An electro-mechanical pinball machine
For the newcomer to the home ownership of pinball games it is essential to have an understanding of the features associated with the different types of machines. Given below are descriptions of the various types of pinball machines that a buyer is likely to encounter during his or her search for a game.


The electro-mechanical or E/M pinball game is typified by the mechanical score counters within the back-box. Production of this type of machine ended around 1978.

These games offer simple game playing strategies and awards are won either by beating a pre-determined score or by making the special.

In the home market these types of machines are always popular and some models are now regarded as being collectible. Usually, the collectible models boast an animation feature or have a recognised theme.

A minimal amount of maintenance is required to keep this type of game in running order.
An early electronic pinball

Early electronic pinball games were manufactured from the late 1970's to the end of the 1980's.

The mechanical score counters of the predecessor have been replaced with gas discharge displays. These innovations allow  players to enter their initials in to high score tables in games produced after 1983. The introduction of electronics to control the game, as opposed to the relays and step-up switches used in the earlier games, makes for greater reliability. Better control systems allow for more interactive use of the lights in the game so that the player can be guided to make the shots the game is looking for to achieve set objectives. The later games feature self percentaging which means that as the player gets better at achieving the objectives, so the game will compensate and make the objectives harder, perhaps by shortening the time allowed to make a series of shots. This is important in games that are in home use, where the same player(s) play over and over again, to eliminate boredom and keep the player interested.

Generally speaking, the gameplay and features are still fairly basic. Electronics has allowed the introduction of sound and in some cases speech, whereas the earlier games were limited to bells and chimes.

No maintenance is required and faults can usually be repaired by sending circuit boards to a specialist repairer, such as ourselves.

An advanced electronic pinball machine with dot matrix display

Advanced electronic games were introduced in 1990 and represent the final stage in the evolution of the pinball game. The dot matrix display permits graphics to accompany game play and in some machines, allows the incorporation of video mode(s). The more advanced computer systems controlling these types of machines allow fully synchronised stereo sound and speech, as well as graphics. Where the game is themed on a movie or television show, speech from the appropriate soundtrack can enhance the playing experience. Features are much more advanced than on earlier incarnations and playfield toys, ramps and multiball come as standard.

Advanced diagnostics come as part of the package and these not only permit comprehensive testing of sub-systems and components within the game, but also allow the game to work around faulty switches, so that a simple fault does not lead to a degraded and disappointing game. Even so, the superior reliability of this type of machine means that the diagnostics are rarely used. No maintenance is required.

In 1998 Williams released two games that incorporated a video projection feature which allowed interaction between a video mode and gameplay on the playfield. These machines are based on a PC controlled system and although this system is no longer available, a modern day after market replacement can be obtained to link with the basic machine and existing video display. The machine utilises even more advanced diagnostics than previous machines.

Larry de Mar and George Gomez demonstrate Revenge from Mars at the UK launch of Pinball 2000