Date: 20th - 24th October, 2010
Location: Westin Chicago North Shore, 601 N Milwaukee Ave, Wheeling, Illinois 60090, USA.

Day three and we begin bright and early a t 8:30am with the first of the day's seminars which, as is customary, was present by "Dr Scott" Sheridan and Ron Coon Jr.

“Dr. Scott” Sheridan & Ron Coon Jr.:
The DeCrapification of “Dr. Scott”
"Dr Scott" Sheridan Ron Coon Jr

Dr Scott declared himself a 'Clutterer' - someone who never throws anything out and keeps everything.

In his seminar he talked about his 12-step program to cure himself from his addiction to clutter. He started with the history of his first store in Maumee, his move to a larger store to accommodate all his pinballs, slots and the start of problems with clutter stored under machines, behind machines and in corners of the store.

Dr Scott showed us all around his store, the boxes of parts and spares which will never be used, the unrestored machines bought 20+ years ago and never touched. He recommended visiting or and taking their suggested steps to declutter and remain clutter-free in the future.

He described a few of the measures he has taken to clear out some of his unnecessary parts, spares and assorted junk.

Ron Coon Jr then game a presentation about the restoration work he did on a Phoenix game, including the time the transformer caught fire.

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John Watson: - Buying or Selling Your Next Pinball Machine Can Be Easier
John Watson

John said he is a database administrator and was looking for ways to give something back to the pinball community.

He said everyone has a 'want list' of games or parts they would be interested in buying and spoke about the process of hunting down the deals, starting with an example from and comparing it to a personal 'want list'. The problem is, he said, the sheer number of listings out there on the various assorted sites. John said finding that deal takes time, patience and luck.

His alternative is to get the computer to compare the deals against your own personal 'want list' and e-mail you when the selected criteria are matched.

He then went into a list of ideal features for a hypothetical sales site - unlimited high-resolution pictures, stating the distance from you to the seller, trusted and blocked seller lists, and making it easy to use.

This led to which John said was the result of 3.5 years of working on it in his spare time. He demonstrated how the site works with a volunteer setting up a 'want list', chatting with fellow users, setting up search criteria, adding friends and blocking users, and getting the site to e-mail with matching listings.

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Brian Weissmann:
HSA Pinball Playfield Restoration & Clear Coating
Brian Weissmann

Brian started by showing some examples of HSA's restoration work and then detailed all the steps they use to restore a playfield, showing pictures of his workshop and the tools used.

He explained why he uses a base clear coat to protect the original artwork before applying any repairs or repainting it. He said it also prevents new paint soaking into the bare wood which causes it to change colour. It also improves adhesion, he said, though he waits a week to 10 days after applying the initial coat before undertaking any further work on the playfield. Brian also advised not using a fish-eye eliminator as it reduces adhesion, and not to sand and apply clear coat in the same room, apply clear coat over an overlay and minimise the use of decals before clear coating. He also warned about over-buffing which heats up the playfield surface and can lead to inserts moving.

He described the three stages of restoration services available from HSA, from basic touch-ups through to full high-end restoration, and showed examples he had brought with him of the first two stages. The clear coat product he uses is BASF DC92 solvent-based clear which he described as 'nasty' and only suitable for use in a professional spray booth.

Brian then spoke about how he got into playfield restorations, from running his body shop and clear coating playfields from his own games, to doing the same for friends, to making it a full-time business and having a typical 4-6 month lead time on customers' restorations. Because the clear coat can take up to 6 months to fully cure, Brian advised not waxing one of his coated playfields for some time to allow the curing process to fully complete and to avoid playing on it for as long as possible, up to the 6 months curing duration.

Brain then gave away a clear coated Stern Elvis playfield to one of a small group of audience members who were asked to list all Steve Ritchie's games.

Finally Brian detailed some of the clear coat problems on different versions of playfields from Illinois Pinball and Classic Playfield Reproductions.

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Chuck Hess & Don Weingarden:
Nucore: Let the Tournament Begin
Chuck Hess Don Weingarden

Chuck began by talking about the tournament system designed for the original Pinball 2000 system and the problems and limitations of that, from the restricted network card support to the network response times required.

Chuck and Don have been writing their own tournament system which is about to be released in the upcoming version 2.0 upgrade of the Nucore software. In order to get the tournament system working, they have created their own server to host the tournament, but will also make this code open source for other developers to run and add their own features.

Don then took over to speak about how the game communicates with the server and the differences from the original system. Chuck explained how the tournament server can run on a Nucore-based Pinball 200 machine and host either local or internet-based tournaments.

He then described some of the other new features of the jukebox software built into Nucore as well as support for LEDs on the playfield without them being reported as bad lamps by the diagnostic software.

