The Lonely Pinball Repairman

You think it's hard being the only company around that still makes pinball machines? What about the people left who still repairs them?

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting write up about Mike Hooker, by day a locomotive repairman, but in his time off a pinball fixer who makes house calls.

Pinball machines, once king of arcades and pool halls, have long, slowly pinged and banged their way into obsolescence. They're not quite there yet. Chicago's Stern Pinball is the last company standing between mechanical video games and oblivion. And people like Hooker are all that is left to shore the walls, keep those remaining pinball machines working.

The wonder and problem with pinball ownership is that, as with owning a classic car, you can't just buy it, use it and forget about it. Because of the mechanical nature of pinball machines and the physical nature of playing them, these games can't really last without lots of upkeep.

There are 750 people in the country who repair pinball machines, according to the Wall Street Journal. That's 750 people around to repair machines that are meant to run perhaps five years, according to the article. And a vast majority of pinballs still operating are far older than five years.

It's an interesting article, if only to catch a glimpse of the once popular marriage of the physical and digital. Pinballs will never come back, but with the help of folks like Hooker and Stern, maybe they can stick around for a few more generations.

In Short Supply: Pinball Wizards Who Can Fix Old Machines [WSJ]