Chicago Pinball Expo, 2010

Though we had some big plans, the large group outing to this year’s Pinball Expo was a little smaller than anticipated (due to weather and scheduling conflicts). So this Saturday found just me and Chris, driving up to Wheeling to get our pinball on.

I didn’t notice this until just now, but in the pic above… the two kids are carrying their own stepstools. Awesome.

A Terminator pinball machine topper. That, or the best damn car hood ornament in the world!

A sample display of LED lights from CoinTaker.

Another display set of LED lights. I like the father/son in the background.

Lots of boards on display/sale.

A Terminator 2 pinball machine that was in spectacular condition.

Oooh… shiny.

And a slightly more modern Iron Man game.

Spotted this on a nearby table. I recognize Gotham, but not the Public Works part. It didn’t seem like it was for sale. It was just there to… not be touched.

PinScore display, which always makes me think of a suitcase bomb.

I bet I would love these if I actually owned a pinball machine. But from my POV, it still looked like some kind of missile command launch center.

This was one of the cooler things I found, while wandering around. It’s an old school pinball machine from the 1930’s. Back in the day, the first pinball machines were actually mechanical and involved actual pins in the wood. Hence the name.

Closeup of the pins and holes.

Another shot (the owner kindly remove the glass to help reduce the glare.

When I first walked up, this guy was taking some closeup photos of the machine. In talking, I learned that his name was Jay and that he was the primary editor for the IPDB: Internet Pinball Machine Database. He was a wealth of information, and in listening to him talk with others nearby… his quick side comments were peppered with all sorts of details that I couldn’t keep track of.

Jay, measuring the machine so that he could add in the specs later.

Sadness. The Black Knight 2000 machine was on, but not really functional. The flippers felt like soggy pieces of bread, and after two balls I realized the machine was unplayable.

A guy nearby leaned in and said “It’s a shame, isn’t it?” And it really was. This was one of the games I was really looking forward to playing.

A nearby Getaway machine, under repair. The lights were kind of mesmerizing, so I took a little video too:

A quick view of a row of machines (I was standing on a chair). The whole room was pretty dark, which made it feel very much like an old school arcade.

A game I remember fondly from my past, but haven’t played in a while: Earthshaker (at certain points, the entire machine starts to vibrate).

I can’t tell if this is from the 80’s or 90’s.

Detail of the Earthshaker board. I spent a lot of my time on this game, and found it a really fun and challenging game. A lot of skill involved, and was realyl fun to play.

Varkon was a kind of pinball game housed inside a traditional standup box. Unlike a normal pinball machine (which angles downward toward the player, this game angled downward away from the player. And instead of of looking directly at the board, you focused on a mirror reflection.

Split screen – the actual board is below, but the mirror reflection is above.

General shot of a row of machines. The one closest to the camera is Bride of Pinbot.

Which… I have to say, was awesome. Bride of Pinbot was one of the best machines on the floor. Super responsive, and it felt like you were on a brand new machine. I could have stayed there for hours, just playing that game.

Sadly, despite a few rounds with Chris, I never got back to it in the later afternoon.

FunHouse, an old standby. Although I only played it a handful of times this year.

Rudy, who is pretty disturbing normally, looking even more disturbing with his willy nilly eyes.

Chris talked me in to playing a few games of Fish Tales (which actually was more fun than I thought it would be).

Nate joined us about an hour or so after we arrived, and the three of us made our way over to the hotel’s restaurant for lunch. I got a nice combo meal of sushi, skirt steak, and a mushroom bisque soup. Very tasty stuff.

I felt incredibly underdressed for the restaurant (I was wearing a hoodie, t-shirt and jeans). But all of us were very clearly there for the Pinball Expo. The one nice thing was that, given our appearances… they assumed we were “with the pinball group” and gave us a discount on our bill. Score!

After lunch I wandered around some. I’d never peeked into the back rooms, and this year I found a few independent areas/rooms where folks were selling their wares.

Random Batman game, just sitting in the hallway.

Ok, this was a little surreal. I saw a large ballroom area open and decided to walk on in. On entering, I saw a series of hotel tables configured into a giant square. Along the perimeter were people holding mini posters and cameras; within the square, folks were signing things and shaking hands.

I got the impression that the folks inside the square were famous within the pinball community. I saw one guest steal inside, to get his picture taken with the guy in the blue shirt.

Everyone around me seemed a little starstruck, and I had absolutely NO IDEA who any of these people were. It felt like a moment out of a science fiction story, where I was somehow missing vital information that everyone else took for granted. Very weird.

Good old oversized Hercules. I think the guy playing was the one who commisserated with me about the Black Knight 2000.

That’s a pretty good deal on an Ark of the Covenant.

Wandering around a bit more, I saw tons of circuit boards just lying around. No idea what any of these are or do.

Ramps, ramps, ramps!

Some more boards on display.

Kiss Pinball!

A vendor offering up cold soda bottles. I was tempted to pick up an RC Cola, but the ones that caught my eye were the Dang! root beer and a bottle of “Moxie.”

I talked with the guy behind the counter, and when I asked him where he got all these… he told me he called up a ton of private distributors. I asked if he had been stockpiling these over a period of years, and he assured me everything was new.

I played a few rounds of Taxi with Chris. I first picked this game because of the ridiculous cast of characters: Santa, Dracula, Pinbot, Gorbachev and Marilyn Monroe. Despite the kitsch, it was actually pretty fun to play.

A lonely Pac Man machine. I did see a few people on this, throughout the time I was in the hall. $500 seems like a pretty good deal to me.

Seeing things like this made me feel like I was walking through someone’s garage. I love that the super old and the shiny new were oftentimes side by side.

A row of competitors, who were playing in the ongoing tournament.

Until next year!

Pinball Expo, 2007
Pinball Expo, 2008
Chris Buys a Comet Pinball Machine

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Sad to have missed it this year! That PinScore display must be a nightmare to get through airport security these days. I hope they drove, because the thought of being flagged 1,000 times over by TSA would be a nightmare!!

    Allison Reply

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