Chuck then spoke about the project by Gene Cunningham to re-make Wizard Blocks. He said although Gene has announced he was working with Nucore to start work on the project in 6 weeks time, the situation wasn't quite so cut-and-dried. Chuck and Don has discussed making Wizard Blocks with Wayne, although they have no experience building populated playfields.

So they spoke to third parties who could make the playfields for them and needed to work out a bill of materials. They told Wayne they were going to make Wizard Blocks, they got an initial go-ahead from Williams and then went to Gene to see if they could borrow a playfield to see which parts were required.

Since then, Wayne has sold his rights to Planetary Pinball, so the project is currently on hold until things settle down and PPS can see about making playfields to run with Nucore-based code. Chuck and Don have lined-up some people with experience writing pinball rules to complete the game's rule set. Although they haven't done detailed costings yet, Chuck said he couldn't see a completed playfield with finished software costing much less that $5,000-$7,000.

He also said the existing code doesn't exploit the modern hardware, so any finished version of Wizard Blocks would probably be written from scratch and not use the original code so they could produce much better 3D graphics using the modern graphics cards in the Nucore system.

Chuck and Don were also hosting a tournament in the main hall using their new software and audience members were invited to sign up to compete at the end of their seminar.

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Phoebe Smith & David Fix:
Restoring Original Backglasses
Phoebe Smith David Fix

Dave and Phoebe spoke about their techniques for restoring backglasses, starting with sealing the backglass using Krylon Triple Thick Clear Glaze and allowing it to dry before using water-based acrylics to start the touch-ups. Phoebe warned that the selected paint stays tacky even a week after application, so it should be covered with another coat of Triple Thick when completed.

They then spoke about the best brushes to use and when to use retarder to slow down the drying and make the paint a little more translucent. Phoebe then showed a light table which she uses to backlight a backglass to help match the colour which appears when it it backlit. As an example, they showed a Pharaoh backglass Phoebe had restored and repainted large sections. She said she used a sharpie on the front to draw guide lines for the painting at the rear. The sharpie could later removed with Windex.

Phoebe also said she replaces all 44 lamps with 47 lamps to help reduce the heat and protect the repairs.

Throughout the presentation Dave asked the audience to guess which games a variety of close-up sections came from. The correct guessers won their choice of glare guards, Triple Thick and Pin Footies.

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Terry Cumming:
1930s Pinball Evolution (and the People Behind It)
Terry Cumming

Terry has written several books, articles and websites, and specialises in pinball around the 1930s which was also the subject of this seminar.

He began with the history of pinball's evolution from the 1600s up to what he described as the start of pinball as a commercial product in 1931/2. In those years the game was made out of wood with holes and pins - no electricity and only manual scoring.

Terry explained how new features were added over the next few years such as electricity in 1933 for scoring and payouts followed by its use for playfield features such as kickout holes, bells and eventually lighting in 1934.

1935 was the year when mains electrical lighting really took off, leading to more backboxes appearing on games to show off the new feature.

1936 brought much more mains power, allowing bigger, animated backboxes and multi-coin games for what became the peak year for payout models.

When Bally produced their Bumper game in 1937, they spawned a whole series of different spring bumper designs from various manufacturers. Electrical lights were now being used for backbox scoring and metal playfields were introduced.

Electromagnets arrive in 1938 as did the first pop bumper, while backboxes expended further to around the size they finally ended up.

The following year, Bally used a lot of art deco styling while plastic and rubber parts were in general use for bumpers.

As the '40s arrived, bumpers began to dominate on playfields but the war meant new games were few and far between, so conversion kits to anti-axis attack themes arrived.

Terry also explored the growth and decline of jukeboxes, skeeballs, bowling and shooting games across the period, as well as the people involved in the industry at the time.

Finally, Terry gave a biography of Canadian-born game designer "Bon" MacDougall, who drove in the Indy 500, promoted races at Ascot Speedway in LA, was a member of the 13 Flying Black Cats and designed games for PAMCO, Bally and Allied.

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Ed Klamp:
A-Go-Go - From Backglass to Mural
Ed Klamp

Ed spoke about the first pinball machine he remembers - an A-Go-Go bought by his father at Christmas in 1978. Ed later became a collector himself and has kept the A-Go-Go all these years. The backglass however, suffered and had flaked badly.

When he built a new game room to house his collection, his A-Go-Go game no longer had a serviceable backglass so he got it scanned and digitally repainted it so he could get a translite print made to use in the game.

He then thought about turning the artwork into a mural on one wall of his game room, so traced the edges and transferred those to the 20 feet-wide wall so he, his family and friends could paint different sections and colours. Some of the elements needed to be shuffled around to fit the wall's shape and the glass blocks built in to let in light.

