Mapping pinball trends for the casual enthusiast…

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PODCASTS: The Pinheadz Pinball Podcast

With six episodes to their name and recording quality that rivals that of FM radio, the Pinheadz Pinball Podcast has quickly become one of the preeminent pin podcasts available for free download on the web. Broadcasting from the Australian capital city of Canberra, hosts Rod, Gaz and Pintech Stevie take a monthly stab at the world of pinball from their own unique perspective, which they have coined “Americana from Down Under”.

Every podcast has to have a hook. Coast 2 Coast Pinball has volume, with concise forty-five minute episodes appearing (sometimes) twice per week which allows for discussion of trending topics in the pinball universe. The Pinball Podcast takes the conversational, ‘round-the-campfire approach with few recording frills, allowing them to draw the listener into the causal presentation. For North American listeners, the Pinheadz hook relies heavily on the podcast encapsulating the Australian sub-set of our pinball community.  It is interesting to get a foreign take, identifying differences and similarities in the way Australians approach the hobby.  Pinball seems to be a universal language, however, and it turns out a lot of our interests and concerns are mirrored, regardless of the time zone. I originally had the term “outsiders” written down in my notes to describe the Pinheadz, however, that seemed to be a bit too dismissive. After all, we are all in the same parking lot; some of us just happen to have closer parking spot to the mall entrance.

The show itself is recorded in-studio at a radio broadcasting facility. I guess this is one of the perks of being a radio personality, which is Pinhead Rod Cuddihy’s day job.  He’s a morning host at Mix 106.3, which apparently plays Canberra’s “widest variety of music” (this bold statement has not been confirmed or denied by the author as of press time). Joking aside, the recording quality and production value achieved by the Pinheadz Podcast is unmatched in the field. Mr. Cuddihy begins each show by introducing the topics that will be discussed on the show through a series of teasers and audio clips, before launching into the official show theme—the celebrated Sesame Street/Pointer Sisters “Pinball Countdown”. The topics encapsulate news and happenings within the community, with a fresh Australian spin. Gaz Christiansen and Pintech Stevie Hyde are along for the journey providing entertaining colour commentary on the topics at hand. The rapport between the three is fantastic. In true radio host fashion, Mr. Cuddihy massages the conversation in such a way that all three have an equal share of the discussion, playing on strengths. Pintech Stevie is the equivalent of Mr. Fix-It for capital region collectors, and each show he provides a “life-saving” tech tip, which can range from voltage issues to identifying spider infestations. I get the impression that Mr. Christiansen and Mr. Hyde are old hands at pinball collecting, and their personal gamerooms skew more to the Electromechanical era, while Mr. Cuddihy’s interests have a more Solid State bent (one of his most wanted games is a Party Zone: don’t hold it against him). Together, they have quite the breadth of knowledge, and communicate it in an entertaining fashion that never seems pompous or overbearing. As for guests, the Pinheadz regularly call upon local enthusiasts with impressive collections and those who have acquired/homebrewed pinball oddities (a prototype Data East Robocop, a Mad Max retheme). They have also scored exclusive interviews with HomePin Pinball’s Mike Kalinowski (Thunderbirds) in Episode 4 and SkitB’s Kevin Kulek in Episode 3, the latter being an in-depth, comprehensive and informative talk with the Predator pinball creator. Rod and company ask all the right questions, and the interviewees always seem at ease and excited to talking about the hobby they love.  The show features little in the way of in-depth reviews and rankings of specific games, like Coast 2 Coast or the Pinball Podcast, but that is just another way the Aussie fellows stand apart.

My interest in this podcast lies in its national flavour. In listening, you get a good idea what is going on within the Australian scene, from both a player’s and collector’s perspective. It is also interesting to hear the challenges of being a pinball enthusiast removed from the pinball hub that is the United States–problems such as exchange rates, shipping costs, transit time, machine scarcity, geographic space between collectors, and, of course, the deadly spiders that tend to nest in the on/off switch cavity underneath machines. As a Canadian, I can relate, somewhat, to the challenges of being a “pinball outsider”, having to deal with a few of the same issues. We, too, have to consider roller coaster exchange rates when considering the purchase of a new-in-box game, geographic barriers within the national landscape and exorbitant shipping rates from American distributors…but, of course, not the extent as our brothers and sisters from Australia. My takeaway from the podcast is that Australia has a finite amount of games in the secondary market for collectors to amass. The game population is supplemented by the importation of “container loads” from overseas, much like it was in North America in the early 2000s. I get the impression in listening to the Pinheadz that the pinball pricing in Australia skews a bit on the high side, which is a simple issue of supply and demand.

