By Zachary Flynn
It’s the bright lights and the sounds of metallic bells dinging that takes me back to when I was a kid, asking my parents for a quarter to play pinball at the Red Robin on 50th Street in north Edmonton.
I consider myself lucky to be able to revisit that memory in my own home, playing on a machine built and well-used before I was even born.
It’s called “Buccaneer” and according to the Internet Pinball Machine Database (fancy name, I know), there were 3,650 of them produced starting in 1976 by D. Gottlieb & Co.
We were lucky enough to buy one around 2006 off of one of my parents’ coworkers.
It’s an old machine, so there aren’t any internal computers, electronic displays or any of that fancy stuff.
It’s all wires, bulbs, switches, solenoids, fuses, and other simple electronic equipment, skillfully put together along with some beautiful artwork to create a game I would easily favour over any video game.
When the weighty stainless steel ball rolls across the brightly-painted wood surface, over top a circular number illuminated by a small lightbulb, the ball triggers a mechanical switch. This switch turns off the light under that number, triggers the thousands column on the scoreboard to be rolled over five times accompanied by a brass bell rung with each click on the scoreboard.
The steel mass rolls across the playfield and into a worn, slowly cracking rubber band, pushing the band in and triggering a leaf switch. This completes an electronic circuit and triggers a solenoid that propels the ball across the surface and adds another ten points to the score along with a ding.
I can audibly hear this machine work and it’s a beautiful thing.
The tens, hundreds, and thousands tickers all have their own unique-sounding bells, so I know by ear how many points I’m getting as a ball goes from one bumper into another.
It’s a game that I could sit at for hours. It’s simple, elegant and gives my mind a chance to escape the digital world as the bells ring on.
The one quirk that I absolutely love about this machine is that the creators decided not to include a hundred-thousands column. So if you’ve had a good day and scored over 100,000 points, the scoreboard rolls over to zero.
It’s always a fun conversation when somebody in the house claims to have scored 150,000 points (shown as only 50,000 on the scoreboard) and you have to gauge whether they had an amazing game or a bad day.
Disconnecting from the world can be an incredibly relaxing feeling, and having the ability to play an old arcade game like this on a nightly basis helps a ton with stress-management and my overall mood.
Any bad day can be easily remedied by a couple of good games on that machine. It’s something I cherish and I hope to see it give my children an opportunity to play a game older than I am.