CNET News Video: Tech behind pinball wizardry
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CNET News Video: Tech behind pinball wizardry

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Don't be distracted by the flashing lights and the pinging, dinging, and clinging. The game of pinball puts some serious technology to work. CNET News.com's Kara Tsuboi visits Alameda, Calif.'s Lucky JuJu, the only pinball museum in the country, to learn about the history and the mechanics behind the classic machines.

^M00:00:00 [ Music ] >> Hey there. I'm Kara Tsuboi, CNET News.com. The game of pinball has been around for a couple hundred years. And the technology is surprisingly complex. Did you know that there's several thousand patents taken out on the mechanics of the game? I'm here at the Lucky Ju Ju Pinball Museum and Gallery in Alameda, California to learn all about it. ^M00:00:23 [ Music ] ^M00:00:33 >> It started in France as Bagatelle. And it was around the time of the Revolution, so it was the royalty. And it was a gentlemen's game. And it was basically a slanted board with a cue stick and balls. And you knocked the balls up into the little pockets. >> Michael Schiess owns and curates the Lucky Ju Ju, the only American pinball museum. He can tell you all you'd want to know about the game's history. >> This is a valley bumper that had some of the first scoring. It's a little projector. This is the first game to have flippers. And they're not down where you'd expect them to be, they're -- and there's actually six of them. And see, they all work together. Then they added scoring and electricity, and then bumpers. It wasn't until 1947 that the flippers were invented. And that's, basically, became pinball as we know it. >> Like so many young boys, Schiess first became interested in the game through the art. >> To be fair, they -- it's not all, you know, T and A. Although Lady Luck, that's pretty much all it's about. >> But since he has an electrical engineering background, he got the urge to take a machine apart to figure out the mechanics. >> When you're confronted with that much wire, and all those switches. And it ain't working, you know, and you go, "Well, gee. What is it?" >> A couple of years ago, Schiess built a clear, electro mechanical pinball machine to show off its guts. >> There's basically switches all over the playing field. It runs over them and either -- >> Oh. >> That's all right. When you rocket, it has a homing switch, so you just rocket off its homing switch, and it rotates a third of a revolution, so 120 degrees. This is a coil. It's just one piece of wire that's wound around a coil of a certain gauge wire, and then it comes out. And when you run electricity through it, it becomes a magnet. In this case, a real strong magnet. And usually, that pulls -- [ Ringing sound ] Oops, sorry. That pulls on the -- [ Repeated pinball ringing sound ] And that's the basis behind moving the ball around. >> In the 1970s, microprocessors, circuit boards, and digital displays replaced the electro mechanic versions. These solid-state machines would offer something new to the player. Memory. >> It would remember every thing that he'd done, and set every thing back up, so it was like, wow. You know, the players really loved that. >> In the '80s, in efforts to compete with newly popular video games, pinball machines evolved to include video as well. >> At the end of the play field, you had kind of a movie scene. And that's where the video came in. And you wouldn't even see the targets you were actually hitting, you'd just see the video representation of it. >> When that innovation failed to score, designers had to search for ways to incorporate new tech into the game play. >> A little bit of hardware, and it hooks into your computer, or through your modem. And it posts your score, so everybody can compete online with their pinball machine at home. >> If you ever find yourself in Northern California, a visit to the Lucky Ju Ju is an absolute must. Pay a donation and enjoy hours and hours of free game play while enjoying the fabulous history and art of these gorgeous machines. I'm Kara Tsuboi, CNET News. com. [ Pinball game sounds ] ^M00:03:42 [ Music ]

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