The father of modern pinball, Steve Kordek, passed away Sunday with a high score of 100 years. In his honor, we present this special double-play Soundtrack of Pinball Wizard, presented by Sir Elton “Supple Wrists” John and The Who.
The conventional pinball machine layout that we’re familiar with—lost of bumpers with dual paddles at the bottom—was actually developed by Kodek in 1948’s Triple Action game. Before that, board was level. Players would send the ball careening about it using a similar spring-loaded plunger but would have to physically shake the table to get the ball into a scoring hole. By angling the play surface and employing paddles at the bottom, players were able to knock the ball back into play without violently jarring the machine.
Triple Action’s paddle concept actually started out on a 1947 game called “Humpty Dumpty” that featured six relatively weak paddles. Kordek had originally been hired by Genco as a solderer during the Depression but had worked his way up the ranks to the engineering department. He was filling in for Genco’s sick lead designer when Kordek was asked to design a new game. Having no experience in game design, Kordek adapted Humpty Dumpty’s six-paddle design into the arrangement we know today. “I just figured, what the hell, two flippers on a game was enough,” Kordek told the Chicago Tribune in 2009. “I was taught to be very conservative to hold down costs. There was no way I was going to put six flippers on a game when I could get away with two.”
When Genco demoed the new-style machine at a 1948 Chicago trade show, people absolutely lost their minds. Triple Action became an overnight success and modern pinball was born. Kordek went on to design more than 100 machines during his storied 60-year career as well as invent the drop target for “Vagabond” in 1962 and the multi-ball play for “Beat the Clock” in 1963. [LA Times – Time – Engadget]
And now, The Who performing Pinball Wizard: