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Steve Ritchie got his passion for pinball machines from playing them at an early age with his dad. Steve would often play pinball machines while at a bowling alley where his parents were on a league. When Steve was 11 years old he got voted at school to be "Most likely to be a mad scientist in a toy factory".

As a kid Steve was known to tear things apart to see how they functioned. During high school Steve spent much of his time learning how electronics worked and building devices.

When Steve finished high school he went into the United States Coast Guard. Steve was in the Coast Guard for 4 years working as an electrical technician. During his time in the Coast Guard, Steve was stationed in places such as: Vietnam, Fort Point, and Alaska. In 1972 Steve was given an honorable discharge from the Coast Guard. At the time of his discharge, Steve was decorated with 8 medals.

Steve is also a musician, playing the harmonica, Hawaiian Steel Guitar, and Guitar. Steve tried to make a career for himself in the music industry, but struggled to get by for 2 years before deciding to try something else.

Steve decided to give Atari a call and got an interview. Steve got a job at Atari, becoming the 50th employee. After a year of working on a Universal PC Board Testing Unit and and Burn-In Ovens Steve was moved to a new pinball division of Atari. Steve was the second employee of the pinball unit, only behind Bob Jonesee. Steve learned from Bob how to build a prototype playfield. Steve ended up being promoted to the Supervisor of the Pinball Prototype lab.

During this time Steve started to draw up his own pinball machine design at home in his free time. Once Steve had finished his plans he gave them to Nolan Bushnell, who then gave his the go ahead to produce his pinball machine design. Steve's pinball machine would become Airborne Avenger. From then on Steve became a full on pinball machine designer and formed a bond with programmer Eugene Jarvis.

Eventually Steve was offered a job to work at Williams by Mike Stroll. Steve accepted the job and moved to Chicago.

Steve Ritchie was one of the featured individuals in the pinball documentary titled "Special When Lit".


Steve Ritchie has worked on or been responsible for many pinball machine innovations.

InnovationPinball Machine
First pinball machine flash lamp.Flash
First continuous background sound.Flash
First completely transparent insert play field.Firepower
First lane change.Firepower
First use of the term "Multiball".Firepower
First electronic multiball.Firepower
First lock involved in a multiball.Firepower
First vocal machine with interchangeable vocabulary.Firepower
First machine designer to use his own vocals in a machine.Firepower
First faceted inserts.Black Knight
First multi level pinball machine.Black Knight
First metal ramps connected to multiple playfields.Black Knight
First magnetic ball save.Black Knight
First alpha-numeric display showing rules.High Speed
First table to auto adjust the replay scores.High Speed
First integrated pinball packageHigh Speed
First designer to also complete the musical score.High Speed
First rotating light box topper.High Speed
First dual diverter deviceHigh Speed
First wizard mode.High Speed
First vertical module for launching the ball.F-14 Tom Cat
First automatic ball saver.F-14 Tom Cat
First machine with a pin-in-slot playfield mounting mechanism.F-14 Tom Cat
First full sized dot matrix display.Terminator 2
First machine to feature a cannon ball launcher.Terminator 2
First machine to use a video mode.Terminator 2
First machine to use a gun grip launcher.Terminator 2
First smart under playfield loading system.Star Trek: The Next Generation
First machine with a lifting playfield used for cleaning.Black Knight 2000

Voice Work

While working at Midway in Chicago, Steve Ritchie lent his voice to more than just a few pinball games. Most notably, his voice is the announcer for the Mortal Kombat franchise including the original voice of Shao Kahn. He also lent his voice as the announcer in Midway's High Impact Football.

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