Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Grant from KY. Grant Wonders, “How old are video games?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Grant!
Do you love video games? If you're like many kids, you might not be able to imagine a world in which you couldn't turn on a console, grab a controller, and get lost for a while in a virtual world full of fun and adventure.
Video games weren't always something you could play on your smartphone or at home, though. Way back when, you had to find an arcade where you could plunk quarter after quarter into large machines to play classics like Pac Man and Centipede.
If you've ever been to an arcade, you may have played another type of game that requires a considerable amount of skill. While no video screens are involved, there are plenty of lights and sounds. There's also a shiny metal ball, flippers, and bumpers. That's right! We're talking about pinball!
Pinball traces its roots to an old table-and-ball game called Bagatelle. British inventor Montegue Redgrave obtained a United States patent in 1871 for an updated version of the game he called "Improvements in Bagatelle."
The first three pinball games were called Bingo, Baffle Ball, and Bally Hoo. Bally Hoo was the first coin-operated pinball machine. The name "pinball" wasn't used until 1936, though.
Bumpers were added to pinball machines in 1937. Flippers, however, didn't appear until 1947. The addition of flippers to pinball machines was an important milestone, because they changed the nature of the game from one of chance to one of skill.
As popular as pinball machines remain today, some of our Wonder Friends might be surprised to learn that they were viewed as a danger to society long ago. In fact, from the early 1940s to the mid-1970s, pinball was banned in most major American cities, including New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
Why was pinball considered dangerous? In its earliest forms, pinball was more of a game of chance than skill, so many people bet on the games. Many people thought pinball encouraged gambling. They also believed pinball enticed children to waste time and money. Some legislators were also concerned about possible mafia connections to pinball.
Over time, pinball clearly became a game of skill rather than chance, and legislators eventually ended pinball bans across the country. The game remains popular today, although only one company — Stern Pinball — still makes pinball machines today.