There must be magnets in there!?


By bingopodcast

9 months ago


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    #1 9 months ago

    A common question that folks have, especially folks that have played bingo pinball machines on route back in the 50s and 60s - 'are there magnets in the game? It seems like the games had a way of keeping the ball OUT of the holes you need if you were winning, and if you were losing a lot, INTO the holes you need.'

    I was prompted to write this response to another player from an email received last night.

    The gentleman was asking about games run in his hometown and specifically Cypress Gardens. He claimed that the ball would jump away from the hole you needed if you were winning, and into the hole you needed if you weren't. It's unfortunately not possible.

    The most common 'cheats' on bingos are unhooking relays that provide the player with a high scoring advantage, stopping the reflex from moving back to the fully closed position, or changing the wires on the spotting disk.

    Re: magnets - while it would technically be possible to have a single magnet activate, the game would have absolutely no way of knowing which hole you actually needed to win. While clever, they are still machines. Even if such a thing existed back in the 1950s-60s, you would not be able to control the pulse of the magnet in any meaningful way - meaning - I can see how you might tie the magnet into the zero position on the reflex unit, but it would remain active 100% of the game. And OK... You've got a magnet active, you sink a ball in that hole, now what happens when you send the next one over? It sticks to the first.

    So to combat that, you'd have to have a cutoff for the magnet when a particular hole switch is active. This is also possible. Now... How would this help you to win, especially if made on your first ball?

    You cannot have 25 such magnets (space and physics), and again, the machine has no real way of knowing which numbers are actually winners.

    So let's take this to an extreme: you (the operator) put a magnet under each hole in a line. Enough for three in a row.

    If the player doesn't shoot the ball over near that hole it won't matter.

    Now, here's the kicker: the balls used in these games were often resistant to magnets. Think about it: if you had a strong magnet, you could simply pick up and drop balls wherever you pleased. Normally the balls were actually brass. This means that any magnet wouldn't be able to hold it. Nor would it be able to attract it.

    So let's talk about the second part of the memory: the ball shooting AWAY from the magnet - well, in the 1950s this would be very difficult. Again, for space and physics reasons you could not mount electromagnets near to each other. But taking that apart, the games are AC driven. There's not a way to reverse the polarity of the magnet using purely AC (at least that I'm aware of). The electricity coming out of the wall would change polarity 60 times per second. It is fast enough that it does not matter and will attract anything ferrous. That means that you would need to do a complex (at the time) AC-DC conversion.

    Next, let's talk about space and how you would have to mount such a magnet. Under the playfield is a board that catches the balls when you are playing a game called a shutter board. This shutter is the only possible place to mount a magnet. Unfortunately, you have about 3/4" or so inside the hole. The magnet would be visible and impede the ball dropping to be served back on next game start.

    And then the biggest drawback of magnets: physics. Let's say that there were magnets and balls that could be influenced. Once a ball dropped into a magnetized hole, even if power was cut, the ball would be magnetized. This would pose a problem all through the system. Balls would stick together when they absolutely should not.

    Inside of the game is a special unit that keeps track of winnings and losings called the 'reflex'. This unit will connect extra circuitry to allow for easier earning of advantages per coin. These might be features like the turning corners on Cypress Gardens, or advances in the number of replays you could earn (odds).

    As you win, the reflex moves and disconnects some of this circuitry, which makes it more difficult to earn these advantages. The actual gameplay remains the same however.

    This is the only unit that came from the factory to allow for automatic portioning.

    As far as payout, there have been games hooked up to slot machine hoppers to dispense nickels, but these games were heavily modified aftermarket.

    By default, the games shipped with a three or four digit replay counter, and the power switch would reset all the replays back to zero when someone cashed out.

    Very interesting stories! In short, though, magnets would be impossible. I certainly feel that my games have magnets in them sometimes. Always when I'm losing!

    -Nick

    #2 9 months ago

    But some ops did resort to magnets. And players had their tricks, strong magnet dragged across the glass, drilling into the side of the cabinet. And ops had other tricks too. etc. etc.

    Ops and players were trying to get ahead of each other for years.

    Gottlieb at the height of their EM days, employed eight people whose job it was to try and cheat pinball machines all day long. And they thought they were three months behind the kids on the street. And those weren't gambling pins.

    The good old days.

    LTG : )

    #3 9 months ago

    @LTG it's been brought to my attention - I didn't specifically say 'bingo pinball machines' Haha! Whoops! Yeah, flipper games were another thing entirely.

    Yes, in the bingos there was lots of cat and mouse:

    Control Unit switches that would force a tilt if the coin switch was held for too long (slug on a string) were added.

    Early machines had a kicker that would shoot the coin into the cash box. If you left a coin there, the game would stop functioning (not tilt, but would likely blow a fuse).

    Wooden siderails and lockbars were attacked with drills, small prying tools that could be secreted, etc. It was what led bingos to convert to metal siderails and lockbars. Eventually, metal clad coin doors as well. When they made this move, they added a metal surround. This prevented unlatching from digging and prying... at least to an extent.

    Bingo pinballs had a series of subsystems and improvements over the years to prevent cheating.

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