Not everyone is aware that FLASH is an absolute milestone.
Presentation in February 1979
1st machine designed by Steve Ritchie for Williams after his first 2 designs for Atari.
1st machine featuring a dynamic Background-sound, increasing in pitch and indicating the player's skill to anyone.
1st machine using FLASH-Lights, which got their name therefore.
1st machine with newly designed, smooth and much faster Flipper-Lanes.
1st machine with new-style translucent lane-guide-plastics.
1st machine since decades with a black cabinet, which became soon standard for each manufacturer.
With 19,505 Units built it's the most succesful machine under the Williams-Sign and the 3rd most succesful Flipper-Game of all time.
There were at least 4 more or less licensed versions around the globe - Zeus, Super-Zeus, Storm and Shock with identical artwork and the same playfield-design, sometimes missing some features. It's quite possible that if these versions would be added in the production-run FLASH could be the most-produced machine ever, topping Addams Family's 21,270 units.
Williams experimented at an early stage with black, red and blue models.
Steve Ritchie originally wanted a strobe-light on the backbox but Williams refused. This idea was realized in another way 7 years later on High-Speed.
Another first were the translucent lane-guide-plastics in blue. Some units from the later production-runs were fitted with red ones, and red posts too, likely because Williams couldn't keep up with the high demand and the blue ones run out of stock. The machines were factory-fitted exclusively with white flippers and white flipper-rubbers instead of the usual red or yellow ones. This different look gave the 3 totally white flippers the appeal of bright lightnings in a dark sky.
In the backbox there also originally where 5 flashing GE-455-bulbs behind the 5 "lightning-bundles"
It was one of the first designs for pinball-artist Constantino Mitchell. French artist Christian Marche, who designed the artwork for ca. 185 machines since 1965, most of them for Williams, left the USA in 1978 and Constantino was the new guy in town.
FLASH had a very long production-run.
According to IPDB, 400 test-samples were manufactured from Oct 27 to Dec 18, 1978. Serial-production of 19.105 units started at the end of January 1979.
The IPDB shows an end-of-production-date July 30, 1979, but regarding the serial-numbers this date seems rather uncorrect.
The very first FLASH serial-numbers are around 335.000 - 339.000.
Serial-production started around number 345.000 and covers the area to 359.000. Then there is a gap until 375.000 and the numbers cover the area up to 390.000. The first GORGAR-units also had numbers around 390.000 so it rather seems that FLASH was manufactured until the end of 1979. The date July 30 could mark the end of the first large production-run until #359.000.
Steve Ritche told that he asked the management why they stopped production at 19.505 and would not pass the 20.000-unit-mark - they answered "we want to leave the market wanting"
The machine was suffering later for 2 reasons - the drop-target-units were still the same as used in EM-machines like Big Deal, where they did OK, but they could not keep up with the fast Steve-Ritchie-design and broke. Same goes for the flipper-units. The machines were always in use on location and the 'old' assemblies simply were too weak.
Steve Ritchie surely knew about this but there was absolutely no time to create new drop-target- and flipper-assemblies for FLASH. New and powerful flippers were ready for FIREPOWER but new drop-targets took some more time. That's why FIREPOWER did not use drop-targets as originally planned, simply to avoid maintenance-problems.
Nowadays many people consider FLASH as dull or even primitive, but you had to be there in 1979 when it literally appeared like a FLASH out of the blue. It was an awesome experience, and people lined up just to hear that stunning thunder. Many guys, including me, took tape-recorders with them so they could hear the wonderful new sound at home. The dominating Bally-machines with their crude sound and lame flipper-lanes became obsolete over night. WILLIAMS was back again and heading for #1.
So everybody please, next time you see a "dumpster" FLASH and also his younger "brother" FIREPOWER, think twice - it's definitely not just another old machine, just worth getting parted-out, but it's a milestone and stands proud in a row with Humpty-Dumpty, the invention of Solid-State, Black Knight, High-Speed and Addams Family. And it deserves being saved. Far too much of them got already destroyed.
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