October 17

News : A Pinball Machine 40 Years In the Making. Duncan Brown


Duncan Brown is a software developer who worked at Williams writing software for slot machines and the Pinball 2000 classic Star Wars Episode I.  He posted a story recently about finding drawings of lost play fields designed by Harry Williams hidden in the old Williams facility.  Duncan was able to obtain the drawings, scan them in and create a machine called Typhoon from the drawings that was featured at Pinball Expo 2016 this year.  There is much more to the story so read the entire article at the bottom of the page. It’s a great story and worth a read.

This story starts 17 years ago, in the last year of Williams Pinball’s existence, though we didn’t know it at the time. One day John Popadiuk grabbed me in the hallway and told me I had to immediately come look at something in the storage room across the hall from Steve Kordek’s office.

There he pointed to a disheveled heap of full sized playfield drawings and told me that they were designs Harry Williams had done in the 1970s that had never been made. I sifted through the first few, and my impression was that Harry had clearly lost his mind. Here were 1950s playfield designs that he was drawing in the 1970s. But still, I was fascinated – all these games, designed by the master himself, that had never seen the light of day.

I could never really get the whole story out of Steve Kordek. Harry was sending in these designs to Steve, Steve was sitting on them, it really didn’t make any sense.

But John was very excited about them. He decided then and there that when it came time to design the next game after Star Wars Episode I, we would start by having Jim and Jose in the whitewood lab build up one of these games so we could play it. Not because he really thought we’d end up producing a game anything like it, but because he thought the good pinball juju would flow from Harry’s brain, through this game, into our brains, and we’d be inspired to create a true pinball masterpiece in the mold of Harry Williams.

Despite John’s more recent misadventures, there is no denying that he is an absolute pinball zealot, through and through. His wonder and excitement at the thought of travelling back in time to learn at the feet of Harry Williams, via these playfield designs… it was contagious. We needed to finish up Star Wars and get it into production and show it off as the tournament game at Pinball Expo, and then we were going to hit the ground running on the next game as disciples of Harry. It gave me goosebumps!

…and then, as you know, on October 25, 1999 it all came crashing down.

There were tears to be wept, new jobs to be found, lives to be rearranged, and more important things to worry about than a stack of old playfield drawings. But I didn’t forget them. As the years passed and I’d talk to Steve Kordek at various nostalgic get-togethers of ex-Williams employees, he’d discuss how all of his personal belongings – files, papers, games, books, everything from his nearly 40 years at Williams – had been moved up to the plant in Waukegan and he was trying to figure out how to get them out and back home. I own a pickup truck, I lived near the Waukegan plant, I have an undying devotion to the cause of pinball history, and I have a very understanding boss, Larry DeMar, so I offered absolutely unconditional help to Steve in this regard.

Any time, any amount of stuff, moved to any place he wanted. I always asked if those Harry Williams drawings were still in his stuff, and he always assured me they were.

I even bought a giant document scanner cheap on ebay and fixed it up, all in preparation for the day I got my hands on those drawings.

Read the entire story below :