Some call him the “Father of Pinball,” although the entrepreneur and businessman did not actually create the first form of the game. What Steve Kordek did do was to take a revision of a 1930′s machine called the “pin game” and turn it into what we today know as “Pinball.” Kordek died at the age of 100 years on February 19, 2012. Joining his wife, who passed on in 2003, he leaves behind two daughters and two sons, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
According to an article posted in the New York Times online by author Dennis Hevesi, the original pin game had a plunger that released a ball and then the player had to shake the table in order to try and ring a cup. It was said to be a very frustrating game that was in play until the 1930s. That was when a couple of designers from the D. Gottlieb & Company Pinball Factory, which is located in Chicago, Illinois, created a new game called the “Humpty Dumpty.” Harry Mabs and Watne Neyens’ creation contained six flippers, three on either side of the game from bottom to top.
Although the Humpty Dumpty quickly became very popular, Steve Kordek arrived on the scene in 1948 at a Chicago trade show to push Humpty right off the wall. Kordek’s new pinball game, the “Triple Action,” had only two flippers, making it much easier to play and cheaper to manufacture. He also added a more powerful electrical current to the flippers, which gave them better control over the ball. It also made it possible for the ball to travel much farther than with previous games and actually reach the top of the game. His design would remain in use for three decades and beyond, but his career expanded across six decades.
Kordek watched as the industry evolved from using battery power to computer-generated models. He is responsible for the creation of at least 100 other games made by teams that he led. His resume boasted work for such companies as Genco, Williams Manufacturing and Bally Manufacturing. Some of the best known titles are “Space Mission,” “Grand Prix” and “Contact.”
The story of how Kordek came to be involved in the pinball industry is quite interesting. As Hevesi shares, Kordek was visiting his home town back in 1937 and took a walk without an umbrella. A sudden downpour made him step inside of the nearest building, which happened to be the Genco building. The receptionist immediately assumed he was looking for a job.
Although he had never seen a pinball machine before, Kordek soon found himself soldering on Genco’s assembly line. As he worked his way up through the engineering department of Genco, Kordek attended Coyne Electric School at night. He was soon able to take what he learned and create his own product that surpassed those on which he had worked. It is a terrific story that shows how entrepreneurial opportunities can show up at anytime, in any place…even in a rainstorm and even for a product or idea you’ve never even heard of!
Angela Kaye Mason is an online researcher, writer, and contributor at entrepreneurweek.com blog network. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Angela on Twitter. Find her on Facebook .
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