North American Bowling News

Toys of the Trade: The Bigger Picture

The 'Ten-Strike' Pinball Game

In this conclusion to our feature from Issue #2 of the North American Bowling News, the “Toys of the Trade” has several other big brother type games, which can be compared to the smaller toys in much the same way that the big-money athletes compare to the weekend softball players. Florida’s BMI Gaming is one the biggest pinball/video game/arcade game suppliers in the United States, with a huge inventory in a widespread arena of game variations and spinoffs.

With bowling as a theme, our primary focus will be on one of the more unique offerings in the history of pinball machines, the Ten Strike Classic. “Ten Strike Classic” is a modern reproduction of one of the more intricately designed pinball games from the 1950s, the Williams Ten Strike. BMI Gaming was selected by Ten Strike Classic’s manufacturer, Daytek, to carry its limited supply of the newly released bowling pinball remakes in 2007. Ten Strike Classic is a retro-style copy with a couple of neat enhancements that fit right in with today’s ever-changing technology..

Ten Strike, in a way, is sort of a combination of tenpins, duckpins, and five pin bowling. The distant similarity to duckpins is the fact the bowler rolls a a ball at ten pins, but with no finger holes in the ball. Fivepin similarity is in the operation of the pinsetting mechanism, primarily due to the pins having strings attached, which also is not unlike the European game of Ninepins, which will be discussed in an upcoming edition of the North American Bowling News. But mostly, the game is a replica of tenpin bowling, with amazingly realistic pinaction results for a pinball game.

The game bears a ‘striking’ resemblance to our featured toy from Part I of the Toys of the Trade article, the Eldon Bowl-a-Matic. There’s a molded figurine of a man, hunched in a bowling position, with a spring-action operated right arm that propels the silver ball down the lane. When contact is made with the pins, an array of realistic spare breaks ensue, leaving single pin spares, as well as some of the common splits that occur in the game of tenpin bowling. The main difference between the real-life game of tenpins and the Ten Strike game is that Ten Strike is stingy when yielding strikes, which to the home player, may indeed make the game more fun for the players as it prolongs their ‘turns’ at the controls. The sacrifice of strikes for this well-designed and functioning game is a more-than-adequate compromise.

The game stands about 4-5 feet high and is approximately 6-7 feet in length. The bowler and playing surface are encased in a "see-through" plexiglass covering, which goes a long way in protecting the working parts of the game. There are knobs at the bowler’s end of the game—one which allows the player to turn and aim the mannequin, and the other to propel the ball forward with a gentle push.

One difference between the original Williams Ten Strike, and the modern day Daytek version is the scoring and display. In the original version, the score was displayed digitally, but not electronically, by the use of the old pinball style cycling mechanism, which displayed black numbers on a white tape-like background. The modern version of Ten Strike uses an electronic, red-numbered LED display. The modern version has two scoring systems, the default using what could have been the original styling, in which points were awarded, and not necessarily a totally authentic reproduction of scoring a bowling match. The newer version gives the owner the ability to tinker with the small, computer-type “DIP Switches” in the back of the unit. Flipping the DIP Switches in the proper configuration allows the game to accurately display the bowler’s score in the same method used to score the game of bowling, which is pretty fascinating.

The original Williams Ten Strike was released in December of 1957, and was later reissued in 1970 as Mini Bowl. Williams also made a 6-player version of Ten Strike called Williams Jumbo Bowling Alley, which came in both 5 and 7 foot versions.

The Ten Strike Classic comes with the ability for one or two players to operate the game. Additionally, there are two modes in which to play—the commercial mode can be set to allow the game to be played by the inserting of coins, just as in a place of business. The second mode is the free, home-based mode, which allows players to bypass the use of the coin slot. Again, the computer settings in the back of the machine control this aspect of the game’s operation.

Unfortunately for the consumer, BMI Gaming’s Ten Strike Classic was limited in their production in 2007, and only 100 or so machines were actually manufactured, each with a price tag somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000-$4,000. It didn’t take long for these games to get purchased. The possibility does exist, however, to locate an available used machine on Ebay.

For the same price tag and up, BMI Gaming has an inventory of impressive bowling video arcade games, with state-of-the-art technology that ties right in with today’s society. A few prime examples are Pro Striker, Silver Striker, and Super Striker, as well as several forms of Skee-Ball.

So to sum it all up, nostalgia does have its place in our memories and in history, and at the same time provides leadership for oncoming technology. In much the same way that historians look back on inanimate treasures from generations past as works of art, so exist the engineering wonders of more recent generations, which should also fall under the category of culture, leaving their own imprint as models for the creative minds of the future.

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