Electro-Mechanical Arcade Games

Jason Torchinsky is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. Jason has a book out now, Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture. He lives in Los Angeles, where he is a tinkerer and artist and writes for the Onion News Network. He lives with his partner Sally, five animals, too many old cars, and a shed full of crap.

Before computers became small, cheap, and reliable enough for this purpose, people still had the desire to stand in front of armoire-sized cabinets, stare into a glass panel, and pretend to do things they normally didn't do, like kill aliens, drive like a madman, or work in a junkyard. The way they did these things was with wonderful, complicated electromechanical arcade games.

These electromechanical games are incredible contraptions, using every kind of trick-- projections, spinning drums, remotely articulated models, whirring discs, mirrors, lights-- to give the illusions of speed, action, explosions, distance, and more. Looking at them, it's amazing they worked so well in such a high-abuse public environment. These are real engineering gems, long gone, and very rare now. Luckily, there's a bunch of videos out there, since stills really don't do these justice: Speedway, Hill Climb, Invaders, Haunted House. Enjoy!