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The History of Pinball Machines

Today, pinball may seem like it is a popular game to play around the country, but pinball did not start out that way. From the early 1940s well into the 1970s, pinball was actually banned. Big cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles banned the game because it was a game of chance, and they were trying to get a hold on gambling during that time. The mayor of New York at the time, Fiorello LaGuardia, believed that pinball machines were a way for the mafia to nickel and dime the lunch money that was given to school children.

The Extent of the Ban

The pinball ban began in New York, and the other major cities followed suit shortly after. One week after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the police in New York City began performing prohibition style raids where the pinball machines that were found in public locations were seized. The owners of these establishments were also arrested for going against the pinball ban.

Within a matter of days, thousands of pinball machines were confiscated, and to make matters worse, the mayor and the police enforcing the ban were seen smashing these beautiful machines with sledgehammers. Instead of simply confiscating the machines, they decided to make a public display of the destruction of the machines. Once they were smashed to pieces, the parts that remained were dumped into the river.

How Pinball Survived

The ban did not kill pinball; in fact, the only thing that it did was make the pinball machines move to seedier locations where they would not be seized. Many of the machines found new homes in places like Greenwich Village and Harlem. Raids still happened well into the 1970s, but all of the pinball locations were not discovered, which helped keep the game alive.

Many of the public locations that still housed pinball machines removed the pay-to-play feature, which made it impossible for the authorities to consider it gambling. Instead, the games advertised free balls, which made it different than free games and helped differentiate the pinball machines from games of chance (slot machines).

In addition, pinball was only illegal in public locations, so many of the machines that were in danger were moved to private residences where they could not be confiscated.

Legalizing Pinball

During 1976, the city council in New York City agreed to re-examine the status of pinball machines, and the ruling was overturned. This was not an easy task because the way that it was overturned is that it was proved that pinball is a game of skill, not a game of chance. The Music and Amusement Association (MAA) searched the city for a talented pinball wizard who could demonstrate his pinball skills in front of the city council. 26-year-old Roger Sharpe, who was one of the most talented pinball players in the country at the time, took on the role and made history.

The MAA brought two different pinball machines to the hearing so that in the event that something happened to the first one, there was another one that they could use for their demonstration. Mr. Sharpe had played on the first model before, so he knew the ins and outs of the machine, but a councilman insisted that he played on the backup machine to prove that the machine wasn’t rigged.

As he pulled the plunger to release the ball, he stated that he was going to get the ball into the middle lane during this shot, which is exactly what happened, proving that it takes skill to play a pinball machine. The ban was immediately overturned based on that one shot, which made history around the world. If Mr. Sharpe had missed that shot, pinball may still be banned to this day.

Still Illegal

Even though the ban was overturned in New York, that did not mean that pinball would be legal in all of the states. Yes, they mostly removed the ban over time, but cities like Nashville, Tennessee did not allow children under 18 to play or even stand near a pinball machine until 2004. In addition, playing pinball in Ocean City, New Jersey is still illegal on Sundays.

Pinball Today

Even though companies like Bally continued to manufacture new pinball machines during the ban, they did not last. Today, there is only one company that creates new pinball machines, and that is Stern Pinball, which is located in Chicago, Illinois. However, many of the pinball machines that survived the prohibition style raids can still be played today.

What Happened to Roger Sharpe?

He continued to play pinball with amazing skill for years after the ban was lifted, but today he has been overtaken by two other Sharpe boys. His son Zach is rated the number one pinball player in the world, and his other son Josh does not fall far behind at number 15.

Jessica Kane is a writer for The Pinball Company, the best online source for new, used, and refurbished pinball machines, arcade cabinets, and more!

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Four Things That Serious Musicians Do to Be Successful

Many musicians never leave the basement. Making music may just be a hobby, and that’s okay! That is, unless you really want to turn your hobby into a successful career.

Talent is important, but it isn’t the only thing that will lead you to the successful music career of your dreams. There are quite a few other things you need to do if you want to get serious about turning your hobby into a reality.

Purchase the Right Equipment

It all starts with the right equipment. If you play an instrument, it means purchasing one that is professional quality. If you’re a DJ, it might mean shelling out a little cash to find the best VST plugins.

Professional equipment can be expensive, so don’t feel discouraged if you have to start small. Purchase one piece of equipment, then when you can afford it, upgrade another piece of equipment.

Don’t be afraid to purchase second hand either! You can find a lot of really great equipment at great prices if you’re willing to buy used.

Practice Every Single Day

Practice makes perfect. No matter how talented you think you are, the very best musicians in the world take time to practice every single day. If you want to make music as a professional, you should expect to spend just as much time honing your craft as you would at a regular job, if not more.

Daily practice creates muscle memory, which means you’ll be able to play a practiced tune without really thinking about it. It’ll make you sound better too, which is important if you want to make money doing what you love.

Find a Mentor, or Be a Mentor

With the internet, it’s easier than ever to learn any skill you can imagine, which includes music. However, if you really want to take your musical abilities to the next level, you need to find a mentor.

A good teacher can push you in ways that you would never push yourself, catapulting you to a higher level much faster than you would be able to do on your own.

If you’re a veteran, you can still learn and grow by becoming a mentor! Not only can you help an up-and-coming musician, but you may be able to learn something from them too.

Live a Healthy, Well Rounded Life

Making good music is about living a good life. That means:

  • Getting plenty of exercise
  • Eating healthy
  • Maintaining relationships with friends and family
  • Having non-musical hobbies

By living a well-rounded life, you can boost your creativity, improve your self-confidence, and sharpen your memory. It also enables you to derive inspiration from other areas of your life that can be applied to your music.

Successful musicians are always learning and growing. They realize there is never an end to their journey. That means seeking out ways to be a better musician and a better human being.

By doing the four things on this list, you can follow in their footsteps.

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