The Lonely Pinball Repairman

You think it's hard being the only company around that still makes pinball machines? What about the people left who still repairs them?

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting write-up about Mike Hooker, by day a locomotive repairman, but in his time off a pinball fixer who makes house calls.

Pinball machines, once king of arcades and pool halls, have long, slowly pinged and banged their way into obsolescence. They're not quite there yet. Chicago's Stern Pinball is the last company standing between mechanical video games and oblivion. And people like Hooker are all that is left to shore the walls and keep those remaining pinball machines working.

The wonder and problem with pinball ownership is that, as with owning a classic car, you can't just buy it, use it and forget about it. Because of the mechanical nature of pinball machines and the physical nature of playing them, these games can't really last without lots of upkeep.

There are 750 people in the country who repair pinball machines, according to the Wall Street Journal. That's 750 people around to repair machines that are meant to run perhaps five years, according to the article. And a vast majority of pinballs still operating are far older than five years.

It's an interesting article, if only to catch a glimpse of the once popular marriage of the physical and digital. Pinballs will never come back, but with the help of folks like Hooker and Stern, maybe they can stick around for a few more generations.

In Short Supply: Pinball Wizards Who Can Fix Old Machines [WSJ]


    There is a movie script in here somewhere...

    - The Last of the Pinball Repairman
    - Full Tilt Boogie
    - The Pinball Repairmans Apprentice

    I love a good pinball game, just the feel of the ball rolling along and hitting the paddles and bouncing off everything. If I am at a pub and I see one in the corner... a bit like buckhunter... it will never escape my loose change.

      I can't believe you just said that...

    I've recently rekindled my childhood love of pinball. Now I gotta keep the damn thing alive ;_;

    *salutes chaps like Mr Hooker*

    Don't bash your machine it will last longer.

    Of course, once you let others play your game, all bets are off.

    mike hooker here, from the article. the enemy of the games is not thrashing the game during play, its letting it sit for years unplayed. unless played regularly, they get oxidized, corroded, stiff, and stuck. i good running game played once a week will last years with little to no repair needed.

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