Throughout much of the 20th century, the names Bally, Gottlieb, and Williams have been pinball deities to pinball wizards worldwide. These were the big three companies, whose pinball machines were the precursors of today’s video games.

Gottlieb was founded in Chicago in 1927. One of its first tabletop pinball machines from 1931 was called Baffle Ball, which sold for $17.50 and gave players a half-dozen-or-so chances (depending on how the game was set) to get a ball into a hole for just a penny. A Williams game from 1952 called Horsefeathers allowed two players to play side-by-side, as balls bouncing on bumpers advanced mechanical horses on the game’s backbox. As for Bally, its Caperville game from 1966 featured stylized spies in an underwater world of angular heroes and heroines.

In the 1970s, the electromechanical pinball machines of the 1950s and 1960s were replaced by solid-state machines, which could compute scores almost instantaneously. They also added a cacophony of sound effects to the machines repertoire of bells and whistles. Video games in the 1980s almost wiped out pinball games entirely, but a series of lucrative licensing deals with movie producers in the 1990s made pinball popular again. In 1991, for example, Bally’s Midway division manufactured a machine based on the film "The Addams Family." It remains the best-selling pinball machine of all time, with more than 20,000 units sold.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

An enormous database focusing on pinball machines and other arcade games from the 1930s and on, from a collector wh… [read review or visit site]

Internet Pinball Database

Internet Pinball Database

For an in-depth look at thousands of different pinball machines, head over to the Internet Pinball Database, where … [read review or visit site]

Museum of Talking Boards

Museum of Talking Boards

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International Arcade Museum

International Arcade Museum

This site boasts more than 13,000 pages of educational content on arcade and coin-op collecting, including innumera… [read review or visit site]

Elliot Avedon Games Museum

Elliot Avedon Games Museum

This in-depth University of Waterloo virtual exhibit showcases vintage games in a variety of categories, from class… [read review or visit site]

Electronic Plastic

Electronic Plastic

From Tomy to Coleco to Mattel and Nintendo, check out this collection of over 660 handheld and tabletop videogames … [read review or visit site]

Pong Story

Pong Story

David Winter's tribute to early video games, and to Ralph H. Baer, 'inventor of the video game.' Offers a detailed … [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

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Recent News: Pinball Machines

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Free beer, coffee and Wi-Fi: Retail stores shift strategy in response to rise ..., February 28th

An espresso bar is tucked amongst the leather goods. Will Leather Goods in NW Portland offers a covered deck behind the store and a coffee bar. Retail stores are becoming more experiential, adding services like coffee bars and lounges. Michael Lloyd/Staff...Read more

Love of cars turns into 'man cave' competition for Taylor family
Southgate News Herald, February 27th

Particularly noteworthy in his collection are a 1978 Rowe Jukebox, a Bally 1976 Evel Knievel pinball machine and a collection of miniature and full-size vintage gas pumps. There's even a custom-painted 1950's era Kelvinator refrigerator with the...Read more

Weekly Happy Hour
Urban Milwaukee Dial, February 26th

Inside the two-room corner bar there are three vintage cycles. ... If you come on an off-night the stage room also has a Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga arcade, dart board and Rolling Stones pinball machine for your electronic entertainment needs. If you visit...Read more

Alameda's Pacific Pinball Museum part arcade, part tribute, all fun
Marin Independent Journal, February 25th

"I had experience setting up displays at museums," said Schiess, who had noticed few pinball displays among the museums he had seen across the nation. That includes the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., in which Schiess saw only one old machine...Read more

Seven places to take kids during the winter, February 25th

Featuring more than 55 classic pinball machines and restored arcade games, Old School Pinball and Arcade is a place where the youngest generation can experience what gaming was like before Xbox and Wii. Most of the machines are on free play mode, ...Read more

The Best East Bay Thrift Stores
East Bay Express, February 24th

For the committed rummager, you're likely to find treasures unavailable anywhere else, such as an old pinball machine, a Saved by the Bell-era cellphone, or a taxidermied ground squirrel. At 33,000 square feet, Hayward Eco Thrift (25891 Mission Blvd., ...Read more

Damon Carson: Google-hacking for the greater good
Longmont Times-Call, February 14th

Suppose you have an old vintage pinball machine that you'd like to know the history of and where to buy parts. Finding people that know about vintage pinball machines is as time consuming as is contacting them each separately. Invariably, the first...Read more

Seattle Pinball Museum offers all-day play on six decades of machines ..., February 2nd

The Seattle Pinball Museum (508 Maynard Ave. S.) in the International District offers unlimited play for $13 (or $25 if you come and go during the day) on vintage pinball machines from the 1960s to the latest 2014 versions. Mike Williams of Auburn is a ...Read more