Pinball Machine Terminology

Pinball Terminology

Below is a diagram illustrating the pinball terminology used for the outside of a modern pinball machine...


The vertical or upright part of the pinball that is located towards the rear of the machine.
The Backbox houses the Backglass, Displays, Speakers and electronic circuit boards in modern pinballs. In Electro-Mechanical pinballs, the Backbox houses the Backglass, Score Reels and some relays and stepper units.


The artwork located at the front of the Backbox.
Up until the mid 1980's, the Backglass artwork was silk-screened onto the back of the glass. This artwork is prone to peeling over time and should be protected. Modern pinballs have their artwork printed on a "Translite" attached to the glass from behind.


Ball Launch
Launches the ball into the playfield.
Also known as: Ball Plunger and Ball Shooter. The majority of pinballs have a plunger that you pull back on, and then let go, to launch the ball into the playfield area. Some of the modern pinballs have a button to press to achieve this (as shown in the diagram above). There are some modern pinballs that have a Ball Plunger and an automatic ball kicker to launch the ball.


The large lower box of the pinball machine.
Also known as the body. The Cabinet houses the Playfield, Flipper Buttons, Coin Door and Playfield Glass. In Electro-Mechanical pinballs, the cabinet also houses relays, stepper units and motors.


Coin Door
The door at the front of the Cabinet, that houses the Coin Mechanisms.
The Coin Door is also the main access to the inside of the Cabinet. Once this door is open, you can then remove the Playfield Glass to access the Playfield, or operate the Test Buttons to access the Test Functions.


Display & Speaker Panel
The panel located below the Backglass, housing displays and speakers.
This panel is used on modern pinballs due to the need for housing the Dot Matrix display. Earlier pinballs did not have this panel, as the Score Displays were located in vairous positions behind the Backglass.


Flipper Button
The buttons you press to operate the Flippers.
Without these buttons, you could not play the pinball machine. These buttons are attached to Switches which in turn activate the Flipper Coil to make the Flipper Bat move or "Flip".


What the Pinball stands on.
Legs were not always on pinball machines. Originally pinballs were placed on tables or counters. Eventually, the need for pinballs to stand on their own arised, and legs were attached.


Leg Bolt
They attach the Legs to the Pinball Machine.
The Legs need to be attached to a Pinball Machine somehow, and the Leg Bolts are the items that do it. They are usually either a 5/8 inch, or a 9/16 inch Hex Head UNC bolt.


Leg Leveller
Used to ajdust the level of the Pinball Machine.
The Leg Levellers are used for adjusting the height of the rear and front Legs to compensate for uneven floors, and to ajdust the Playfield angle. Modern pinballs have a Playfield Angle of approx. 7°, while older pinballs have a Playfield Angle of approx. 3½°.


Lock Down Bar
Keeps the Playfield Glass in place and locked in.
The lock Down Bar is the main part that needs to be removed if access is needed to the Playfield, or inside of the Cabinet. It can only be removed once the Coin Door has been opened.


Playfield Glass
Covers and protects the Playfield.
The Playfield Glass is a toughened (or tempered) glass, and is there to prevent any tampering with the pinball machine. It also decreases mechanical noise significantly.


Side Art
The artwork on the sides and front of the Cabinet and Backbox.
The Side Art is what decorates the Pinball Machine to give each model a unique look, and to generate interest in playing the machine. Early pinballs had stenciled artwork, while modern pinballs use either silk-screened artwork or decals.


Side Rail
The Side Rail keeps the Playfield Glass in place.
Early pinballs used wooden side rails to keep the Playfield Glass in place, while later models use a Stainless Steel version.


Start Button
Used to Start the game.
The Start Button (sometimes called Credit Button), is how each game is started. Press this once for a 1 player game, twice for a 2 player game, and up to 6 times for a 6 player game (most pinballs only go up to 4 players, but there are a few 6 player machines).


Top Lock
Locks the Backglass in place.
Also known as: Backbox Lock, and Backglass Lock. The Top Lock can be located in a few different positions. Above the Backglass as shown in the diagram, on the top of the Backbox, or either of the two sides of the Backbox. This lock needs to be opened to access items located inside the Backbox.  On Electro-Mechanical Pinballs, the lock is located behind the machine, and removes the access door to the mechanicals located there.


