Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Nostalgia Moment & Pinball Toys

Nostalgia Moment
It seems an appropriate time for a moment of nostalgia - my last nostalgia post was trying to extract some more information about a pinball machine I vaguely remember from when I was young. However I hit an ice cream based brick wall in my Facebook research...

This time I had been spending some time looking for some good examples of pinball toys to take some inspiration from the mechanical parts when developing the protoype for my Pinbox project. I came across some good examples by Japanese electronics toy company Tomy, which I will get to later.

In this process of researching Tomy toys, I found images which sparked memories from my childhood, and realised we had quite a few Tomy toys when we were young.

There are YouTube reviews of some of these games. Some strange people are reviewing games years after they were made, and terrible reviews most of them, if they can really be called reviews? 

Pop Up Pirate
Yes! This was my favorite I think. Push the pirate into the barrel and take it in turns to stab the small plastic swords into the slots. One of the slots will make the pirate suddenly pop out of the barrel. I think part of the fun was trying to catch him in mid air. I remember you could actually feel when it engaged so if I was kinda sneaky, I could cheat! (seems it was always in the same place too!)

This guy seems to think playing Pop Up Pirates now is destroying his childhood. Boo Hoo.

Run Yourself Ragged
Not entirely sure if we owned this game or perhaps a friend. By pushing the buttons and pulling levers at the bottom you manoeuvre a small metal ball, much like a pinball, around this obstacle course. The skill being quick to reach the end of the course within the timer. The parts must all work on gears and linkages. It seems like it's quite hard to complete within the time, which is probably what kept most people coming back for more and trying to beat your friend.

This TV advert ran in the 80s - supposedly for around 10 years.

Talking Tutor Robot
As soon as I saw a picture this thing I remembered about it straight away. I must have been really young when we had this. All round the design of this one is kinda creepy, I'm not sure if this helped my learning or not, and it feels kinda strange looking back at it now. I also found another of these weird YouTube reviews  I urge you to watch it from the starting point I linked, just to hear the messed up crackly voice and those crazy spinning eyes... Aaaah! This toy should never have been made. Look at it.

Waterful Ring Toss
A toy which you fill up with water, and use the small push button air pump to fling small plastic rings onto a peg. It's reminiscent of an arcade machine or a fun fair game. I think partly I liked it because I would have to fill it up with water in order to play, that seemed exciting for some reason! It's really so simple - I don't know how long it would have kept me occupied for. Here's a YouTube "review" of it in action.

Rock n Roll Maze
One of the most played out of all of these. It's a maze that you have to get a ball bearing to navigate through within the timer. You do this by tilting the board around. There are lots of puzzles to work out on the way, some of which are motorised, obstruct vision or make use of gravity to make it more difficult. I can't find much more about this one online.

Small moving parts - do not swallow
It's interesting all of these make use of electronics and/or mechanisms in some way. Now I want to go and take them all apart and see how they work. They are actually quite intricate with the parts but seamless in execution. Clearly due to the fabrication of the plastic parts.

My memory is that they were designed to be taken apart / or not designed NOT to be taken apart (Yes you Apple!). And this makes me think of the Maker Movement Manifesto - I believe toy companies have been taking this into consideration to allow their toys to be taken apart and fixed, especially by kids. Check out iFixit for free repair guides for everything for everyone.

I love this - the repair revolution!
Learning Toys
The talking tutor robot is probably an early example of a computerised learning toy. I'd like to hope that they have come a long way, but looking back at this thing now is weird and I question how effective it actually was. Then that makes me question more recent examples of learning toys and the effect they are going to have on children's learning now. Mmmmh that's probably another worry for another day at this point.

Pinball Toys
I have seen a few recent examples of pinball games, but none have been as good as these now retro toys by Tomy. Along with that I have found some good documentation of them online including photos and drawings of the working parts beneath the playfield.

It's hard to call these just toys - they are so intricate and genuinely look not too far away from the real thing. I got so excited that I looked Astro Shooter up on eBay and bought one for £20 - seems reasonable considering it looks in good condition for it's age.

Atomic Pinball

Above: Atomic Pinball game & below the playfield - First available 1979

Astro Shooter Pinball

Above: Astro Shooter game & below the playfield - First available 1985 (?)

There was a few different artwork versions of the game which use the same parts, the rarity of some of these make them quite collectable, but the basic models seem to be readily available and quite cheap.

Gotta post share another great YouTube ;-)
Here's a guy demonstrating his "Three. Tomy. Astro Shooter. Pinball Games"

Sometimes you just have to love the internet it's resources - here some of the original drawings from the Tomy Pinball toy thanks to Jeff's Pinball Pages.

For a start, I'm particularly interested in how the flippers work. I was perhaps over complicating things and can use this system for a new prototype to improve the flippers - which are a bit flimsy right now.

I like how they have used just one small motor on a drive shaft to power all the moving parts, from the kick out's, bumpers and the scores which are on the backbox. The weight of the ball is used to engaged different parts onto the main drive shaft which is always moving when the game is switched on. Perhaps overly complex but very clever!

Pinball Toy Images & Drawings sourced from www.jeff-z.com 

This post is from my journal on MA Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking.
I am currently working on a project based around games, specifically Pinball (see list of posts about Pinball).   

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