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Articles from Russ Jensen

Pinball historian and author, Russ Jensen's Articles, Imported from Pinball Nirvana's old home page.
Russ Jensen, Pinball Historian (webmasters note, Pinball historian and author Russ Jensen passed away on Saturday 10th November, 2007 aged 71.) With the passing of Dick Bueschel, Russ Jensen may well be our leading pinball historian. And just like Dick, Russ is generous not only with his time and resources, but also his knowledge. I feel that should earn Russ not only our gratitude, but also our thankful respect. I can’t think or anyone who as a hobbyist has done more to promote and...
The pinball machine has been attacked a multitude of times in its seventy year lifetime but has still survived. These attacks were generally based on the use (either real or imagined) of the pingame as a "gambling device" and were carried out using court actions and city, county, state, and federal legislation.These attacks resulted in pingames eventually being banned in many jurisdictions, most notably in the nation's three largest cities (New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles). The bans in...
What do most pinball historians and industry people believe is the single greatest invention in the history of pinball? The answer is the flipper. The primary reason given for this is that the flipper finally introduced a high degree of "skill" to the game. (AUTHOR'S NOTE: This article was written at the suggestion of French coin-op magazine publisher Yves Erard for his publicationPIJAMA. Due to a one year hiatus in the publication of PIJAMA it will not be published in French until...
What has been the most common scoring and action device throughout most of the history of pinball? Without too much thought, especially by people who played pinball during the 30's, 40's, and 50's, the answer would unquestionably be, the bumper. That device has taken on many forms since it was first conceived by a Bally designer of the mid Thirties, but all of its forms had two things in common, a way to score points and a way to add extra action to the ball in play. This article will...
One of the true pioneers of the coin machine industry, Mr. Harry E. Williams, succumbed to cancer at the age of 77. Harry passed away on Sept. 11, 1983 at his home in Palm Springs, California. This is certainly a great loss to the world of coin operated amusement. Mr. Williams was part of our great industry for over fifty years, from the late 1920's until the time of his death. Mr. Williams was a fine gentleman who loved coin op amusement devices. Although he was primarily known in...
Almost from the beginning of pinball in the early 1930s (there were a few pinball-like games before that, but we'll leave those to Dick Bueschel) a recurring problem encountered by the "pinball industry" has been anti-gambling forces. This was partly due to the fact that a major product of the coin machine industry in the Thirties was the "bell slot machine", which was certainly a gambling machine, and many people opposed to gambling were suspicious of all coin operated devices. An...
Ever since the inception of the pinball game in the early 30's, some form of "scoring" was used to indicate the player's prowess at the game. Although in the majority of cases some form of "point system" was used, some games used other methods of "keeping score". In this article I shall attempt to briefly describe many of the "scoring themes" used on pinball games over the years, and when a straight "numerical" scoring system was used, elaborate on how the values of these scores changed over...
I’ve told you about my memorable visit with pinball pioneer Harry Williams at his home in Palm Springs, California in March 1978. After that visit I had the occasion to talk on the telephone with Mr. Williams several times between that time and his untimely death in September 1983. During these conversations I asked various questions of him and made notes of his answers and comments. Many different subjects were discussed during these calls and not necessarily in any particular sequence...
(Author's Note: This was the first pinball article I ever had published. It was published in the premier issue of AMUSEMENT REVIEW in March 1979) Five balls for five cents! That doesn't sound like modern pinball! Well, you're right, it isn't, and this column has nothing to do with modern pinball, except maybe to compare it to earlier predecessors. This monthly column is devoted to the pinball machines of bygone years--those with wooden legs, brightly lighted scoreboards, and even those...
Some time back, an article of mine appeared in The Coin Slot describing the history and characteristics of the so called "bingo" or "in-line" multiple coin pinball machines. These games are by far the most complex of any electro-mechanical game ever devised. The circuitry of these machines was evolved from that of the bingo's predecessor, the one-ball horse race machines, early versions of which had been around since the mid 'thirties. Later model bingos, however, were far more complex than...
by Russ Jensen This is the seventh in my series of articles describing, in chronological order, the pingames in my personal collection. This time I will describe one of the more interesting early pingames which I own, Genco's "7-UP", and also talk briefly about the fun and challenge of playing such "pre-flipper" games, using the features of this game as an example of such machines. Before describing 7-UP, however, I will digress for a few moments and describe how and why I acquired this...
While going through my files I came across a series of "notes" I had made after my visit to pinball pioneer Harry Williams in early 1978, and subsequent phone conversations with him in the years to follow. The article to follow was written to pass on the information I gained from those conversations. First, let me briefly relate the story of how I came to visit Harry in the first place. One day while talking to pinball author/historian Roger Sharpe on the phone, he suggested to me...
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