How the Pacific Pinball Museum Keeps Old Machines Alive


Few analog amusements have continued to thrive in the digital age. Videocassettes are dead. So are landlines and cathode-ray televisions. (Well, nearly dead.) One delightful diversion of yesteryear that’s still going strong: Pinball. You can find machines, new and old alike, in neighborhood bars, college dorm lounges, and teen rec centers—proof that pinball will be around for some time to come.

And one place that pinball will surely live forever—or at least until rising sea levels cause the collapse of human society—is the Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda, California. The non-profit organization collects, restores, and maintains more than 1,700 machines, keeping them in playable condition whenever possible.

At the center of this pinball universe is Michael Schiess, a collector who founded the museum in the early 2000s and now serves as its executive director. He told us some interesting facts about pinball’s history, and how it’s been shaped by technology over the decades.

Flipping Out

Hitting a high score takes a lot of skill, but even the most supple-wristed will agree that pinball is essentially a game of chance. So it’s not surprising that pinball machines were once as popular as slot machines in gambling clubs. In the late