Ed showed the audience a picture of the finished mural and then a video of the image building up as more and more parts were hand painted, ending up with the completed wall and how it fits into the game room.

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Larry DeMar:
The Extended Cast at Williams
Larry DeMar

Larry began by showing a picture of the former Williams/Bally group from 20 years ago and then contrasted it with a similar picture taken earlier this year.

Larry was accompanied at this seminar by 17 fellow former Williams/Bally employees who would be able to answer questions or give comments.

The extended cast
The extended cast; from Eugene Jarvis on the left to Duncan Brown on the right

Larry first asked Dennis Nordman and the Greg Freres to join him on the stage to talk about some of the pictures he had to show the audience. The pictures were of Dennis and Elvira during the making of Elvira & the Party Monsters and of the offices at Williams. Greg also spoke about his and Dennis's Whoa Nellie! custom game which was on display in the main show hall.

Next was Jim Shird who worked in mechanical engineering at Williams who told the audience of some of the ideas they were working on behind the scenes.

Next were Bill Grupp and Tom Uban. Bill started in the cabling department but them moved into software where he worked with Tom but is now working with Larry at LED Gaming while Tom who headed up the Pinball 2000 software has begun his own company.

Next up was Eddie Hicks who started at Williams in 1993 and designed some of the mechanisms for games such as the turbo unit in Indy 500, and was in charge of changing the company over to purely electronic schematics and documents when the pinball division closed in 1999. He now works for Mark Loffredo's electronics company.

Larry's next guest was Tom Cahill who was in charge of the service department at Williams and making sure components were up to spec. Tom recalled how he joined at the changeover from EM to solid state and then saw all the others in the group come in and join the company. His background was in military systems, so the change to something created to simply amuse customers was quite a stark contrast.

Cameron Silver was the next onto the stage and spoke about how he got into Williams by e-mailing Dwight Sullivan about his ST-TNG game code, saying how great it must be to work at Williams. That led to an offer to come for an interview which he did and was well regarded by the Williams team but the immigration problems led to them saying 'thank you, but no'. Cameron offered to work out the immigration issues if they would hire him and so an agreement was reached and he joined to work on Ticket-Tac-Toe with Steve Kordek.

Cameron was joined by Jim Patla who spoke about the skill and dedication of the team behind Star Wars Episode 1, of which Cameron was a member.

Cameron was then replaced by Roger Sharpe who talked about a picture on the screen of him, Jim and Elvira, taken at a photo shoot for the first Elvira game and some of the other licenses used on Williams games and the Terminator 2 game in particular.

Chris Granner joined the group on stage and he told the story of how they got some impersonators to record the voice calls to send to Arnold as examples. Arnold not only refused to do the voice recordings, he also refused to let anyone else do them. Fortunately, he later relented and agreed to do them.

Mark Ritchie was the next guest and he spoke about the making of Indiana Jones and how it was working at the same company as his brother. Larry spoke about the teams, the politics, the conflicts and the way things eventually worked out and people could enjoy themselves.

Pat Lawlor then spoke about his time working with John Krutsch who couldn't be at the seminar. Pat started with his first game - Banzai Run - and how John, as the mechanical engineer, took on the challenge and made the design actually work.

John Trudeau joined Larry on stage to talk about the making of The Flintstones and Creature from the Black Lagoon as well as his current project working on a Forbidden Planet machine with a team in the UK.

John Youssi then walked onto the stage where he was joined by Pat Lawlor and Chris Granner. Pat spoke about the pros and cons of using licensed themes as opposed to an original concept.

Next to the stage was Eugene Jarvis who Larry said was not only his mentor when Larry joined Williams, but also the inventor of the sounds used when Williams pinball changed from chimes to electronics audio. Eugene described how he used just 512 bytes of memory to use to create three minutes of effects. He said the best thing he ever did was to get Larry to join Williams and then waste his life doing cool games.

The next guest was George Gomez who talked about the atmosphere at Williams and the creative freedom the design teams were allowed to enjoy, and none more so than during the development of Pinball 2000.

The penultimate guest onto the stage was Duncan Brown who was a programmer at Williams and when they closed, joined Larry to set up LED Design. Duncan said, like Cameron, he 'whined' his way into the company and finally got to do the programming on what turned out to be the last Williams production game - Star Wars Episode 1.

Just at the close of the seminar, Larry was joined by Mark Weyna who spoke about his work on Scared Stiff.

Larry closed by going through those former Williams employees who couldn't be at the seminar and just as he finished doing that, Chuck Bleich arrived and told about his job as a mechanical designer, moving to Midway when Williams closed, and now working at WMS Gaming.

