A SHORT HISTORY OF AMUSEMENT ARCADES
By Tim Hunkin

Vending
machines

Working
models

Fruit
Machines

Introduction

Video
Games

Simulator
Rides

Alternative
Arcades

NOVELTY MACHINES

This is my favourite category. Pay to give yourself an electric shock or see yourself on television. See how many scrap cars you can load into the car crusher, shoot a striptease artist to make her clothes fall off. The scope is endless. There is a good index of machines at www.arcade-museum.com, but these are some of my favourites.

Coin operated x-ray machine c1900
. The glass case contains the x-ray tube and high voltage coil. stick you hand in the slot about and view your hand bones through the double eyepiece on top
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Barrel of Fun, USA 1940s
Inserting coin switches on the light so you can see what's inside - in this case some plastic monkeys.
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Le Cochon Electriser c1898                                              Le feu c1910        
Two machines which gave electric shocks. Electric shocks were a popular medical treatment for almost any disease at the time. With the pig, the shock gradually increased as you turned the handle. If you can take the maximum - the pigs eyes light up.

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The boxers c1930
Pull the triggers on the side 'pistol grips' and the boxers spar - I'm not sure how you win.
There was a brief vogue for plain metal art deco machines - all now highly desirable by collectors.

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Football UK 1920s
The diecast metal players have real knitted woolen vests

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One of the first uses of electricity was for 'magic eye' gun machines. Instead of shooting pellets, the gun was just a narrow beam torch - with an light sensor in the target.

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Haunted House UK 1930s
Machines like these were still common in the fifties when I was a child. I built one myself - not coin operated though (everything was controlled by strings and levers from behind). I've been told that the models were made by two women in Yorkshire who continued to make them during WW2, converting crane grab machines to models, as the prizes for the cranes were unavailable.

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Smash Hitler early UK 1940s
Quite few shooting games were converted to be patriotic during the war.

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Turnpike Tournament USA 1950s
The screen shows 8mm film of a real road. I think the idea is to keep the model cars, sticking vertically up in front of the screens, from going off the edge of the film roadway.

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See Yourself on Television, USA late 1940s

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Sputnik, Germany 1960
I've no idea what this did, but it looks wonderful

,

Bimbo Box USA c1970
The monkeys play their instruments to music - but what a great name.

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Open the safe, USA 1970s
An electric meter above the safe door provided 'clues' to the tumbler positions, while the LED display counted down the time you had left to get the door open.

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Junkyard, USA 1970s
Pick up diecast metal cars with the crane grab, move them over the hoppers (marked one and two) and drop them in.


Pussy Shooter, UK c1970
I should add a whole section about shooting games. I love them because they are so politically incorrect.

The Defatigueur was basically a Vibrating Armchair

A newspaper of the day described it as follows:

At certain points in the Exhibition, the visitor can't help stopping and laughing in front of some strange machines, composed of blue armchairs placed in front of luminous screens bearing the word “fatigue”.

We would like to talk about the “Universal Defatigateur”. A tired man sits down in the blue armchair, stays there for a few moments, then leaves – the machine confirms this – completely refreshed! It seems to him that he feels lighter; what is absolutely certain, at least at the moment of departure, is that he's lighter by a coin.

In front of these machines, the other day we heard a demonstrator who, to attract clients called out:

“Come on, don't be shy, these machines are marvellous! Moreover, they are short-wave; that really can't do you any harm, you are taking no risks.”

A joker interjected, “Oh yes you are! You are risking 40 sous!”


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