Photo Booths

Photo Booths

Retro Coin Op Synopsis

What little girl’s vanity would be complete without a picture four-strip from the photo booth? While you boys were busy trying to get your initials in the high score column of Tempest, we girls were jamming as many bodies as we could into those curtained mini-palaces. Pretend you’re a super-model and vamp, or go the opposite route and muster the very ugliest mug your poor features can manage—either way, there are only four chances to strike the perfect pose, so let the photo games begin. As we got a little older, it wasn’t just us girls inside the booths. Taking pictures was (gasp!) a very lovey-dovey thing to do with your date…either before the movie started or after you were done cruising the food court at the mall.

Coin-operated photo machines have been around since the 1900’s, believe it or not. General Electric made one around 1912—not a booth, but an automatic photo apparatus that the subject sat down in front of. The snapshots cost a dime back then, and they required an attendant to placed the picture in an electric dryer at the end of the process.

Actual booths came a couple of decades later and were an arcade institution, especially popular in the 1950’s—before Polaroid cameras made instant photography an accessible and at-home amusement. In the 50’s, the going rate was fifty cents, but there were also the anxious three minutes the payee had to wait before the finished strip dropped down into its slot. Nowadays, it’s a couple of dollars, but there are some things never change—you still have to endure those agonizing few minutes before you get your mitts on the masterpiece.

Twists on the traditional photo booth and gimmicks galore came next. In 1975, Atari patented the Compugraph Foto machine, which churned out life-sized portraits on computer paper. I.O. Inc.’s Photovideo added zany fun house effects to the pictures, and Amazing Photos’ Amazing Photo Booth let a subject choose his own background—your head on a muscle man’s body, you standing next to your favorite celebrity, or a magazine cover featuring, well you guessed it…you! The Photo Sticker Booth came next: choose a background just like you do in the Amazing Photo Booth, but this time, the finished product came out in versatile decal form, all ready to affix to school notebooks.

Today, machines like Photo Sticker Booth can be rented out for parties, and lucky photographees can walk away with key chains, buttons, magnets, stickers and even—because that four-pose tradition refuses to go softly into the portrait night—the good old-fashioned picture strip.

Arcade Machine Release History

1975 - Compugraph Foto - Atari

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