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Fireside Chat: Steve Epstein & Roger Sharpe
Competitive Pinball, the Creation of PAPA, Leagues & The World Famous Broadway Arcade: The Never Before Told Story
Larry DeMar

Steve began this fireside chat by relating the history of the Broadway arcade, from his father's premises through to the '90s. As Steve's family was never able to buy the premises, when the owner chose to redevelop it, the arcade had no choice but to move to an adjacent, but smaller space which ultimately led to its demise.

But it was in the '70s when Roger was writing his book 'Pinball' that he came into the Broadway Arcade and met Steve.

Roger said he had moved to New York in 1972 but the only place which had proper pinball was the Broadway Arcade, so Roger began to be a regular there and getting to know the other regulars.

Roger related how many famous faces used to play there, knowing how they were both safe and wouldn't be bothered. He said it was just an amazing place where the cleaning and maintenance was almost continuous.

Roger and Steve used to compete to find out who was the better player. Roger said Steve got more high scores, but he was more consistent.

At that time, there was a major Supershooter tournament held at the Playboy Club in Chicago which received national live coverage and included several celebrity names in the presentation. Roger and Steve were unhappy with the way the tournament final was decided and decided they needed a way to keep track of scores and work out a handicapping and scoring system which rewarded consistently good play over sporadic good games.

They also thought about ways to create a league and a professional organisation to oversee it. That organisation was PAPA.

At that time, replay games were not legal in New York, so add-a-ball was the flavour of the game. This led to players trying to earn points rather than replays and this tied in well with the idea of a league. Creating a league - just like bowling alleys do - not only ensures your clientele return regularly, it can also increase the numbers of customers.

The initial league consisted of just 9 players, playing once a week for 9 weeks on a Saturday morning. The success of the first league led to additional divisions, and they took the league format to run at another location for one season where it proved equally popular.

Steve stressed the reason for PAPA's creation was not to promote them, but to show that pinball could still be a viable and profitable earner, and to garner industry support.

To get that support, Roger helped create a new organisation - the International Flipper Pinball Association (IFPA) - which was funded to the tune of $100,000. The first tournament - which Roger described as "a nightmare" - lasted from early morning until midnight because the organiser allowed extra balls and didn't realise that the better the players, the longer the games.

Roger said the initial IFPA structure failed because it was manufacturers trying to push their promotions on operators and never reaching the actual players. He said the great thing about the current IFPA is that it is player led, driven by a groundswell of enthusiasm driving operators and locations to provide facilities and demonstrate there is demand.

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Lloyd Olson:
The LTG Show
Larry DeMar

In his usual relaxed way, Lloyd invited everyone in the audience to come to the front and get themselves a drink before talking about his lifetime in the coin-op business and answering questions.

Amongst the many questions posed to Lloyd (along with the short answers) were:

  • His most profitable machine to operate (Soda machine)
  • Favourite pinball (Capcom Kingpin)
  • Most profitable pinball (Medieval Madness)
  • Does he declare all his earnings (Yes)
  • Does he ever catch anyone cheating his games (Yes, quite a few)
  • Does he own a Big Bang Bar? (Yes)
  • Did he ever own Death Race 2000 (No)
  • Best earning game (Asteroids & After Burner)
  • What does he price his new Stern games at? ($1.00, $0.75 for others)
  • Did he ever have a Dragon Slayer? (Yes)
  • Did Pinball 2000 help? (Yes, somewhat)
  • Top earning year? (1981)
  • Most unreliable pinball? (Not really had any)
  • Game which was the biggest surprise success? (Sega Hot Rods)
  • Do you have any games at home? (Not currently)
  • What years brought the best ROI on pinball (1991-92)
  • Would a dollar coin help? (Probably not - people would just keep them in jars)
  • Did you operate EM amusements (Yes)
  • Do you remember the line-up when you first started? (2001, Super Star, 4 Square and a couple of others)
  • Pinball machine which bought and sold quickest (Adventure)
  • What's your next tournament (Pinball Circus, April 2nd & 3rd)
  • What's the best support for tournaments from manufacturers (Almost none)
  • Do you use a machine's advanced audit information? (No)
  • Have you been a test location? (Yes, for most Williams games from Black Knight until 1999)
  • Do you have a jukebox? (No)
  • On average, do video games do better than pinball (Yes)
  • Why is pool dying? (Players are happier to sit at home and play games)

Marlowe draws another winning ticket
Marlowe draws another winning ticket

Everyone who attended was given a raffle ticket and throughout the evening, Lloyd and Marlowe Koch drew tickets for a large number of prizes such as T-shirts, pinball tiles, pinball plastics, custom pinball balls, a box of pinball parts, game glasses, pinball mugs and pin badges.

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We've got much more from Pinball Expo 2010 in the next part of our coverage. You can see Saturday's events by clicking here.

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