The Pinheadz Podcast is a welcomed voice in the recently crowded world of pinball podcasts, and one with a unique perspective that sets it apart from the rest.  They hit the right mix: between in-depth discussion to keep the hardcore collectors happy and explanatory education of some of the more complex concepts for novice listeners.  Its monthly format leaves some news items a bit stale for those who stay on top of the latest happenings, but the special features and general discussion allow for interesting insights to be made about the state of pinball within Australia and abroad. These guys are doing it right.

Can you believe it? I made it through a review of the Pinheadz Podcast without once mentioning their accents. See…it can be done.

Catch the Pinheadz’ latest episode, their sixth, here. Topics include a Mad Max pinball machine, an interview with the creator of Slam Tilt ‘Zine, qualifying for the Australian pinball championships, and much, much more.  The Pinheadz are also available for free streaming on iTunes.

Further Reading:
Pinheadz Pinball Podcast – Facebook
Pinheadz Pinball Podcast – Homepage
Mix 106.3 – Breakfast with Kristen and Rod




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PODCASTS: The Pinball Podcast/Coast 2 Coast

It was a big week for podcasts, and for Credit Dot Pinball. Both Coast 2 Coast Pinball (Episode 87) and the Pinball Podcast (Episode 33) released new installments, and both shows were nice enough to mention this site.

If you have not taken time to follow Nate Shivers’ podcast, Coast 2 Coast Pinball, now is the time. Mr. Shivers is scheduled to attend the Northwest Pinball and Arcade Show in Tacoma, Washington this weekend, and will also attend the Southern Fried Gameroom Expo in Atlanta, Georiga at the end of June. If his field reporting from the Midwest Gaming Classic is any indication, Coast 2 Coast Pinball will be the place to get detailed information, comprehensive insight and exclusive interviews from these shows. Being total gaming events, the shows will have a great deal of video arcade content, and Nate’s coverage promises to be exclusively focussed on the pinball material. I was honoured that he took the time to mention Credit Dot on his show, even though he admits long form writing isn’t his bag. The best way you can show your support for Nate and Coast 2 Coast, besides listening, is by buying a Coast 2 Coast Pinball T-shirt, for only $15USD shipped within the US (see the link on the C2C main page).

The Pinball Podcast followed through with the promise of more shows with their second episode of the month. The appeal of this podcast comes from its unpolished style and wayward meandering through a loose structure of topics. Less structure certainly does not mean less professional or less entertaining. The Pinball Podcast is a favourite of mine because it feels like you are listening in on a conversation that Don and Jeff are having over a few beers on league night. Sure, there is lots of pinball talk, but they weave off course and talk about films, parenthood, travelling and Jeff’s favorite topic, medical ailments, before righting the ship back to a discussion about pinball. Given their rapport, it is incredible to find out that hosts Don and Jeff are more acquaintances rather than best friends. They live in different states and were originally united only through a shared love of pinball (So the story goes, at a Pinball show a few years ago, one host-to-be asked “Hey, wanna do a pinball podcast?”, “Um, sure,” the other replied). I am indebted to Don in particular, as I corresponded with him at length before starting Credit Dot, and to be very honest, it was his advice and guidance (along with my wife’s, too) that spurred me to follow through with the idea of writing about pinball. I have a very long e-mail from Don that I go back and look at every time I feel too discouraged, or too lazy, to sit down and write. So if you hate the essays that appear here, blame Don. I am grateful to the Pinball Podcast for mentioning Credit Dot on their show as well, and I strive to be to the pinball blogging universe what they are to the pinball podcast universe. I hope to bother Don and/or Jeff in the coming months to appear as guest columnists and provide some exclusive content for Credit Dot.

If nothing else, having Credit Dot mentioned on these podcasts has made me realize that verbally communicating the name of this blog is a challenge if not spelled out letter for letter–”” can be misunderstood as “” when mentioned in conversation. The chance for confusion seems to be a trend in the pinball world: Coast 2 Coast can be misinterpreted as “Coast To Coast”, and I’m sure gets lots of errant clicks to Hopefully Google figures everything out for us…

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PODCAST: Coast2Coast Episode #83 – An Evening with Clay Harrell

Coast2Coast Episode #83 – An Evening with Clay Harrell

“The waves are big, and heavy, and really salty”. “I’d taken all the low hanging fruit, the ladder wasn’t tall enough”. Those are just two of many fantastic quotes taken from Nate Shivers’ interview with the unsinkable Clay Harrell. Nate covers all the bases in his interview with the pinball folk hero–the current Vintage Flipper World project, the failed Tilt Town venue, the TopCast interviews, and the Pinball Ninja webzine. This almost makes the article I wrote about Mr. Harrell a few weeks back seem moot…Nate got it all from the horse’s mouth!

A few observations:
— I find it very interesting that Clay had to bribe guests in the pinball community (the extent of which is not really discussed) in order for them to be interviewed on TOPcast. I wonder if Nate, in turn, had to bribe Clay?
— I love Clay’s stance on tournament players at pinball shows. He’s a COLLECTOR in every sense of the term. Ah, the age old dichotomy in this hobby…player vs. collector! He doesn’t dismiss tournaments completely, he’s just very matter-of-fact about how torpid they (and their participants) have become.
— Clay’s Vintage Flipper World is cleared by the township for four events per year. Clay’s language made it sound like there would only be one. If you read between the lines, there may only be one EVER. Hopefully the event is a success, and bitching is kept to a minimum so Clay and his gang have incentive to open the doors as often as possible.

I had a bit of insider information that this interview was coming…and I thank Nate for going out of his way to secure some time with Clay. Nate was a bit of a bystander for much of the episode, but he did have all the right questions that got Clay’s wheels turning. It didn’t take much…it’s almost as if Clay was waiting for an opportunity like this to open up about his place in the world of pinball. Clay is such a prolific character that I’m sure he has countless hours of interesting pinball stories left in him that could fill future episodes. Set up another interview, Nate!

Listen here!

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PODCAST: Coast2Coast Episode #77


Coast2Coast host Nate Shivers moderated a talk with a bevy of pinball luminaries last weekend at the Midwest Gaming Classic in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Shivers recorded the event, and it has been released as Coast2Coast Pinball Episode #77.

Nothing ground-breaking is discussed here–Steve Ritchie is the king of innovation, John Popaduik places theme/art above all else, Ben Heck likes to hear himself talk–but its cool to hear the interactions (or divisions?) between the old guard (Trudeau, Ritchie, Freres) and the new boutique designers (Emery, Heck, Kulek). The talk DOESN’T devolve into a reminiscence about the good ol’ days at Williams, which is refreshing and disappointing all at the same time. Stern employee Trudeau, when asked about innovation, said that it all starts on the playfield, in other words dismissing JJP’s innovative backbox LCD screen (or just providing a reason why Uncle Gary hasn’t adopted the technology yet?). Stern employee Ritchie wouldn’t acknowledge the Wizard of Oz by name, instead making reference to it as “the girl with the red shoes”, and claiming (perhaps rightly) that you can’t milk any excitement from the theme. Tanio Klyce is probably a name unfamiliar to most among the other giants on the panel…but you’ll be familiar with him after the podcast as the guy who rambles on and on and on and basically has very little to say. But can you blame him? He’s on a panel with some legends and is probably a bit out of his class. If nothing else, its great to hear Popaduik pontificate about pinball. He exudes brilliance. His is a voice noticeably absent from Clay Harrell’s old TopCast interviews, and I’m not sure I’ve heard him speak about pinball in its other forms in the past few years. From what I gather, he saves his communication energies for those that have committed to put down $16,000USD for a pinball game that has not yet been built.

Nate doesn’t have to do much moderation–the 50-minute set unfolds through the kinetics of the speakers–but its great that he was able to record the event for his podcast. Give it a listen.

Listen to Coast2Coast Pinball Episode #77 Here

Visit Coast2Coast Pinball Here