(Topic ID: 326112)

Why we call it a Jones plug (long)

By TimMe

13 days ago


Topic Heartbeat

Topic Stats

  • 22 posts
  • 18 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 3 days ago by RandyW
  • Topic is favorited by 6 Pinsiders

You

Linked Games

No games have been linked to this topic.

    Topic Gallery

    View topic image gallery

    Jones plug patent US2429810 (resized).png
    CMJ_ad (resized).jpg
    CMJ_cover (resized).jpg

    50
    #1 13 days ago

    Why do we call those connectors in a pinball machine a Jones plug? Should we even be calling them Jones plugs? Answering this question requires some background information. In the world of connectors (yes, there is such a world) there is something called a Jones connector that is fairly well known. They have been around for several decades, and have been used in many electronics applications. Back in the day, hobbyists could buy them at Radio Shack. They can even be found in vintage coin-op equipment, such as Seeburg juke boxes and Bally EM slot machines. Jones connector plugs come in a variety of sizes, all using a similar form-factor that is characterized by a rectangular phenolic base with rows and columns of flat blades. The matching connector consists of a phenolic base with rows and columns of slotted sockets to receive the blades.

    The reason that THESE devices are called Jones connectors is no mystery. It's because there was a connector manufacturing company called Howard B. Jones that produced them in the first half of the 20th century. The Howard B. Jones company was fairly successful, and was eventually acquired by another connector company called Cinch in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Cinch continued to make Jones connectors (cleverly renaming them Cinch-Jones connectors) until fairly recently. As of 2022, Cinch now appears to be a division of the Belfuse Corporation. The Cinch division of Belfuse still offers a variety of connectors, but they no longer list the Cinch-Jones connector as an active product on their website. However, in case you need one, surplus Cinch-Jones connectors continue to be available from a variety of online suppliers, at least for now.

    In any event, those Jones connectors are obviously nothing like our Jones connectors, so let's move on and take another look at that Howard B. Jones company. Was that company named after an actual person? Yes, it was. Mr. Jones was an inventor of, among other things, electrical connectors. Could his company have made our connector? Yes, it could. Mr. Jones' factory was located in Chicago, which is where all the pin games were made, so that's pretty exciting. And, he was actively in business in the mid 1930s, during the time that our Jones plugs made an appearance, which is even more exciting. And, most exciting of all, Mr. Jones filed several patents for different types of electrical connectors during this time. And that is where the excitement abruptly ends, because none of his connector patents describe a device that is even remotely like the plugs and sockets used in pinball machines.

    So who the heck made our connector? Was it Howard B. Jones? It seems like it SHOULD be. Was it someone else? If so, who? And in that case, did everyone just start calling it a Jones plug because they confused it with the "other" Jones connector? That doesn't seem very likely. If only there was some concrete evidence to connect the Howard B. Jones company to our connector. But where would we find such a connection? It's not like sub-contractors took out ads in magazines to get companies to buy their products, did they? Well, it turns out that at least one time, in January of 1936, some of them did, although it's not clear how many of them actually wanted to. And for that, we have Jimmy Johnson to thank. To understand what I'm talking about, we once again need some more background information.

    Back in the 1930s, there was a trade magazine called the Coin Machine Journal. It was a well-known magazine at the time, and it did a good job promoting the industry. Also at that time, there was a big annual trade show for the coin machine industry that was held at the Sherman Hotel in Chicago. The Coin Machine Journal (CMJ) gave the show heavy coverage. They even published an annual show edition, which was printed up ahead of time so it would be ready to distribute to the show attendees.

    CMJ_cover (resized).jpg

    Needless to say, most of the coin-op companies bought ad space in the annual CMJ show number. It was a good way to promote their new products to the distributers and operators who bought their products. And like today, the bigger your company, the more advertising you could afford. So having a large ad presence in the CMJ show number was a way to demonstrate (or at least imply) that you were one of the bigger industry players. And if you were a really big company, you'd buy a block of ad pages and create a small virtual brochure of gorgeous, full-color ad pages within the magazine. If you were a smaller company with a smaller ad budget, you wouldn't be able to compete with multi-page spreads like that. But maybe, with some outside help, you could fake it.

    Jimmy Johnson owned Western Equipment and Supply, a maker of coin-op pin games and other amusement devices. Western was a fairly small company in 1936, while Mr. Johnson was a physically big and tough-looking guy. He was always hustling to get business, and by many accounts he came off as somewhat of a thug. And, apparently his business often had cash flow problems. In spite of all that, it has to be said that he was very clever at promoting his company.

