping games together at this time. Materials varied greatly on some of the big runs like Meteor.

    This is a great historical resource though. Probably should find a way to make it easier to search.

    “Open Letter from Gary Stern - 1979”

    14
    #5 7 months ago
    Quoted from p1001:

    A little bit of pinball history[quoted image][quoted image][quoted image]

    Quoted from Isochronic_Frost:

    Yeah, knowing from many what their wages were in the 70’s he was probably paying maybe 5 bucks an hour for these guys IF THAT.
    My grandmother told me about making $3.50 an hour working in accounting.
    Everything gets more pricey and Stern was practically scraping games together at this time. Materials varied greatly on some of the big runs like Meteor.
    This is a great historical resource though. Probably should find a way to make it easier to search.
    “Open Letter from Gary Stern - 1979”

    Meteor was produced in 1979. In May of 1979, I started working for Boeing Aircraft painting aircraft parts. It was a union job and paid $6.60 an hour. And I needed every penny. I bought a house with a $350.00 month house payment and I started working all of the overtime I could get. Before I got this job I was building lanterns and ice chests for Coleman Company for about $4.50 per hour. $4.50 per hour let you pay the rent.

    In 1978, Carter was President. In 1978, we suffered from a cut off of oil from Iran. Gas lines formed. Gas prices went up; Along with everything else. Carter's solution? Print money. Print lots of money.

    It was hard times for many people.

    In 1980, Ronald Reagan was voted as President. Inflation was rampant. In 1981, Paul Volker was the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. To combat inflation, Volker jacked interest rates to 22%. Oil prices collapsed and oil workers were roaming the country looking for work.

    This is the market Stern and all other companies were working in during the 70s and early 80s. A lot of companies did not survive. That Gary Stern is still around today is an amazing feat.

    To anybody reading this who is cutting a fat hog in the ass with stock market winnings...it was not the way in the 70s. The markets stank. In 1982, inflation had finally been tamed and interest rates started backing off and then the stock market took off.

    #6 7 months ago

    Very interesting thanks for posting

    #7 7 months ago

    That was interesting to read. Thanks.
    -Mike

    #8 7 months ago
    Quoted from thedarkknight77:

    Very interesting, that was clearly a different time.......

    Was it? He was still giving buyers a micro-list of BOM, and using ANY costs as a price increase. Building a luxury item based off of parts cost=second hand product.

    #9 7 months ago

    Thanks for posting. Would love to see him write a new one for today’s market and some of the quality issues the industry is facing.

    #10 7 months ago
    Quoted from underlord:

    Was it? He was still giving buyers a micro-list of BOM, and using ANY costs as a price increase. Building a luxury item based off of parts cost=second hand product.

    Back then I believe most pins were sold to operators as a business and money making venture. I think I would be safe in saying that not very many pins were sold to home users. That would place pins in the camp of business tools and not luxury items, as you suggest.

    That said, what standards are you using to consider a product, any product, a second hand product? For instance, you used to see lots of pins in bowling alleys. Lots of people bought their own bowling balls. What standards would you apply to determine whether a bowling ball was first rate or second rate, or a luxury item?

    #11 7 months ago

    Inflation hit the player, too. I recall playing pin on location back in the late '70s and seeing price per play change from 3 plays for a quarter down to 1 play for a quarter in a very short amount of time. Fifty cent per play was introduced in 1980 with Black Knight and that price point for other pins took a bit longer to gain traction.

    #12 7 months ago
    Quoted from BrianBannon:

    Inflation hit the player, too. I recall playing pin on location back in the late '70s and seeing price per play change from 3 plays for a quarter down to 1 play for a quarter in a very short amount of time. Fifty cent per play was introduced in 1980 with Black Knight and that price point for other pins took a bit longer to gain traction.

    Yeah that's one of the main points of the letter. Gary says he's done his part by brutally crushing his work force and now he's begging ops to do their part by sticking with 3 balls for 25 cents - it's profit way!

    Also, does someone want to explain to me why Stern electronics lockdown bars and rails aren't magnetic? Are they made of aluminum, or did Gary manage to find something even cheaper?

