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Historic Firsts and Lasts

Pinball has a storied and fascinating history, and much of that history involved both Flipperless and EM tables. This History Lesson will tell on one beginning, which corrects an incorrect myth we may believe, and two endings. While many pinheads might think Baffle Ball by Gottlieb was the first Pinball Machine, that simply isn't true. The game that is recognized as the first Pinball machine is Champion Whiffle in 1931, by Automatic Industries, possibly only weeks before Baffle Ball was released. Maybe since Automatic Industries survived only until 1936, their role in pinball lore seems to have at times been overlooked.

Whiffle had a shuttle board system that returned the ten balls to the bottom of the table when a coin was feed into the game. It used a "wheel" ball lifter device controlled by a knob on the front of the game to feed the marbles to the launcher for play. While Whiffle was at best a moderate success, it really was the first ever Pinball Machine. What might have hurt the success of Whiffle was the fact that there were three versions of the game. Besides Champion Whiffle, there was also a Whiffle Bagatelle for home sales, and a Whiffle Board, and these were produced between January 1931 and July 1932.

The next milestone we shall look at is sad, in that United's 1948 Manhattan IPD Link was the last ever Commercial Flipperless made. When Gottlieb had introduced the flipper with triple side stack flippers in 1947, with Humpty Dumpty, and manufacturers rushed to mimic them using retrofit kits, United felt there was still room for Flipperless. Sad to say, Manhattan was their last table produced without flippers. Manhattan is truly a beautiful game, with stunning artwork. The pop bumpers offered plenty of gameplay action, and
the rollovers lighting the letters MANHATTAN resulted in bonuses. Manhattan
was truly a magnificent and elaborate work of art, a final and glorious lasting
tribute to the wondrous Flipperless.

The final chapter of our History Lesson is another Last, this one the final EM table even made, again by Gottlieb, in 1977s Mustang which is the two-player version of Bronco. While many see the advent of Solid State as a major advance in the progress of Pinball, many Flipperless and EM fans don't share that point of view. While
any and all pinball is real cause for celebration, I believe that the dawning
of Solid State, and later, the introduction of Video modes and voices and such things, is part of the reason for the downfall of Pinballs popularity.
This is merely the opinion of a fellow who dearly loved and still enjoys all
Bagatelle, Flipperless, and even Flippered EMs. It's not that I'm so much against more modern pinball, but simply that I'm still in mourning for what was.


Updated Jul 05, 2004 Written by tiltjlp


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