    Based on Western's actual ad buys in the CMJ show number, they had a big enough budget to purchase several two-color full-page ads. That's impressive, but Jimmy did something much more impressive than that. He figured out a way to get more consecutive ad pages in the magazine than anyone else. A full 62 pages, pages 129 to 190 to be exact, are devoted to Western.

    How did he do it? He did it by creating a "Join Up with Jimmy" section of the magazine, and then somehow convincing a surprising number of his sub-contractors to buy ad space in the magazine, and put their ads in his section. We're talking about quarter-page, half-page, and even full-page display ads. Many of these sub-contractor ads reference their association with Western, and Jimmy made sure there was plenty of Western promotional material sprinkled in amongst the ads, so that the entire section would do a good job of promoting Western. Promotion that was, apparently, mostly paid for by his own suppliers.

    For those of us who love pinball history, it's amazing to see such rare display advertising from so many suppliers that we may have heard of, or may have wondered about. Runzel Wire. Churchill Cabinets. Advertising Posters. Northwestern Photo Engraving. Illinois Lock Company. Chicago Mill and Lumber. Federal Die Casting. Guardian Electric. Atlas Press. Defoe Metal Finishing. It just goes on and on for over sixty pages.

    While I'm personally thrilled to see all these ads, I can't help but wonder if at least some of the companies felt pressured to participate. I just get a sense that this section might have been somewhat of a "Join Up with Jimmy - or Else!" promotion. Hopefully I'm wrong. But in any case, it's a mother lode of information on the companies who were part of the industry in the early days, and for that I'm very grateful.

    Oh, and about that Jones plug question. On page 146 of the CMJ show number for January 1936, here's one more company that decided to Join Up with Jimmy:

    CMJ_ad (resized).jpg

    I don't think it really matters exactly how or why we all started calling these Jones plugs. The important thing, for me, is knowing that it's officially OK to call them that.

    - TimMe

    #2 13 days ago

    Excellent sleuthing. Are any Coin Machine Journals archived online?

    Gottlieb later patented their own version of the Jones plug, calling it just a Multiple Connector:
    Jones plug patent US2429810 (resized).png
    https://patents.google.com/patent/US2429810A

    /Mark

    #3 13 days ago

    I also restore old Seeburgs and very familiar with the Jones Plug… Excellent write up thanks for sharing…

    #4 13 days ago
    Quoted from MarkG:

    Are any Coin Machine Journals archived online?
    /Mark

    https://cmj.arcade-museum.com/

    #5 13 days ago

    I can remeber all the stories of wires being cut to remove the head off a pinball machine - because people didn't know the plug just pulled apart !

    #6 13 days ago

    I just worked on a Stratoflite that had all the wires cut and then spliced back together. It was only doing a partial score reel reset and the problem was one of the spliced wires was making poor contact.

    #7 13 days ago

    Interesting read. Glad I opened this thread!

    #8 13 days ago
    Quoted from ReadyPO:

    Interesting read. Glad I opened this thread!

    I second that!

    #9 13 days ago

    Now we know!
    Great write up and thanks for sharing.

    #10 13 days ago

    Fun read - thanks for digging that info out, Tim!

    #11 13 days ago

    I hadn't thought much about the kind of connectors they used before the Jones plugs we all know and love. But I remembered reading this in that Pinball magazine interview with Wayne Neyens:

    WN: "Now, before those connectors came along, there was a life. Back then we had a whole series of fingers. They were punched out of brass, stapled to a Bakelite strip. This strip would be screwed against the back of a cabinet. The playboard would have a strip that would match that strip, so when you put the playboard down the fingers would meet and make contact. That's the way we would make contacts. Of course, when you would raise the board up you didn't have any contact so that you couldn't try anything with the board up. You had to put the board back down. You also risked shorting out a circuit when you did that. That was so hard to work on. We used that for several years before the Jones plug came along. When it did, everybody loved that Jones plug. When you put that together, it was together. I don't remember who introduced it to us. it must have been some vendor. I was there when we started using it because I remember using the fingers. They were a pain; I'll tell you that."

    So....yeah for Jones plugs!

    #12 13 days ago

    Now we’re all a bit smarter. Thanks Tim!

    #13 13 days ago

    Thanks for all of your positive comments everyone, I really appreciate it!

    - TimMe

    #14 13 days ago

    Great read! Nice to know some of the obscure information. Thanks

    #15 13 days ago

    I've had dozens of EMs and never had a problem with any Jones plug pins or sockets. I've cleaned the pins a few times but just as a precaution when there was a problem in the game but the plugs were never the cause. Good product!