Pinball Playfield Terminology

Below is a diagram illustrating the pinball terminology used for the playfield of a pinball machine...


The metal plate at the bottom of the Playfield that houses the Play Instructions and Pricing Label.
The Apron's main job is to display the play instructions and pricing labels. It also covers the Ball Trough and Out Hole.


Ball Shooter
Launches the ball into the playfield.
Also known as: Ball Plunger and Ball Launch. The majority of pinballs have a plunger that you pull back on, and then let go, to launch the ball into the playfield area. Some of the modern pinballs have a button to press to achieve this. There are some modern pinballs that have a Ball Plunger and an automatic ball kicker to launch the ball.


Ball Shooter Lane
Guides the newly launched ball into a specific area of the playfield.
The Ball Shooter Lane (also called the Ball Launch Lane) guides the ball into the playfield to where the Pinball designer wants it to go. The ball can enter the playfield in various positions depending on the design.


Bounces the ball away when the ball touches it.
Bumpers go by a some different names - Thumper Bumpers, Turbo Bumpers, Poppers and Pop Bumpers - but they are all the same thing. Once the ball hits the Bumper Skirt which surrounds the bottom of the Bumper, the ball is pushed away by the metal Bumper Ring that comes down to hit it.


Controlled Lamps
The Lamps that light up specific items on the Playfield.
The job of the Controlled Lamp is to show the player where to aim for, and what has already been scored. They also allow the player to see what "Mini Games" have already been completed on later model Pinballs.


Drop Target
Drops down when the ball hits it.
Drop Targets are plastic posts that are designed to drop down when the ball hits them. Usually, you have to hit a sequence of Drop Targets in order to complete the pattern, and have them reset back to their upright position.


Flashers (not marked on diagram)
The really bright lights that draw your attention to a position on the Playfield.
Flashers are mainly used as attention seekers. Their main purpose is to alert the player that something is about to happen, but they can also be used to note something that has just happened.


Flipper Bat
The plastic bats you hit the ball with.
The Flipper Bat is used to hit the ball (hopefully) in the direction the player wants the ball to go. When the Flipper Button is pressed, the Flipper Bat rotates towards the top of the playfied quickly, which in turn hits the ball in the direction the bat is aiming at the time of contact.


General Illumination (not marked on diagram)
Illuminates the playfield and plastics.
General Illumination (or G.I.) lights the playfield so that the player can see the various areas that may be hidden without being lit up. It also makes the playfield more attractive to look at, and can draw players to the machine to play it.


Guides the ball through specific areas of the Playfield.
The Lanes at the top of the Playfield are used mainly for "Bonus" scoring. Completing all of the lanes scores the Bonus, or any other prize that the designer has determined.


Out Hole
Where the ball enevitably ends up...
The Out Hole is where the ball is returned to the Ball Trough. The end of each ball is when the ball goes down here. You may be able to do the "Death Save" to keep the ball in play, but once it is in the Out Hole, it is gone.


Out Lane
This lane means the end of the ball.
Once the ball enters the Out Lane, there is not much hope of it being returned to play - unless you can perform the "Death Save". This lane spells the end for the ball in play.


The nice artwork you see raised above the playfield.
Pinball Plastics are a great feature of a pinball machine. They add to the overall look and design, while hiding dead areas that the ball can not go. They are usually lit up by the General Illumination.


Return Lane
This lane returns the ball to the Flippers.
The Return Lanes are used to return the ball to the rear of the Flipper Bat. The entry to the Return Lane is next to the entry to the Out Lane, and for the pinball player this can mean life or death for the ball.


Rollover Switch
The fine metal blades protruding through the playfield.
Rollover switches are used for scoreing, and for the machine to know where the ball is in play. They can activate special Controlled Lamps, or Mini Games, or cause gates to open. Without switches, you could not play the machine.


Kicks the ball away.
The Slingshot (aka Kicker) is the triangle-shaped part usually just above the Flippers. When the ball touches it, the Slingshot kicks the ball away.


Rectangular Targets that rotate vertically when hit by the ball.
The Spinner is a great way to rack up lots of points if you can hit it hard. The more times it rotates, the more points you get awarded. It can also be used to award a random score or feature.


Items to hit with the ball.
Targets are sometimes also called "Stand Ups" (they do not drop). They are something to hit with the ball to score more points, or to acheive game features.