Amidst all the excitement for the newest tech at last week's CES, you could also see a revival of some vintage tech — a new line of home pinball machines by Stern Pinball called simply "The Pin."
Even though the popularity of arcade machines has waned over the years, Stern has done well making new machines for bars and arcades across the country. Excellent recent releases include the rock-n-roll oriented "AC/DC" and the action-packed "Marvel's The Avengers."
But while video games easily made the leap from arcade to living room, size and price have made home pinball machines prohibitive for all but a few die-hard fans. Stern answered that challenge by simply shrinking the machines a bit.
Going for $2,500 apiece (half the price of Stern's full-size tables), "The Pin" models provide realistic pinball action in a much more convenient build, sitting in a colored, metal cabinet and weighing just over 120 pounds.
The pinball tables are sized properly for home use, sitting at 43 in. long, 21.5 in. wide (109 cm by 54.6 cm) and with a 64 in. (162 cm) tall display, featuring easily visible title boards and score displays. (That's slightly smaller, and certainly lighter, than regulation-size tables.)
The two tables currently offered in "The Pin" line, "The Avengers" and " Transformers," have roughly the same build. Each includes skill-shot lanes, a spinning cube you can hit for bonus points, spinner lanes, a ramp that leads to a higher route and, of course, bumpers and flippers that react just like the real thing.
Though the machines don't come with a full dot matrix-based screen like the ones on modern arcade models, they do have a light-up scoreboard, reminiscent of machines from the late 80's. These keep tally of scores and deliver messages, for example, telling you which player is up or when to shoot the ball from the plunger.
Both tables come with authentic art design from both franchises. "Transformers" depicts Autobot Optimus Prime and his team battling their Decepticon foe, Megatron. "The Avengers" features such familiar characters as Hulk, Captain America and Iron Man. [See also: Could the Navy Ever Build a Flying Aircraft Carrier? ]
The machines also come with great sound samples, including both originally recorded voice work and samples taken from the films. (You can turn the volume down if you find the audio too distracting.)
"The Pin" provides a good, home alternative for pinball enthusiasts, delivering all the thrills of an arcade experience, without the fuss of maintaining a full machine.