You may have played hours of pinball without really knowing what makes a pinball machine tick. In this guide, we take a closer look at the different elements of a pinball machine. The design of the pinball machine has seen much change over the years, yet the backbone of this wonderful game is fairly straightforward and has remained largely unchanged.
Introduced as early as the 19th century, the plunger was the first element of pinball machines that still stands to this day. In essence, a rod loaded with a spring, launches the ball into the playfield. Some modern machines have an electronic substitute for the plunger, which launch the ball using a solenoid. This means, however, that “skill shots” can no longer be performed.
The ‘playfield’ is the area where the ball interacts with the various targets and objects. It is inclined so that the ball can make its way down towards the user, where the user then has to use the flippers to avoid losing the ball down the drain (it is literally called the drain). Typically inclined at 3 to 7 degrees, the amount of inclination has an impact on the difficulty of the game, as the ball will travel faster when there is a greater inclination.
Flippers serve two functions: It allows users to prevent the ball from entering the ‘drain’, and it allows users to travel up the playing field in the hope of scoring points by touching bumpers or targets. As pinball machines have evolved, some machines include more flippers further up the playfield. They are controlled with the same buttons as the main flippers, which are set on the side on the machine.
Cheap pinball machines would be boring if there were no targets or bumpers with which to score points. The most modern machines boast a huge set of exciting features. A complex point system is often found in pinball machines, where the user has the opportunity to score a large number of points by performing several actions in a row. There is often a score which if reached, allows the user a free replay of the ball. Technology has played a major role in Pinball machines introducing new features. Ramps and other objects on the playfield, and well as mini-games with the machine, provide much of the excitement that is generated by these machines.