Who Invented the Pinball Machine


Did you know that pinball machines were banned for nearly 3 decades from many major cities? It was considered a game of chance instead of skill and considering the first pinball games didn’t have any flippers, the perspective was pretty accurate. Because it came from Chicago, however, it was also seen as a way to “rob” people of their cash. At one time, the NYPD would even run raids on establishments to confiscate pinball machines.

Although pinball machines have been around for several centuries in some form, the first real coin operated pinball machine was invented in 1931 by Automatic Industries. The game was called “Whiffle Board” and it was fairly popular. The pinball machine exploded in popularity with the invention of Ballyhoo, however, which had extra zones and made the game more difficult.

There are a number of important inventions that came out of the Great Depression as well. Here is a brief look at some of the most popular ones.

1. Monopoly

Charles Darrow was out of work as an engineer. He barely had any money, but wanted to give people the feeling like they could be just as rich as anyone else. The concept for Monopoly was 100% original, but it soon became the bestselling board game of all time thanks to the robber and baron motif and the perspective of a poor man turning rich. Parker Brothers told Darrow the game had 52 errors, so he created 5,000 handmade sets that sold immediately.

2. Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Toll House Inn in Whiteman, MA invented this great cookie from the butter drop recipes that were in house. She didn’t have any baker’s chocolate on hand, so instead Ruth Wakefield chopped up a candy bar to put into the cooking because she thought it would melt like baker’s chocolate. It didn’t, but the cookie was quite successful, and Nestle made her a deal: a lifetime supply of chocolate for the exclusive recipe.

3. Car Radios

For over a decade, the only way to enjoy music while driving in a car was to sing your own songs. Two brothers who had business selling electricity converters for battery operated radios needed some extra cash. They teamed up with a radio parts company and designed a portable radio that could fit into most cars. The first radio was installed in 1930 and to promote the product, he drove 800 miles to a convention, parked his Studebaker, and turned on the radio. Ford began manufacturing cars with radios less than 3 years later.

4. Tampons

To be fair, tampons have been around since Ancient Egypt. The modern cotton tampon, however, was based on surgical cotton plugs that were used in surgery. A patent was granted in 1931 and Tampax was registered as a trademark. They didn’t sell well at first, so an investment group bought the patent and the trademark to get the product into more stores. It worked, because they’ve been regularly used by women ever since.

History of Pinball Machines