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This Day in Pinball – October 22, 1947

October 22, 2010

Today is the official birthday of arguably the most important advancement in pinball games.

What is ubiquitous to us now was not always.  The first pinball games (and for a decade and a half of pinball’s existence) had no flippers.  You had the plunger, you nudged, and you prayed.  It was a cheap and hopeful element of the Depression, immensely popular, but essentially a gambling game.

There were payout machines (similar to slot machines), but it was probably more likely that games didn’t have payout mechanisms, yet credits were sold back to the retailer on staff.  This was when pin games were so popular they were in every drug store, every dime store (now called Dollar stores), every local bar.  Credits were traded for “prizes”, cigarettes, or nickels, or whatever was dreamed up.

Prior to flippers, pinball was certainly a gambling man’s game.  The exchange of credits for cigarettes and money was kept mostly under the table and on the down low, to skirt the law.  There were literally thousands of local and State actions to ban pinball over the years as a “game of chance”.

Much lore and conjecture surrounds Harry Mabs’ invention of the flipper. Was it merely an accident during testing?  We may never know, but what is indisputable is that it created the game we know today.

Image/article credit: Billboard Magazine


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