Playful Mathematics: Sweet Add-A-Line

Last weekend I visited the Vintage Flipper World pinball museum just outside Ann Arbor, Michigan. Among the games there was Gottleib’s 1955 table Sweet Add-A-Line. It’s a peculiar table by modern standards, since nearly all the playfield is a bunch of lanes, channels through which the pinball might roll. But …

Gottlieb's 1955 pinball table _Sweet Add-A-Line_. 'It figgers!' says the backglass. It shows an underdressed 'patio secretary' on the adding machine, while a portly Mr Dithers-esque guy walks on the beach wearing striped swimming costume and holding a ledger. Also some guys in the background are singing, because the game's name demands it.
In this round of Sweet Add-A-Line I managed to get the 9, 7, 15, and 2 rollovers, lighting up the total of 33 on the lower-left adding tape. And scored overall 1,840,000 points. See the lights at the bottom. Unanswered question: so, “patio secretary” was a thing in 1955? I guess?

I apologize for the Coors sign reflected in the back glass. I didn’t even see it when I was taking the picture.

Each of the lanes is numbered. Rolling one down lights up that number in the backglass, as above. And if you roll all the numbers in one of the eight strips of tape, the game opens up bonus opportunities. It’s a fun game and certainly one of the top adding-machine-themed pinball machines I’ve ever played. I grant this is of marginal mathematical content, but, heck, I smiled.

The Internet Pinball Database has a scan of the game’s advertising flyer, which I like if nothing else for its defensive “Amusement Pinballs: as American as Baseball and Hot Dogs!” slogan.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

8 thoughts on “Playful Mathematics: Sweet Add-A-Line”

        1. It’s certainly worth it. Well, the ones I’ve been to are. There are a couple arcades with a healthy number of pinball machines too. I’m happy to say Michigan is one of the centers of the current pinball renaissance.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. No, there isn’t anything like that. The appeal of real things that move is a powerful one. Well, and making the right move where you slide the machine, save the ball, and get away with it. That’s really powerful.


  1. I own one of these and love it. I got a Google alert on your post because I’m always on the lookout for a better specimen of SAAL. What makes it such a great game is the massive adrenaline rush of the “replay” that existed at the height of these games in the ’50’s combined with the unique fact that in SAAL if you roll over all the lanes, you score 26 replays – you max out the replay reel. That’s was a rush beyond compare “back in the day.”


    1. I’m glad to hear from someone who owns one! I wasn’t able to get more than one column of numbers completed in the limited time I had to play. (The museum is unfortunately open to the public only a few times a year, but it’s got a great selection of 1950s machines to play.) Just the thought of maxing out the replay reel is awesome, though. If I ever do it … well, wow.


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