    #13 7 months ago
    Quoted from cottonm4:

    In 1978, Carter was President. In 1978, we suffered from a cut off of oil from Iran. Gas lines formed. Gas prices went up; Along with everything else. Carter's solution? Print money. Print lots of money.
    It was hard times for many people.
    In 1980, Ronald Reagan was voted as President. Inflation was rampant. In 1981, Paul Volker was the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. To combat inflation, Volker jacked interest rates to 22%. Oil prices collapsed and oil workers were roaming the country looking for work.

    Unfortunately, time erases memory and many who were born after him and even those who lived it, forget what it was like. My parents bought a shitty house and were overjoyed at getting a land contract with a 14% interest rate. Carter may be good at building houses, but he was a horrible President.

    #14 7 months ago
    Quoted from cottonm4:

    Back then I believe most pins were sold to operators as a business and money making venture.

    Almost all were sold to operators or arcades back then.
    And pinball machines were fighting for the operator's dollar with Space Invaders and Asteroids which were far cheaper and earned a LOT more.

    #15 7 months ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    Yeah that's one of the main points of the letter. Gary says he's done his part by brutally crushing his work force and now he's begging ops to do their part by sticking with 3 balls for 25 cents - it's profit way!
    Also, does someone want to explain to me why Stern electronics lockdown bars and rails aren't magnetic? Are they made of aluminum, or did Gary manage to find something even cheaper?

    Lockdown bars and rails are made from stainless. A good grade of stainless is non-magnetic.

    #16 7 months ago

    First line he says they just settled a labor dispute with the union.

    Are the still using union workers or just day laborers found in a Home Depot parking lot?

    #17 7 months ago

    304 stainless can have some magnetic properties, 316 is the good stuff.
    Ever try to stick a magnet to your stainless fridge?

    Those are the two most common.

    -1
    #18 7 months ago
    Quoted from BobLangelius:

    Lockdown bars and rails are made from stainless. A good grade of stainless is non-magnetic.

    A magnet sticks to my Williams games' trim and lockdown bar.

    It doesn't on my Stern stuff.

    What's going on here?! I just figured the Stern stuff was cheaper as everything else in the games seems a little bit cheaper.

    #19 7 months ago
    Quoted from o-din:

    First line he says they just settled a labor dispute with the union.
    Are the still using union workers or just day laborers found in a Home Depot parking lot?

    It's almost as if he closed down Stern and opened Data East just to get rid of the union!

    #20 7 months ago
    Quoted from o-din:

    First line he says they just settled a labor dispute with the union.
    Are the still using union workers or just day laborers found in a Home Depot parking lot?

    Stern Pinball is not the same company as Stern Electronics. I believe their current workforce is contract work. Pretty sure it's not union, but I'm not certain.

    #21 7 months ago
    Quoted from aobrien5:

    Stern Pinball is not the same company as Stern Electronics.

    But they are all decendants of Chicago Coin, right?

    #22 7 months ago
    Quoted from o-din:

    But they are all decendants of Chicago Coin, right?

    Damnit - I just noticed who I was replying to. lol.

    #23 7 months ago

    For those that like reading old letters and interviews, these Steve Kirk interviews while at Stern are well worth the read.

    http://www.backglass.org/stern/steve_kirk_playmeter_4.pdf

    #24 7 months ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    Yeah that's one of the main points of the letter. Gary says he's done his part by brutally crushing his work force and now he's begging ops to do their part by sticking with 3 balls for 25 cents - it's profit way!
    Also, does someone want to explain to me why Stern electronics lockdown bars and rails aren't magnetic? Are they made of aluminum, or did Gary manage to find something even cheaper?

    They are made of stainless steel. I don't know which grade of stainless but real cheap stainless can develop rust.

    #25 7 months ago
    Quoted from o-din:

    For those that like reading old letters and interviews, these Steve Kirk interviews while at Stern are well worth the read.
    http://www.backglass.org/stern/steve_kirk_playmeter_4.pdf

    Nice read, o-din.

    #26 7 months ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    It's almost as if he closed down Stern and opened Data East just to get rid of the union!

    In the city limits of Chicago, all factories were Union. Bally moved pinball production out to Franklin Park & Bensenville to eliminate union labor rates.

    #27 7 months ago
    Quoted from MrBally:

    In the city limits of Chicago, all factories were Union. Bally moved pinball production out to Franklin Park & Bensenville to eliminate union labor rates.

