Ghosts of Christmas Presents – 1987

When I think about all of thr Christmases that have come and gone, I think this was the present that my parents regretted buying the most. It’s the Tomy “Atomic Arcade” pinball machine. Imagine owning a pinball machine of your veryown, complete with the noise.

Now, unfortunately, I don’t actually have any of my own photos of this in action, but I’m sure you can find someone playing in it just by typing “Tomy Pinball” into Youtube. Instead, you’ll have to do with this image I’ve pilfered off a website somewhere.

If music was my number one passion, pinball must rank in the top ten. Of course, owning a proper pinall machine is an ungodly expense, so owning one of these was the second best thing. Not for my poor, exasperated parents however. It was extremely loud, and as far as I can recall, there were no volume controls. I distinctly remember my mother saying that she didn’t think it would be as loud as that. Most of the noise actually came from the mechanics. If my memory serves me correctly, there was always something moving / rotating inside it that controlled the bumpers, and I think the game ‘audio’ consisted of some type of constant siren. It was ptobably designed in such a way to disguise this mechanical noise. Both of these combined, however, meant that it ate through rather large batteries at an alarming rate.

There was no particularly constant scoring system. You hit an orange thing thing, the score’s digit would rotate. I imagine the innards of this to be extremely simplistic, but when you’re about 7 or 8, that’s not what matters. You’d still go for that high score, even though it was extremely easy to cheat. You didn’t even have to reset your score after you’ve finished. this was all manually controlled. You pressed that big orange button on the top, and you controlled the ball in play by rorating the small wheel at the bottom. You could also simply just pick it up and manoeuvre the ball manually.

Sadly, mine is ‘long gone’ now, which is a shame. Kept in good condition, these appear to be quite the collectible item. The last time I saw it was in the garden shed, presumably put in there out of my way, so I couldn’t drown out the house with its constant whirring, clacking and sirens blaring. I think I stuck a set of batteries up its grundle, and it didn’t work. For all I know, it might still be in there, but as that’s now a complete maze of brambles and broken fence, I’ll probably never see it again.

My love of pinball continues to this day, albeit virtually. Steam has a few pinball simulators with table designs and ROM sets taken from actual arcade machines…

Sadly, as far as I’m aware, nobody has got round to emulating this very basic machine, yet one that provided me with hours of fun, and probably cost my parents even more in batteries.