Inside The Stern Pinball Factory, Again

About six months after the Popular Mechanics article about the last great pinball factory, Stearns gets the video treatment from the Onion’s A.V. Club. Stearn is the “oldest and largest designer and manufacturer of arcade-quality pinball games [remaining] on the planet”



I was surprised to learn that about fifty percent of all pinball machines produced by Stern are exported out of the country. Additionally, most of the parts are manufactured in Chicago and the machines are hand assembled. I think if Trump truly wants to throw some money at American manufacturing the pinball machine industry would be a great place to start.

Inside The Stearn Pinball Factory

Manufacturing as a whole in America has been suffering. Add to that the fact that video game consoles have entered millions of homes since the early 90s and you have a perfect storm that has resulted in the shuttered and faltering sales of major pinball manufacturers for decades. A great pinball machine requires a vast amount of craftsmanship, and one of largest producing places you’ll find that kind of work happening today is at Stern Pinball. Last month Popular Mechanics went inside of Stearn Pinball manufacturing facility to see how a 21st-century pinball machine comes together. It examines the process by dividing it into four main sections:

  • Finding a license
  • Designing the game
  • Sub-Assembly
  • Assembly and testing
  • While there won’t be anything new in the article for enthusiasts, it is an excellent primer on pinball manufacturing in America. What pinball machines and manufacturers has sold the most over the years? The table below could give some insight.

    The Highest Selling Pinball Machines Of All Time

    A list of all pinball machines that have sold 10,000 or more units, Source: IPDB
    YearName  (Click to display that game)MFGProd.Rating
    1932BallyhooBally50,000*8.8
    1990FunhouseWilliams10,750*8.1
    1976FireballBally10,000*6.3
    1992The Addams FamilyMidway20,2708.2
    1977Eight BallBally20,2307.1
    1979FlashWilliams19,5057.6
    1978PlayboyBally18,2507.4
    1980FirepowerWilliams17,4107.8
    1986High SpeedWilliams17,0807.9
    1979KissBally17,0006.9
    1979Star TrekBally16,8427.1
    1978Mata HariBally16,2607.8
    1976Capt. Fantastic and The Brown Dirt CowboyBally16,1557.8
    1993Twilight ZoneMidway15,2358.4
    1991Terminator 2: Judgment DayWilliams15,2028.0
    1979Harlem Globetrotters On TourBally14,5507.5
    1987F-14 TomcatWilliams14,5027.7
    1979GorgarWilliams14,0007.5
    1977Evel KnievelBally14,0007.5
    1978Power PlayBally13,7507.4
    1992Fish TalesWilliams13,6408.0
    1992The Getaway: High Speed IIWilliams13,2598.0
    1980Black KnightWilliams13,0757.9
    1978Strikes and SparesBally12,8207.6
    1993Indiana Jones: The Pinball AdventureWilliams12,7168.3
    1976Royal FlushGottlieb12,2507.9
    1986PIN·BOTWilliams12,0017.9
    1978SinbadGottlieb12,0007.6
    1993Star Trek: The Next GenerationWilliams11,7288.3
    1976Space MissionWilliams11,6527.8
    1980Space InvadersBally11,4007.7
    1980XenonBally11,0007.8
    1982Mrs. Pac-Man PinballBally10,6007.1
    1976Grand PrixWilliams10,5547.5
    1992Star WarsData East10,4008.0
    1992Lethal Weapon 3Data East10,3507.5
    1980Silverball ManiaBally10,3507.4
    1979SupersonicBally10,3407.0
    1978Lost WorldBally10,3307.0
    1978The Six Million Dollar ManBally10,3207.2
    1975Spirit of 76Gottlieb10,3007.6
    1976AztecWilliams10,1507.7
    1976Surf ChampGottlieb10,0707.7
    1975Wizard!Bally10,0057.9
    1981Flash GordonBally10,0007.9

    Vulfpeck Makes $20,000 Off Of A Silent Album While Sleeping

    Brilliant! The funk band Vulfpeck made $20,000 in streaming revenues from Spotify for an album of complete silence. All ten tracks of the album, titled “Sleepify”, were streamed by fans on repeat all night while they slept. The tracks on “Sleepify” – cleverly titled “Z” through “Zzzzzzzzzz” – are all 31 or 32 seconds long. This is the minimum length a song must be played to be considered a payable ‘listen’ by spotify. The band earned somewhere between $3 and $4 dollars a night per fan.

    The album was originally released to generate money so that the band could go on tour and not charge admission fees but Spotify has asked Vulfpeck to remove the album because it broke Spotify’s terms of content – Vulfpeck complied.

    “Sleepify” is by far Vulpeck’s most commercially successful album to date which is a bummer because these guys are really pretty good. Give it a listen if you like funky themes, TV anthems, and laid-back instrumentals. Then go buy their album.

    An Inventory Of Live Animals Being Sold On Amazon.com

  • Ladybugs – 1,500 per order. Can Devour Up To 50 Aphids A Day. $11.49
  • Crickets – 1,000 per order. One inch long. $25.99
  • Gutloaded Mealworms – 500 per order. Packed full or calcium and other essential nutrients. $9.99
  • Small Dubia Cockroach 100 per order. Can’t fly, climb smooth surfaces, or make any annoying noises. $16.99
  • Littleneck Clams – 100 per order. Don’t have necks. $64.19
  • Trapdoor Snails – 50 per order. Hardy. Trapdoor snails do not attack plants. $103.70
  • Adult Delphastus – 25 per order. Will Stay In The Area After They Are Released. $21.99
  • Oysters 24 per order. Ready to shuck. $39.99
  • Soft Shell Crab – 12 per order. The actual shedding of the shell can take anywhere from one to three hours. $36.00
  • Freshwater Cherry Shrimp – 12 per order. Includes both males and females (mostly females). $26.33
  • New England Lobster – 2 per order. Four to six pounds. $122.24
  • African Dwarf Frogs – 2 per order. Hours of fun. $39.95

  • The 20 Most Expensive Keyword Categories In Google AdWords

    A company called Wordstream has done some research to discover which keyword categories fetch the highest costs per click (CPC) in Google’s AdWords solution.
    According to Wordstream these are the top twenty keywords that demand the highest costs per click:

    1. Insurance (example keyword: “auto insurance price quotes”)
    2. Loans (example keyword: “consolidate graduate student loans”)
    3. Mortgage (example keyword: “refinanced second mortgages”)
    4. Attorney (example keyword: “personal injury attorney”)
    5. Credit (example keyword: “home equity line of credit”)
    6. Lawyer
    7. Donate
    8. Degree
    9. Hosting
    10. Claim
    11. Conference Call
    12. Trading
    13. Software
    14. Recovery
    15. Transfer
    16. Gas/Electricity
    17. Classes
    18. Rehab
    19. Treatment
    20. Cord Blood

    According to Wordstream the words ‘insurance’ and ‘gas/electricity’ can net Google up to almost $55 per click while the words ‘claim’ and ‘loan’ can bring in $45.

    The word The list of most expensive keyword categories is clearly a result from people who, en masse, turn to the Web in search for help, whether it’s for financial, educational, professional services or medical aid. WordStream concludes that the keyword categories with the highest volumes and costs represent industries with very high lifetime customer value: in other words, companies that can afford to pay a lot to acquire a new customer because of the nature of their business.