    It is all relative. In late 70s I was living in a small to mid-size city in Nebraska. The city built an industrial park and needed to fill it. Perfect Circle Piston Ring company out of Indiana moved in. I assume it was to escape higher wages from its home state. But the company moved in and the starting wage was something like $5.00 per hour which was above the local wages and upset all of the local businesses which had to raise wages to match. As it is said, business is cut throat. And here we are 40 years later and everything has moved to China.

    #28 7 months ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    A magnet sticks to my Williams games' trim and lockdown bar.
    It doesn't on my Stern stuff.
    What's going on here?! I just figured the Stern stuff was cheaper as everything else in the games seems a little bit cheaper.

    The Williams lockdown bars i have ( sys7 era stuff) are a 4 part assembly the top is stainless, The channel and two hooks are carbon steel. The magnet is sticking to the top of the lockdown bar only because it is attracted to the carbon steel parts. Note it will not stick to the side of the lockdown bar.

    You are not really supposed to weld carbon steel to stainless, but Williams figured it out. I imagine that may be why the carbon steel parts of the lockdown bar are copper plated.

    #29 7 months ago

    Interestingly enough, Williams' was highly encouraging operators to raise prices too. The Black Knight 2000 was shipped with an open letter from Steve Ritchie himself encouraging operators to raise prices to $.50 per game.

    https://www.ipdb.org/files/311/Williams_1989_Black_Knight_2000_An_Important_Message_To_Operators.pdf

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    #30 7 months ago

    Once Dragon's Lair was released, the Route Operator I worked for raised all Asteroids, Ms Pac Man Zaxxon and Super Zaxxon machines to 50¢ per play. Had nice price signs made up to glue above or on the coin doors. The intention was to increase income. Like Toll Roads using the old max/min formula. Some will no longer play but those that do will help increase income.

    It was a dismal failure. Income dropped to 30% of the former amount. Within three weeks we put all of the pricing back to Quarter play.

    #31 7 months ago

    Best part of this letter is Gary's touting Meteor's super sophisticated sound system!

    #32 7 months ago
    Quoted from MrBally:

    Once Dragon's Lair was released, the Route Operator I worked for raised all Asteroids, Ms Pac Man Zaxxon and Super Zaxxon machines to 50¢ per play. Had nice price signs made up to glue above or on the coin doors. The intention was to increase income. Like Toll Roads using the old max/min formula. Some will no longer play but those that do will help increase income.
    It was a dismal failure. Income dropped to 30% of the former amount. Within three weeks we put all of the pricing back to Quarter play.

    Yes. Economic theory of price elasticity of demand. Demand for pin playing is highly elastic to the price point. I wonder what would have happened if he would have bumped his prices by a dime for 35 cents per play.

    #33 7 months ago

    Just a Nickel, to 30¢/play would have been met with little resistance and netted more revenue. But the machines had twin quarter coin chutes going into one cash box.

    Changing one to accept nickels would not be practical for collecting cash or reliable machine operation. If either chute jams, the game is down. With twin Quarter chutes, one jams, the location puts tape over the bad coin slot and calls us. Game still makes money.

    #34 7 months ago
    Quoted from MrBally:

    Just a Nickel, to 30¢/play would have been met with little resistance and netted more revenue. But the machines had twin quarter coin chutes going into one cash box.
    Changing one to accept nickels would not be practical for collecting cash or reliable machine operation. If either chute jams, the game is down. With twin Quarter chutes, one jams, the location puts tape over the bad coin slot and calls us. Game still makes money.

    I see. I never understood the logic for more than one slot per coin. Doh. Talk about a roadblock for building incremental revenue.

    #35 7 months ago

    This has really turned into an interesting historical pinball thread. By 1979 I was in high school, minimum wage was $2.90 / hr, gas had gone over one dollar per gallon and I had left pinball behind for video games. Wouldn't flip a pinball again for ages. I wound up missing out on all the classic games of the 90's as I was too busy just trying to scrape by and pay the bills.

    Love to see any more letters and other assorted operator-oriented info that people have stashed out there

    #36 7 months ago
    Quoted from GSones:

    This has really turned into an interesting historical pinball thread. By 1979 I was in high school, minimum wage was $2.90 / hr, gas had gone over one dollar per gallon and I had left pinball behind for video games. Wouldn't flip a pinball again for ages. I wound up missing out on all the classic games of the 90's as I was too busy just trying to scrape by and pay the bills.
    Love to see any more letters and other assorted operator-oriented info that people have stashed out there

    Agreed, this is turning into a really cool thread...

