The Lure of the Silver ball
As the proud owner of (currently) two pinball machines, I'm finally starting to live the life I'd always dreamed about as a child. Gottlieb's "Out of Sight" (1974) and Bally's "Twilight Zone" currently occupy prime spots of my gameroom. Owning a pinball game is a labor of love, though- there's lots of work to be done on them, on a somewhat regular basis. Between the regular waxing, cleaning and the maintenance that's needed when soemthing goes wrong, it's almost understandable as to how pinball has managed to completely vanish from the Arcade scene of today. But it's hardly excusable.
If you're a pinball owner, you might need to know the 47 cardinal rules of working on pinball games, as according to Tim Arnold. Who's Tim, and what do I care what he thinks? Well, he's got the world's largest collection of pinball games (800-1000+) and he seems to know his way around inside of a cabinet. When Tim speaks, I'd listen.
If you recently acquired a machine and you're looking for a way to get it in better shape, check out Marvin3m.com. Marvin's Mavelous Mechanical Museum is a place in Michigan that's got an enourmous amount of weird mechanical oddities. Included in this is a host of pinball games, which he's apparently gotten very good at repairing. This site has a bunch of consise, easy to follow, well illustrated how-tos for basic pinball repair and maintainence. I've referred to it quite a bit.
For almost anything you'd need for a pinball machine, there's the Pinball Resource. Steve can be a little brusque at times ("Do you have a part number on that?") but he knows his stuff cold. If you're new to the hobby and havent made the call yet, I'd suggest doing it now. (845)/473-7114. First time orders have a limit of $50; credit cards not accepted. Instead, you get the invoice and pay with a check after you get the parts.
There's also Rec.games.pinball- another good source of answers for all sorts of technical questions. If you think you're alone with an odd question, chances are there's somebody that's had the same problem you're having, and can tell you how to solve it posthaste.
Finally, there's a whole slew of alternative parts suppliers and information available out there, for both Pinball and Arcade games. Here's a list of resources that was posted on Usenet earlier this year. It's incredibly comprehensive.
As a resident of the Twin Cities, I've found the Twin Cities Pinball Database to be incredibly helpful. It's a list of all the machines in the Twin Cities, in a searchable database. Search by game name or location, and find what's where. If you're looking for a place to play, this is it.
And as I realize that sometime it's impractical to be near a pinball machine, computers tend to be a bit more convenient. Happily, there's Visual Pinball. It's touted as "Pinball Construction Set Advanced twenty years", or so the hype says. I find it to be incredibly complex to work with, but obviously other people are taking to it like fish to water, judging by some of the tables available for it. Check it out. And while WPC MAME isn't a playable game per se, it's a piece of software that will let your computer run the ROMs from various Williams games. Download the Williams software, and then watch the Dot Matrix display on your computer. It's kind of like playing pinball with the glass off (you just flip switches with your finger, and see what happens)- not terribly fun or challenging, but incredibly fascinating.