Who Invented The Pinball Machine?

By | March 30, 2019

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Participants of the German Table Football Championship play at pinball machines in the Tango terminal at Helmut Schmidt Airport. Source: (Photo by Axel Heimken/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Long before video games took over arcades, there were pinball machines. It may surprise you to know that pinball machines have a long and interesting history. In fact, they were once considered so sinful that they were banned in most major cities. Let’s look at the history of pinball machines, from humble wooden games to symbols of youth rebellion to today’s cacophony of lights and sound. 

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A Bagatelle game. Source: (auction.catawiki.com)


As early as Shakespearean times, people played with small, wooden tabletop games, called Bagatelles. The object of the game was to roll your ball down the sloped surface, through pegs, pins, and other obstacles, and into holes that had been cut into the wood. Each hole was assigned a number and the player earned points for each hole their ball found. Bagatelle was a popular parlor game for centuries.