Saturday May 18, 2024

The History of Skee-Ball Machines

Model V Skee-Ball?
Several online sources indicated there was a "Model V" Skee-Ball built by a company called Varitech.  Skeeball's website mentions a company called Vari-Tech International so it's assumed these are one and the same.  The "V" would likely have stood for Vari-Tech.  Well I can confirm the "Model V" does exist as I was able to locate one on eBay.  I've been meaning to take some pictures and get them posted here.  I plan to get it up and running if I can (currently not working) and look at some of the differences between the Model V and Model S MPUs.  I believe the Model V was the predecessor to the Model S.. and does not appear to have been used for very long as you don't often see them pop up for sale -- and I've yet to see these inside machines or really even see any discussion online about them other than a few random posts mentioning they existed.  I have seen 2x Model V MPU units pop up on eBay -- I bought one, and I'm not sure if the other ever sold.

Some more information on Vari-Tech (again assuming these are the guys that built the Model V mpu).  Vari-Tech, a Michigan company that has been around since at least 1987, manufactured games and developed game programs and procedures for amusement parks and arcades.  Vari-Tech would contract with various amusement parks and provide new facilities (remodeling), new games, cash control systems, management support and installation services.  Basically they were in the business of helping arcades and amusement parks create or revamp their arcade amusement locations.

It is likely that Skee-Ball, Inc. and Vari-Tech worked in collaboration on some projects prior to Skee-Ball buying Vari-Tech.  It's only my speculation at this point, but Skee-Ball was looking to expand into other types of redemption games and Vari-Tech had experience in that area.  In 1992 Skee-Ball purchased Vari-Tech, Inc, adding midway game fixtures to Skee-Ball's line of products and moving the company and its employees to Pennsylvania.  Vari-Tech became a division of Skee-Ball, Inc.

Model V did exist and according to one forum post, the electronics were not as reliable as the Model S & H alleys.  I can understand why even with just a quick look at the guts of a Model V -- there's a lot of internal wire harnesses and stress-points on the PCBs in areas where you would plug/unplug the wire harnesses.  So even without digging into the actual circuit board design, it seems more likely that over time some failures may have occured just from connector issues.

Skee Ball Classic, Skee Ball Too!, Skee Ball Lightning, Skee Ball X-Treme

Around 1998 Skee-Ball released four new versions of alley games into the market to increase popularity in Skee-Ball worldwide.  Skee-Ball doesn't mention specifically which alleys these were on the timeline on the Skee-Ball, Inc. website.  The Skee Ball Classic, Skee Ball Too!, Skee Ball Lightning and Skee Ball X-Treme may have come out around this time.  Other alleys Skee-Ball was working on around 1999 include Alley Hoops and Scat Cats.  I will need to look into the dates of manufacture on these or contact Skee-Ball for further information.

Skee-Ball Extreme
Photo: Skee-Ball Extreme Alley
Photo credits unknown

Some of these allies used a new Alpha-numeric Tri Color Dot Matrix display instead 7 segment bulb or LED based score displays.  They also had digital sound and optical sensors intstead of mechanical switches.

Skee-Ball Lightning - digital sound package with thunder and high tech sound effects.  Tri Color Dot Matrix display.  Special lightning Effects including a flourescent target board, running lights and flashes of lightning.  "Double Flash" option.

Skee-Ball Too - also uses optical sensors, digital sound & uses the Tri Color Dot Matrix display.
Skee-Ball Classic Alley
Photo: Skee-Ball Classic Alley (2010 model)
Image by Skee-Ball, Inc.

Skee-Ball 2010 Classic Alley & Skee-Ball Centennial Alley

The Skee-Ball 2010 Classic Alley is an updated design with modern features.  It looks like a cross between an old mechanical alley and the classic Model S alley.  The color scheme is still red-and-yellow, but the alley is more reminiscent of some of the earlier Skee-Ball models from the mechanica/electro-mechanical era.  It uses a Tri Color Dot Matrix display and is very operator friendly.  There's a hinged target board and front-mounted electronics for ease of maintenance (operators can change game settings from the front of the machine).  It's also dollar bill ready and of course uses optical sensors instead of mechanical switches.

Skee-Ball Centennial Alley
Photo: Skee-Ball Centennial Alley
Photo credits unknown

The 13th Centennial Alley (pictured above) is a throw-back to the vintage Skee-Ball alleys of the 1930s.  It's has the art deco look of the 1920s and 1930s Skee Ball alley.  It even has a ball release lever and flip score display like the original 1930s alleys.  But don't be fooled, the interior is 21st Century, with modern electronics.  The alley was created for both enthusiasts and collectors and price is said to be somewhere around $10,000 each.  Only 200 of these are being produced according to a 2009 interview with Skee-Ball, Inc. company CEO Joe Sladek, 5 of them as gifts to his children and grandchildren.

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