    #16 13 days ago

    I love posts like this one! Thanks for sharing the history behind the Jones plug.

    Alberto

    #17 13 days ago
    Quoted from MarkG:

    Gottlieb later patented their own version of the Jones plug, calling it just a Multiple Connector
    /Mark

    Yes, I think that may be the only patent attributed directly to Dave Gottlieb other than a couple of game design patents. I read somewhere that he was proud of that patent. If I remember correctly, he had the idea of forming the socket position with a fold-back metal flap at the bottom where the solder tab was. Closing the bottom of the socket position prevented solder from wicking up into the socket cavity, which would spoil a connector and cause delays on the production line.

    Since it doesn't look like Howard B. Jones ever patented their series 1400 connector, there was nothing to stop anyone from copying it. Gottlieb and Bally started making their own version of the connector, and Williams went in another direction with their own flat-blade connector for a while. But eventually it looks like Gottlieb, at least, started sub-contracting this part out to one or more suppliers again. This would have been in the 1960s, after the Howard B Jones company was long gone.

    It's also interesting to note that while the form factor of the Gottlieb socket position solved the solder wicking problem, the version shown in the patent drawing actually had a design flaw that caused some trouble. There is only one thin finger on the front of the socket cavity that makes positive contact with the connector pin. This finger didn't really provide enough current carrying capability, and it also had a tendency to break off, causing the connection at that position to fail. Gottlieb realized they had a problem and made an engineering change so that each socket position had a pair of ears bending in from both sides of the socket cavity. This worked much better. The ears squeezed the pin to provide better electrical contact, and having the ears on the sides made them a lot less prone to breaking off, although that still happened occasionally.

    Based on the vintage games I've worked on, it seems that Gottlieb only used the original version of their patented connector for a few years before switching over to the improved version. I worked on a 1949 Old Faithful, for example, that had the newer style connector.

    - TimMe

    #18 12 days ago
    Quoted from TimMe:

    Yes, I think that may be the only patent attributed directly to Dave Gottlieb other than a couple of game design patents. I read somewhere that he was proud of that patent. If I remember correctly, he had the idea of forming the socket position with a fold-back metal flap at the bottom where the solder tab was. Closing the bottom of the socket position prevented solder from wicking up into the socket cavity, which would spoil a connector and cause delays on the production line.
    Since it doesn't look like Howard B. Jones ever patented their series 1400 connector, there was nothing to stop anyone from copying it. Gottlieb and Bally started making their own version of the connector, and Williams went in another direction with their own flat-blade connector for a while. But eventually it looks like Gottlieb, at least, started sub-contracting this part out to one or more suppliers again. This would have been in the 1960s, after the Howard B Jones company was long gone.
    It's also interesting to note that while the form factor of the Gottlieb socket position solved the solder wicking problem, the version shown in the patent drawing actually had a design flaw that caused some trouble. There is only one thin finger on the front of the socket cavity that makes positive contact with the connector pin. This finger didn't really provide enough current carrying capability, and it also had a tendency to break off, causing the connection at that position to fail. Gottlieb realized they had a problem and made an engineering change so that each socket position had a pair of ears bending in from both sides of the socket cavity. This worked much better. The ears squeezed the pin to provide better electrical contact, and having the ears on the sides made them a lot less prone to breaking off, although that still happened occasionally.
    Based on the vintage games I've worked on, it seems that Gottlieb only used the original version of their patented connector for a few years before switching over to the improved version. I worked on a 1949 Old Faithful, for example, that had the newer style connector.
    - TimMe

    Your posts are always informative, learned and a pleasure to read Tim. Thank you.

    1 week later
    #19 4 days ago

    Tim, I am smarter for having read this. Darned nice work making this a historical detective piece as well. Thank you.

    #20 4 days ago

    What a great write-up. Very informative.
    I worked for a small electronics company back in the 80's and 90's. We made custom industrial displays among other things and used Cinch-Jones connectors in many projects. When I got into EM machines, I always figured they were from the same company, but never knew for sure.

    #21 3 days ago

    Sorry incorrect thread

    Reply

    Wanna join the discussion? Please sign in to reply to this topic.

    Hey there! Welcome to Pinside!

    Donate to Pinside

    Great to see you're enjoying Pinside! Did you know Pinside is able to run without any 3rd-party banners or ads, thanks to the support from our visitors? Please consider a donation to Pinside and get anext to your username to show for it! Or better yet, subscribe to Pinside+!