Jim Austin is an Air Force veteran with experience in electronics going back decades and came to work for The Game Preserve arcade in June of 2018. Learning how to work on pinball and arcade machines seemed to fit Jim's talent and his happy demeanor fit well with our arcade family. On September 8th of 2020, while working at the arcade Jim suffered a minor stroke and with encouragement from the arcade staff he was taken to the hospital. While being examined, Jim suffered a second more harmful stroke that left him on a ventilator for 3 days, ICU for several weeks and a total hospital stay over 30 days. After leaving the hospital, Jim spent 3 months in a rehabilitation center learning to function again with his new limitations.
In January of 2022, Jim returned to the arcade to resume work by teaching our technical apprentices and applying his knowledge to the more advanced diagnosis and repairs. Over the course of 2022 Jim came to realize that not only did his stroke leave him in a wheel chair but it also took away his ability to play test the fixes he had supervised on pinball machines. This got him searching for a solution, but not just for himself but for others with limited physical abilities. In December of 2022 the idea that would eventually become the Adaptive Flipper Control (AFC) came to him.
By mid-January of 2023, Jim had designed the machine prototype and on January 26th he built the first handheld controller. On February 2 Jim played his first game since the Stroke on Gorgar using the prototype devices. The joy he felt that day inspired Jim and others to pursue this new adventure into Adaptive Game Controls.
During the first play of the new device on February 2nd, Rusty Key (co-owner of The Game Preserve arcade) was impressed with the invention and joined Jim in the development of the product. Together they developed a set of parameters that would guide the design and electronics of AFC. Building on these parameters, the original design was turned into 2 components that could be connected with a standardized 1/4 stereo jack. Parameters included requirements such as simplistic design, non-destructive installation, low cost, and be compatible with as many pinball machines as possible.
By the beginning of March, the design and creation of AFC had expanded and was installed and tested on 5 pinball machines ranging in years of production from 1959 to 2000. On the 24th of March, the AFC and controller prototypes were shown at the Texas Pinball Festival where all those who saw it were amazed at the ability given by the system. From the feedback received at the Texas Pinball Festival several enhancements and modifications were made.
With the design changes made on the actual components, the work began on documenting the invention and determining the costs for the parts and production labor. On July 26th, 2023 a Provisional Patent Application was submitted. On August 8th, 2023, our provisional patent was approved.
Adaptive Flipper Control and the associated controllers are now being marketed by the Adaptive Game Products company and we will be striving to see that physically challenged people can enjoy the game of Pinball. We are always looking for other options to expand the company's mission!