PINBALL EXPO 2002
24th October 2002
I don't know
why, but it always seems that once I get on board the courtesy coach
from O'Hare to the Ramada there is always someone there who is also
going to Pinball Expo. I swear Richard Shapero and Sam Harvey ride these
busses all day.
After checking into the hotel
there was only one place to go - the bar!
If you've been to his pre-Expo
parties before you'll be accustomed to the high quality of the games
and there was no disappointment this year. Around 100 people turned
up this year and although it is an hour's drive from the Ramada hotel,
the chance to meet, chat and play against a good crowd of fellow enthusiasts
is enough to bring them out.
Thanks go out to Ron & Lidia Rogalla for their hospitality and transport to the party and to Rick for hosting another great one and letting us all run riot in your home.
Some last minute work was
still taking place outside the hall but the registration process was
quick and easy as I'd faxed a registration form to the organisers a
week before, so there was a welcome pack of badge and tickets to the
banquet and tournament. The show programmes weren't ready at this point.
With ten minutes to go, was there time to dive into McDonalds across
the road and grab some breakfast and coffee before the busses arrive?
Probably not and I don't want to miss the tour, so I wait. And wait.
Finally the busses arrive 30 minutes late and I'm left mourning the lost chance of breakfast, the only meal in over 24 hours. It's another 15 minutes before the busses depart and we arrive at Stern shortly after 10am where we were divided up into groups of eight or so and take round the factory.
The production process is the same as last year when Monopoly was on the line and the glimpse of boxes of Austin Powers parts led us to suggest there could be another run of those coming up.
That, of course subsequently happened. This year it's Roller Coaster Tycoon in production.
Wiring takes up about a third of the factory - it's not something you immediately thing about when you consider the pinball game. Usually it's the cool toys, the boards that go wrong, the coils that need cleaning, those are the things that you think about but the wiring is the part that makes it all work and in a pinball game there's a lot of it.
Each game has a number of diagrams made up and mounted on a board with pins and pegs to guide the wires while they're measured, cut, terminated and tied into the cable runs.
There are two main assembly lines running from the back to the front of the factory. One builds the playfield while the other fits out the cabinet. Playfield parts are assembled elsewhere in the factory and fed into the process. At the end the two parts are joined together and have the backbox added to make the completed game.
It's not all pinball at the Stern Factory though. They are also contracted to make some video games - they were working on an all-terrain vehicle simulator when we toured.
All the spare parts for Stern and Sega pinballs are kept at the factory. When an order comes from a distributor it end up here where the parts are shipped. They aim to keep parts for five years after the game was made although in some cases this is shorter due to failure of supplies.
Also on show at the factory was a test rig with the new tournament system ToPS.
To round off the visit we were presented with a translate from a variety of past games before the school busses whisked us back to the hotel and that late breakfast.
Thanks to folks at Stern Pinball for allowing us in to run riot around the factory and generally get in the way while answering our questions.
In the next
part of this look at Pinball Expo 2002 we'll look inside the hall
and see what games were on show and who was out there selling parts,
games and assorted goodies. We'll also look at the start of the seminars
and let you know who was there - and who wasn't!
© Pinball News 2002