Retro Coin Op Synopsis
Despite its instant success in the early 1930’s, the game of pinball was still a far distance from the high-tech machines players are familiar with today. Many major innovations to the game that players take for granted today were introduced over the years, gradually molding the game into its modern form. One of the first games to present major innovations to pinball was Bumper, a 1936 game from Bally that broke all the rules established by early pinball games like Baffle Ball.
First of all, Bumper did not have any pins to guide the ball along the playfield. It also did not have the holes that were usually used to score points. Instead, the playfield was studded with a series of twelve ‘bumpers’, which were metal posts encircled with coiled springs. They would bounce the ball in another direction instead of allowing it to simply fall to the bottom of the playfield, thus adding an exciting amount of variety to the different paths that the pinball could take. Additional coiled springs were placed on the sides of the playfield to help keep the pinball bouncing around.
Bumper also added another key innovation in the area of point scoring. Unlike previous pinball games, which required players to keep track of their own scores, Bumper actually tallied the score for the players through its bumpers. These bumpers used the electricity that powered them to trigger a scoring mechanism at the top called a ‘score totalizer.’ This device projected the points scored on an area of the backboard’s frosted glass, thus allowing the player and everyone else to see the total score.
These novel innovations made Bumper an overnight sensation when it was released in December of 1936. In fact, it did so well that it was followed only three months later by a sequel, Bumper Sr. Meanwhile, bumpers instantly became a standard feature in most new pinball games. Most of the pinball games that followed in the wake of Bumper contained 10 to 20 bumpers and most modern games use at least one or two. The score totalizer also became the standard method of score presentation on most pinball games for the next several years.
Bumper remains an important classic for breaking ground in the pinball world with its unique new features. Though it may seem quaint by modern standards, it is still held in high regard by pinball fans as an exciting and fun step forward for pinball.
Arcade Machine Release HistoryDec 1936 - Bumper
1937 - Bumper Sr.