Besides being able to DX everyone under the table, I am also one of the world's best pinball players.
The New York Times
February 23, 2012
Steve Kordek, a Pinball Innovator, Dies at 100
By DENNIS HEVESI
Steve Kordek, who revolutionized the game of pinball in the 1940s by designing what became the standard two-flipper machine found in bars and penny arcades around the world, died on Sunday at a hospice in Park Ridge, Ill. He was 100.
His daughter Catherine Petrash confirmed his death.
Mr. Kordek actually revised a revision of what until the 1930s had been called the pin game. In that version a player would pull a plunger to release the ball, then shake the table in an often frustrating attempt to redirect the ball toward a scoring target — a cup or a hole.
In 1947, two designers at the D. Gottlieb & Company pinball factory in Chicago, Harry Mabs and Wayne Neyens, transformed that rudimentary game into one called Humpty Dumpty, adding six electromechanical flippers, three on each side from the top to the bottom of the field.
It was an instant hit — until, at a trade show in Chicago 1948, Mr. Kordek introduced Triple Action, a game that featured just two flippers, both controlled by buttons at the bottom of the table. Mr. Kordek was a designer for Genco, one of more than two dozen pinball manufacturers in Chicago at the time.
Not only was Mr. Kordek’s two-flipper game less expensive to produce; it also gave players greater control. For someone concentrating on keeping a chrome-plated ball from dropping into the “drain,” two flippers, one for each hand, were better than six.
“It really was revolutionary, and pretty much everyone else followed suit,” David Silverman, executive director of the National Pinball Museum in Baltimore, said in an interview. “And it’s stayed the standard for 60 years.”
Roger Sharpe, author of “Pinball!” (1977), a history of the industry, agreed.
“But not only did Steve choose to put two flippers down at the bottom of the playfield,” Mr. Sharpe said, “even more importantly he provided direct-current power to those flippers, meaning that a ball skillfully flipped from the bottom of the playfield could actually get to the top, and anywhere in between, with some semblance of accuracy.” Previous games had mostly used less powerful alternating current.
Mr. Kordek’s career spanned more than six decades and the industry’s evolution from battery power to computers. While the two-flipper standard is perhaps his most significant contribution, he would go on to lead design teams that created more than 100 games — at Genco and later for Bally Manufacturing and Williams Manufacturing — many of which were hits. Among them are Space Mission, which was inspired by the Apollo and Soyuz satellite missions; Grand Prix, with a car-racing theme; Contact, in which humans and space aliens meet; and Pokerino, based on poker.
The last game to which Mr. Kordek contributed was Vacation America, a computerized game released in 2003 that was inspired by the National Lampoon “Vacation” movies.
“Steve’s impact would be comparable to D. W. Griffith moving from silent films through talkies and color and CinemaScope and 3-D with computer-generated graphics,” Mr. Sharpe said. “He moved through each era seamlessly.”
Steven Francis Kordek was born in Chicago on Dec. 26, 1911, the oldest of 10 children of Anna and Frank Kordek. His father worked in the steel mills. Steven Kordek worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps and for the United States Forest Service during the Depression.
On a visit to his hometown in 1937, he was walking down a street without an umbrella when a torrential rain forced him to step into the lobby of a building he was passing. It was the Genco company. A receptionist asked if he was looking for a job.
“I had never seen a pin game before in my life,” Mr. Kordek told The Chicago Tribune in 2009. For 45 cents an hour, he was soon doing soldering on the company’s production line. He studied at the Coyne Electric School at night and began working his way up through the Genco engineering department.
Mr. Kordek married Harriet Pieniazek in 1941; she died in 2003. Besides his daughter Catherine, he is survived by another daughter, Donna Kordek-Logazino; two sons, Frank and Richard; a sister, Florence Wozny; two brothers, Joseph and Frank; six grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.
Several pinball machines line the walls of Mr. Kordek’s house, his daughter Catherine said. “It’s always been the activity center for all our children and their friends.”
Mr. Kordek never got tired of the clang, clack and buzz of pinball. “I had more fun in this business than anyone could believe,” he told The Tribune.