Old School Mechanical Pong Still Amazes

[Tom], of the YouTube channel ThingsTomLike, found a very sweet little mechanical Pong clone at a thrift store. It came in broken, but in only fifteen minutes of your time, [Tom] manages a complete teardown and repair. (Video, embedded below.)

The game works by balancing a lightbulb on the end of a pivot arm that projects a “ball” onto a screen, while players move their paddles up and down to hit the spring that surrounds the light assembly. The ball arm gets periodically kicked by a DC motor and cam assembly, which makes it careen wildly back and forth across the screen.

It’s a marvel of simple, no-IC engineering. Ironically, it might have been cheaper than making it out of silicon at the time, but viewed from today’s economy, just the human labor in adjusting that counterweight so that the “ball” floats would blow the budget.

Why a screen and lightbulb? Because it’s emulating Pong, a video game, the new kid on the block. But even 45 years later, we think it has got a charm all of its own that the cold digital logic of Pong lacks, even if the gameplay suffers.

Thanks [Hari] for the great tip!

12 thoughts on “Old School Mechanical Pong Still Amazes

  1. I remember this well. The most amazing thing to me was a little conical drumhead and hammer that make a very realistic ping-pong ball “pock” sound when the ‘ball’ hits something. This one doesn’t seem to have that feature

    1. It does run a little fast. I think that could definitely have something to do with the different motor. I ended up slowing it down a bit by playing it with only one battery instead of three. This added it about 1/3 of a second side to side.

    1. In fact, I’m pretty certain that they did, because the game would have needed some sort of retainer for shipping, else the balance arm would bang around the box and break itself. Imagine a truckload of these going “bing bing bing” at every pothole.

  2. Interesting. I knew of Tennis for Two and Pong since I was a little child, but never heard of this before. Thumbs up also for leaving that little light bulb installed and not replacing it by an LED. 🙂👍

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