    I always love hearing the stories from mrbally, LTG, and the other legacy operators/techs that I'm missing. It's fascinating to me.

    Of course, I yearn for the days when the History channel played WW2/military, technology, aviation, etc. documentaries instead of all the scripted picker/pawn and other "reality" crap shows they do now, so that should tell you my mindset, haha.

    That said, I remember in the late 80's/early 90's when my local movie theater arcade attempted to raise the price of everything to $.50, strangely similarly after they got a Dragon's Lair as well, that was itself, priced at $.75. I thought it was weird at the time, considering the game was already 6-8 years old at that point, and while it was still as close to "virtual reality/controlling a movie" as we were going to get in those days, there wasn't much to it other than pushing a button or pushing the joystick in a direction when prompted as I recall. My money got dropped in pinballs and videos.

    Anyways, I remember the 16 year old attendant saying it was going to be a disaster the Saturday they increased the prices.

    Well wouldn't you know, the following Saturday after walking out of our weekly Saturday matinee movie and into the arcade, my older brother and I noticed the place was empty. Like, totally empty, at 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon, in a popular, suburban, movie theater arcade. I guess the other kids must have thought that playing Final Fight, Afterburner, Outrun, Taxi, and the others at $.50 no longer seemed "worth it" either, when we could play nes or genesis at home.

    Low and behold, 2 or 3 weeks later, the prices were readjusted back to $.25 a play. And as I recall, the place never really "recovered" until SF2 came out.

    Looking back now from a pricing standpoint in those days, it would have made more sense to price only the newest videos/pins at $.50, then drop them to $.25 after the new novelty wore off, or in the case of token arcades, dispense 3 tokens per dollar instead of 4. While this seems like common sense to me now, I do not recall seeing this scenario in my arcade days. Games were priced at either $.25 or $.50, but the price stayed that way for it's entire duration at a particular location.

    #37 7 months ago
    Quoted from MrBally:

    Dragon's Lair

    Played this game at the local bowling alley and it seemed that this game was ahead of the rest during its time. I sucked at it while I poured quarters into it, but man it was awesome.

    #38 7 months ago
    Quoted from Grandnational007:

    Of course, I yearn for the days when the History channel played WW2/military, technology, aviation, etc. documentaries instead of all the scripted picker/pawn and other "reality" crap shows they do now, so that should tell you my mindset, haha.

    Maybe you know, maybe you don't, but if you are jonesing for WW2 footage head to youtube. You can find it all. Russia, Germany, concentration camps, death camps, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Normandy, China-Burma-India, Marshall, Bradley, Stillwell, Eisenhower, you get the idea. All the stuff that sponsors would not not buy TV advertising for in the 70s.

    Netflix has some cool WW2 stuff, as well.

    Now, back to pinball history.

    #39 7 months ago

    Here is a article about the cost of a new car. In 1979 it was under $7000. Just read recently the average cost is closer to $34K now (not exclusively cars).

    https://blog.chron.com/carsandtrucks/2016/04/cost-of-a-car-in-the-year-you-were-born/

    #40 7 months ago
    Quoted from rai:

    Here is a article about the cost of a new car. In 1979 it was under $7000. Just read recently the average cost is closer to $34K now (not exclusively cars).
    https://blog.chron.com/carsandtrucks/2016/04/cost-of-a-car-in-the-year-you-were-born/

    The list only goes back to 1967, not gonna help me if I want to know the price of an average car when I was born......

    #41 7 months ago
    Quoted from rai:

    In 1979 it was under $7000

    Bought a brand new 1974 VW super beetle and can tell you it was a lot less than that!! Less than 3K That bug was a great car!

    #42 7 months ago
    Quoted from poppapin:

    Bought a brand new 1974 VW super beetle and can tell you it was a lot less than that!! Less than 3K That bug was a great car!

    My first car was my parents' hand me down '74 VW Super Beetle. They bought it new with the optional automatic stick shift and an AM radio with tax it was $3,400 in early 1974.
    I swapped out the transmission with a 4 speed manual after I got it.

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