Thursday March 23, 2017

The History of Skee-Ball Machines

Deltronic Labs, Inc.

In the early 1970s, Deltronic Labs, Inc. got into the amusement industry by designing and producing the first solid state electronics for electro-mechanical Skee-ball machines.  Around this time, Deltronic Labs, Inc. also created a modular electronic ticket dispenser that was designed to replace the bulky mechanical ticket dispensers used up until this time in the amusement industry.  Skee-ball Inc. and Deltronic Labs, Inc. began working together to create the first solid state (electronic) Skee-ball alley and in 1974 the Philadelphia Toboggan Company began selling the first "State of the Art" electronic alley to the market.  The circuit boards were produced by Deltronic Labs, Inc. who manufactured the circuit boards for all Skee-ball games from "Model D" up until and including the "Model H" Skee-ball.

Deltornic Labs, Inc. is still heavily involved in the amusement industry today.  Its various ticket dispensers for arcade and lottery redemption machines remain the Company's most popular products, but they also create many other amusement electronics such as ticket eaters, ticket control boards, anti-cheat boards, various test equipment for their products and custom solutions for other industries.  What's great about the Company is that they still service many Skee-ball boards, even as far back as the "Model D" boards.  For more information you can check out their website at http://www.deltroniclabs.com/

Early Electronic Skee-Ball Machines

The electronics in these earlier Skee-ball machines were primitive in today's standards, but many of these machine are still in service and functioning after 25+ years.  There were no microprocessors on the boards, instead the early solid state Skee-ball machines used logic ICs to form the "brains" of the machine.  In fact, many computers built during this time were based on logic chips because microprocessors were much too expensive and had only recently been invented (the 4004 processor with its 2300 transistors on the chip was the first microprocessor produced in 1971).  The logic chips replaced many of the relays, switches and coils in the earlier electro-mechanical machines and helped to minimize the failure of mechanical /  moving parts.  This was great for operators since there was less to go mechanically wrong with the machines, meaning the machines didn't have to be taken out-of-service as often & would continue to earn money for them.

The score displays on the earlier solid state Skee-Balls look very similar to score displays on modern Skee-Ball machines.  At this time it's not known how interchangable these early displays are with eachother, but most likely score displays from machines built in consecutive years that use the same CPU module would be interchangable (ie. displays in a Model 77 and Model 78 Skee-Ball could be swapped).


Early Electronic Skee-Ball Lineup
Photo: Early Electronic Skee-Ball Machines.  Model D or Model E based CPUs.
Taken at Funspot in NH.  Photo by SJWhipp.com - http://sjwhipp.com/tag/skeeball/

Just like the electromechanical alleys, it appears the early solid-state Skee-balls were named for the year in which they were manufactured.  For instance a "Model 74" Skee-Ball would have been built in 1974.  I'm aware of a "Model 74", "Model 76", "Model 77", "Model 78", "and "Model 81" machines.  The models prior to "Model 78" likely referenced the name "Philadelphia Toboggan Company" since it wasn't until around 1977 that the Philadelphia Toboggan Company created "Skee-Ball, Inc." to market the game.  The "Model 78" actually has stickers marked "Skee-Ball".  I'm not fully certain how many solid state models were built in the 1970s, but Skee-Ball documentation indicates there may have been no-thrills models to fully digital models available during this time.  I can imagine that means they were still building some EM machines while also introducing the solid state machines to the market. 

As mentioned, the earlier Skee-Ball machines appear to have been named according to the year of manufacturing, not the CPU module.  So the Skee-ball machine itself would be a "Model 74" for instance, however the CPU module in a Model 74 Skee-ball would be a "Model D".  As with the displays, it's assumed Skee-ball machines built in consecutive years that use the same model CPU module could be interchanged, but this has not been confirmed.

Early CPU Modules
"Model D"  -- the D is for Deltronic  (Model 74)
"Model E"  -- (Model 76 thru ??)

The ticket payout and coin options on these machines were very simplistic, basically just a metal box with a few switches on it that allowed you to select between a fixed number of tickets to dispense and $0.25 or $0.50 per game.

These earlier alleys did not have sound effects, just the sound created by the ball-release mechanism and ball rolling down the alley.  Usually the Skee-ball machines contained a bell located under the 50pt pocket that would ding if the player was lucky enough to hit the 50pt hole.  Deltronic Labs, Inc. actually created an add-on board that would tie into the CPU module on earlier model Skee-ball machines and upgrade the machine with more complex ticket payout options & sound.  Known as the "Yogi Control Board", model SC-700, this board allowed operators to send in their Model E CPUs & wire harnesses to Deltronic Labs to upgrade the wiring to support the Yogi board.  This upgrade allowed operators to breathe new life into their previously silent machines without having to buy a whole new machine.

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Comments:
Origin of Skee Ball Machine
Posted 03/17/12 3:37AM by Anonymous Techdoser
I KNOW where the name "Skee Ball" came from....do you know where it came from?