Sunday, August 29, 2010

home-made pinball machine

looking back at the things that we constructed in the past, i cannot help but marvelled at the enterprising and inventive spirit of the children of those days. if you go to blogger chun see's goodmorningyesterday, you can read about the toy gun that his friend chuck made during his kampong days. i too made and played with such a toy, using the same kind of ammunition - the green unripe fruit of the jamaican cherry tree. the tembusu tree provided the best material for making lastik (catapult) which we used to shoot birds and sometimes, dogs.

besides lastik and toy gun, i remember we also had a modified pinball machine. it was made using rubber bands and iron nails and played with colour marbles on a wooden board. to incline the board, we raised the top by placing a piece of wood, brick or a box under it. where would we have seen a real pinball machine? i guess it must have been at the new world amusement park at kitchener road.

there were two versions of the home-made pinball machine. one had a 'shooter' to propel the marble upwards so that it would eventually drop, hopefully, into one of the winning slots. like the actual pinball macine, we also had some devices that would bounce the marble around. this 'bouncing stick' was constructed using a nail with a rubber band wrapped all around it. there were also some constructed using two nails placed about three centimetres (about 1 inch) apart with two or three rubber bands stringed between the two nails.

another version did not have the 'shooter'. you simply dropped the marble from one of the openings at the top. with the board inclined, the marble would eventually travel to the bottom or end up at one of the winning slots.

so, what was the prize for winning at the game. according to one friend who used to play the home-made machine, it was a small bag of colour glass marbles.

of course, our backyard pinball machine did not come with flashing lights and sounds of bell ringing but it did provide us moments flushed with excitement and joy.

in the earlier years, pinball machines found at arcades were the mechanical type. the electronic ones appeared in the late 70s. malaysia banned pinball machines in arcades, amusement parks and private clubs in 1983. i am not aware of a similar ban in singapore.


JollyGreenP said...

YG I think the pin ball machine was derived from the home made version which was known as Bagatelle. Bagatelle is a French word meaning 'a mere trifle' or 'little thing'. The game was popular in the 19th century during the Regency period. Chad Valley was a popular maker of Bagatelle in the first half of the 20th century and had spring loaded plungers to propel the marble. Link to picture of a Chad Valley Bagatelle manufactured about 1930 available for sale at GB£35.00

yg said...

hi john, nice to hear from you again. thanks for the info on bagatelle.
the birth of the pinball in its modern form was credited to montague redgrave, a british inventor.

nah said...

That photo of the pinball machine reminds me of one which I made too, when I was a kid… just a few pieces of wood, nails, rubber bands and imaginations. Today, the pinball machines constructed by the kids, especially those from the design and technology stream, incorporate the use of electronic circuits and mechanisms to produce lights and sound. Some of the finished products are of such remarkable standards that they can easily be marketed.

yg said...

nah, the ones that we made didn't have the raised borders. we just used rubber bands and nails to construct the borders so as to keep the marble within the board.

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