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Russ Jensen, pinball historian & author

These articles were imported from the site's old home page.

News of Russ' passing can be found here: https://www.pinballnews.com/news/jensen.html
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 help preserve pinball than Russ. As enthusiasts, we should applaud his effort. I thought we might get to know Russ better if you know where his Pinball Roots are planted. Russ, who turned 69 in October of 2005, has had close to 150 articles...
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 these cities only having been overturned in the courts in the 1970's. Paralleling these legal harassments have been numerous attacks by the "crusading press" and national magazines. Probably the three strongest 'anti-pinball' articles to appear 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 Due to a one year hiatus in the publication of PIJAMA it will not be published in French until sometime later. I have decided that it should be published in English in COIN SLOT) Before beginning my story of the flipper I would like to acknowledge the help of three people in my research for this article. My good friend and pinball...
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 attempt to describe the evolution of this fascinating device from its inception in the mid Thirties to the electronic pins of today. BEFORE BUMPERS The earliest pingames used one, and only one, scoring device, the hole, into which a ball would fall...
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 connection with pinball, he also delved into other coin-op amusement devices, even into video games in the past year or two. Pete Bilarczyk, publisher in the mid 70s of the tabloid "Pinball Wizzard News", once referred to Harry as The Father Of Pinball. This...
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 Historical Survey As a result, for many years to come, pinballs had to be defended as being "amusement" and not "gambling" devices. But, as we shall see, many pingames were made to be used for gambling, others made so they could be used for...
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 the years. One point I wish to make at the outset. When I refer to the "scoring theme" of a game I am talking about the theme of the type of scoring used in the game, and not the theme of the artwork used on the backglasses of later machines...
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; just as the questions came to mind during the call. In this, and succeeding articles, I will describe the information I gained from this great man during these telephone conversations. Before I start discussing these phone conversations with Harry...
(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 without flippers! First, let me introduce myself and my fascination with pinball. I am Russ Jensen and my card reads "Pinball Collector and Historian." Even before I became interested in pinball, I was interested in electrical things...
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 their early ancestors. Many of you who owned or operated one of these games, I am sure, have often wondered how these machines perform the functions they do. They even seem to have a mind of their own when it comes to giving you the extra...
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 particular game. When I was about 11 or 12 years old (in the late 40's) I was given two pingames by a local coin machine operator. These were Bally's VARIETY (IPD link to Variety) and VOGUE, (IPD link to Vogue) both of 1939. My VARIETY had a crack in...
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 that I call or visit Mr. Williams sometime, who he described as a very friendly individual. I didn't really think at that time I would have the "nerve" to call this great man, but I took his address and phone number anyway. Well, several...
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