Pinball machines nowadays are loud, colourful, flashy machines that drive players to the point of insanity in beating the game getting the best high score. However, the modern pinball machine you see now is a far cry from its original ancestor.


The ancestor of your favorite game, according to historians, is the 19th century Bagatelle-Table, although the game is also attributed to other outdoor games that require hitting balls with sticks to direct them towards specific targets.

The Development of Spring Launchers

The spring launcher was invented between 1750 and 1770. The table is then designed to have a slight incline, and the player launches the ball on the inclined playfield using this launcher. A US Patent was granted to Redgrave in 1871 who standardized and modernized the spring launcher as well as for improving the Bagatelle. His design amendments pave way to the present design of the pinball machine.

Electrification and Active Bumpers

The advent of electricity gave way to a pinball machine design by Harry Williams that has an electrically powered solenoid that propels the ball that sunk in a hole located at the middle back upwards to the playfield. Since the then, designers utilize lights to improve game design in pinball machines and attract players.


The ancient pinball used to be operated by table nudging. In 1947, Gottlieb introduced flippers in his pinball game design Humpty Dumpty. This changed the level of the game, adding some skill factor into the game play as you manipulate three pairs of flippers in the playfield as you play.

Steve Kordek then added some changes by just using two out-ward facing flippers with DC power supply. The direction of the flipper design was changed in the pinball “Spot Bowler” created by Gottlieb in 1950.

Electronics and Digital Displays

The onset of microprocessors included pinball machines in the electronic gaming genre. The machines now have electronic scoring, electronic sounds, as well as electronic speeches that lasted up to the 80’s. The 80’s also saw the merging of Williams and Bally, two highly acclaimed pinball machine designers. Together, they produced games that have characters in the background like:

  • Cirqus Voltaire
  • Twilight Zone
  • Scared Stiff
  • Monster bash
  • Tales Of The Arabian Nights
  • Addams Family – the most popular pinball machine in history.

The Next Generation

New pinball machines are now getting better and a lot more complex. Pinball designs now include LED, LCD, and colored dot-matrix displays that replace the traditional smooth wooden playfield. There are still some traditional pinball designs to date, like the Wizard of Oz by Jersey Jack Pinball.

Pinball machines continue to evolve throughout the years, yet they still maintain that endless hours of fun and play. There are so many designs to choose from, and each of them giving you different levels of game difficulty. Regardless of whatever design you have with your pinball, all of them share the common goal of challenging players to beat the high score and improve their playing skill overtime.