I Had That! #2: Wildfire, the Electronic Pinball Game

Photo by Joe Haupt

I never had an Atari. I was the kid who always wanted to come over and play on your Atari, long after you were sick of it and wanted to do something else. I did, however, own several hand-held electronic games, which I’ll talk about eventually.

This was one I coveted from nearly the first moment I saw it. I’ve always had a theoretical fondness for pinball, even though I wasn’t any good at it on the occasions I’d play it. Pinball was one of the first things I enjoyed liking, even if I didn’t enjoy it in itself. And this thing, with its bright colors and promise of actual electronic pinball play, was something I craved.

And I actually got it! Either for Christmas or a birthday, I’m not sure which. I think the former, because I remember finding it in a hiding place other than where the Christmas presents were usually hidden. Instead of the upper reaches of my parents’ closet, I found it in the middle drawer of their dresser. I don’t know if it came with batteries or if I snuck some batteries into it, but I do know that I played it while my parents were at work, before they’d actually given it to me (another reason why my summer birthday seems more likely.) When I finally got it, I had to pretend like it was a big surprise, even though I’d been playing it for a while.

I’d like to say that it was a letdown — the “ball” was just a series of LEDs and had only a few scripted paths it would travel — but I actually did get a lot of play out of it. As well I should have: it cost $45 in 1979, and that translates to about $155 now.

I don’t recall wowing my friends with it, however.

When did I get it? They say it came out in 1979. I think I got it early on in its lifetime, so possibly then. However, if it was for my birthday it could have been 1980.

Do I still have it? No. No idea what happened to it.

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