Apologies dear friends and loyal readers, we’ve been away for a spell. The society suffered a major computer failure a week ago and spent pretty much the entire time since recovering and cleaning up the resultant mess. It was ugly! Reinstall this, reinstall that, pull from archives, configure, setup and tweak. Then rinse and repeat. You don’t realize how much work you’ve done till you look at it as a backup waiting to be restored. What, we’ve shot that many photos? And written that many articles? That many terabytes? No way!
The hard work behind us now, we’re back and itching to post. Got some catching up to do too. Lots.
Leading off, here’s a piece about a pinball machine, a favourite subject of ours. This one from the “golden age” and is getting a little TLC and we’re here to document it all. Join as we watch local expert, the man to call, Gary Makota, master pinball repair tech, do his magic. Another non-working pin made to run right and we’re witness to it all. Enjoy.
Today’s patient is Card Whiz from the mid-1970s. It comes from the firm D. Gottlieb & Company (or simply Gottlieb) one of the largest makers of the era and like it’s two main competitors (Bally and Williams), was based out of Chicago Illinois. All good pins were made there.
Gottlieb was in business from the early 1930s to the mid-1990s. The ’70s was a high point with sales at their greatest. Players loved them and they couldn’t make them fast enough. At that time your author was into competitor machines (Bally and Williams), but today appreciates those from this firm. Didn’t quite get them then, but do now.
In total some thirty two hundred Card Whiz machines were produced in the summer of 1976. Built earlier in the year were some twelve thousand (and change) Royal Flush machines, which were a four player version (Card Whiz only allowed two) with minor artwork differences, but otherwise with the same layout and play.
Card Whiz is an “electro-mechanical” (“EM”) pinball – all scoring functions controlled by stepper motors, relays and such. By 1978 “solid state” machines were king and pretty soon after the only ones produced, integrated circuits and transistors being used instead for tabulation, with digital displays replacing the old score reels. All makers in the industry switched over about this same time. Card Whiz can be seen as a fairly late model EM. Not the last, not even remotely so, but the writing was most definitely on the wall when it was produced.
The playfield here is pretty straightforward in design, nice and open and fast. Rollover lanes or stand up targets increase the kick-out hole bonus. A row of nine drop targets, beside scoring, also can increase the end of ball bonus. There’s one pop-bumper. Rules are plain and simple but executing them is another story. The game is not as easy as it looks.
Take a look at the innards – all those wires and coils and switches. How in the world can anyone make heads or tales of it?
Pinballs are finicky things and maintenance intensive. Own a pinball? Befriend a tech. Good advice here people. There’s a lot of mechanical parts, connectors and such to go wrong. In the case here, simply moving the machine caused it to fail. That’s all it took. Time to make a call.
Gary’s been fixing pins since the 1970s and is soon on the scene. The machine is opened up, turned on, and in mere movements the problem narrowed down and identified. It’s quickly attended to as only an expert can do and in no time Card Whiz is back up and running. The owner’s manual, found inside the machine, is pulled out, but not really needed. When you’ve done it this many times, it’s mostly in memory.
A general tune up always follows. New rubbers are installed, lamps replaced, and the playfield given a good cleaning and waxing. It plays fast, almost like brand new. It’s a whole different machine.
Jerry, the owner plays, his broad grin a tell-all. There’s one happy fellow. It’s not just that the machine is fixed and plays well – a game for the sake of the game is simply pure joy – there’s more. It’s the memories. In the past this here Card Whiz belonged to a friend and together Jerry and he would face off and play frequently. I challenge you! “Sometimes I’d win, sometimes he’d win”, two silver ball warriors about equally matched.
With his friends unfortunate passing, the machine was willed to Jerry and is a cherished possession. It’s something more than a plain old pinball machine, it’s a connection back to someone meaningful that’s now gone but hardly forgotten. That’s something quite touching.
Lost in the game, a twinkle in his eye, you can see how it all came flooding back. The bells ring, the reels spin, the loud clack of a free game won. But it mattered not. It was far deeper than that.
That’s Card Whiz, one fine pin and this Card Whiz has one fine backstory.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: September, 2017.
Location: Calgary, AB.
Article references and thanks: Jerry Drews, Gary Makota Repair, Internet Pinball Database.