Pinball has a long and interesting history. After all, it is a game that has been around for decades in the form we know it today. Its origins, however, date back centuries. Here are three facts you might not know about pinball, many people’s favourite arcade machine.

It Used to be Banned

Many American cities, including New York and Chicago, banned pinball until the mid-1970s. The bans came into force in the early 1940s when pinball machines didn't have flappers. That means you had bump and rock the machine to coerce the ball to move. This led authorities to decide pinball was a game of chance, not skill. Flappers started appearing on pinball machines in 1947, but the ban remained in force for decades after.

One Shot Overturned the Ban

This story is legendary in pinballing history. It happened in May 1976 when a journalist, Roger Sharpe, set about overturning the ban on pinball machines. He argued his case in front of New York City council members, explaining that pinball was a game of skill, not chance.

Arguments were not enough, however – he had to prove it. Luckily, he brought a pinball machine to do just that. The council members suspected trickery, though, so insisted he use a backup machine he was not familiar with.

Ironically, Sharpe decided to gamble big in order to prove pinball was not a game of chance. He did this by calling his next shot, saying he would hit the ball up through the middle lane of the machine. This would show pinball was a game a skill, but, of course, he had to do it first.

Sharpe was right to gamble – the ball shot up the middle lane and council members overturned the ban.

Humpty Dumpty Brought Us Flappers

As a fact above outlines, 1947 was the year we saw the first game with flappers. That was on the game Humpty Dumpty from the Chicago arcade machine manufacturer Gottlieb. Humpty Dumpty had three flappers, though. The first game with two was Triple Action, but its flappers faced outward. The 1950 game Just 21 was the first to have a flapper design most of us are familiar with today – two flappers at the bottom facing inwards.

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