Unique is a word often bandied about without much thought, and there are few people who truly deserve the title. One of those people – inventor, entrepreneur and coin-op friend Keith Egging – passed away after a battle with ALS this past Friday (May 4). Egging is remembered by Ruth, his wife of 49 years, his son Jacek, two grandchildren and his longtime friend, Don Marshall, who wrote the passage below:
“Keith went through medical school, owned a neon shop, designed coin-operated games, built dozens of radio-controlled airplanes, was an avid scuba diver and inventor of many odd things. Through the Internet, he was ordained as a minister and he was a local polling place judge. Honestly, he did that because it gave him the title, ‘Honorable, Reverend, Dr. Keith Egging.’
“He is the only person that I have ever known who didn’t enjoy music. I had pressed him on the subject, and finally got him to admit that he didn’t mind pipe organ music, but only if it was from a really huge pipe organ,” said Don.
“Keith had a neon sign in the window of his ‘Krell Development Shop’ that read, ‘Things Invented While You Wait’,” Marshall continued. “He was diagnosed with incurable ALS and was on home hospice. Being an inventor till the very end, he was recently drawing plans of odd devices that could prevent ALS from taking his life,” wrote Don. Sadly, Keith Egging passed away last Friday night. He isn’t sick anymore.
He was a really unique person. I miss him already . . .”
In a testament to his whimsical singularity, Egging gave Marshall an obituary about six months ago that he’d written for himself, featured below. He also wrote a refreshingly comical take on morbidity titled Keith Egging’s Last Email, which can be found here.
“Keith started in the industry in the ’50s when his father became the owner of six gumball machines. He urged Keith to operate them to get a feel for business. Encouraged by his father, he took some of the profits and bought a derelict pinball machine which he refurbished and sold for a profit, soon he was shopping machines for other local operators in his garage in Denver.
“He then started a small route in his neighborhood while repairing Skee-Ball at a local amusement park during the summer. Winter was harsh, ‘Running a service call on a bicycle in the winter could be a challenge at times,’ recalled Keith. That small, 12-piece route was sold to a neighborhood operator who would employ Keith after school and on weekends.
“Once Keith started to drive in the ’60s, he was accepted into Jack Moran’s Institute of Coin Operations to especially get more hands-on experience on all of the various Juke Boxes of the day. “I could fix pins, arcade games and bingo’s almost with my eyes closed, but jukes presented more of a precision requirement to work flawlessly.”
“By the time he graduated ICO, he was a shop foreman for a local Denver route. This then lead a local Distributor to recommend him to be the field service engineer for the Wurlitzer acquired and owned routes in the area.
“While scoping out medical schools at a symposium in Chicago, an MOA show was in the same hotel at the time and Keith met with Dave Nutting and moved to Wisconsin, where he worked for Dave at Milwaukee Coin Industries as their field service manager. ‘This was my first exposure to the coin-op manufacturing and I loved it! Dave was a prolific designer and great teacher and soon let me start out in the prototyping and creative creation side of the game business. This lasted until Dave became a consultant with Midway Manufacturing as microprocessors started to make their way into the coin industry.’ Keith still had two electro-mechanical games in design at the time, and with the backing of John Bilotta from Newark, N.Y., formed Americoin to produce Junk Yard and Dozer arcade games.
“Taito America wanted to begin manufacturing in Chicago and hired Keith to be part of that endeavor for his creative input. He was sent to Taito Japan to begin help with that process. Keith was the first to see the industry changing potential of Space Invaders and was adamant ‘to the point of annoying’ to have samples sent back for clandestine route testing. The incomes of Space Invaders in these little known locations were so highly unexpected that Ed Miller, Taito’s then president and Paul Moriarity Taito’s vice president decided to have the game licensed to Midway Manufacturing rather than to wait until the Taito America factory was up and running.
“Over the next decade, Keith served as Taito’s production manager, art director, advertising and PR director, and under the industry’s well-known veteran Jack Mittel, Taito America’s new president, Keith was made vice president of research and development. In 1981 as the laser games started to come on the scene, regular video games went into a slump throughout the industry, Keith just finished one of his best games for Taito America, Ice Cold Beer. When regular videos and kits were having a hard time moving, this electromechanical offering sold over 50,000 (including kits to Europe) and over 35 years later is still actively traded today at auctions and eBay, plus, has an active aftermarket cottage industry supplying parts. After the death of Taito Japan’s Michael Kogan, Taito America ceased its manufacturing in Elk Grove Village and Keith advanced as the American head of robotic research to one of Taito Japan’s divisions.
“Again the division was phased out and this time Keith formed Muggins International, Inc. which is a multi-disciplined product development company in Addison, IL and still designs and licenses games and features for the coin-op industry as well as medical and surgical products.
“I’m a firm believer in the old saying… ‘Love what you do, and you will never work a day in your life,” wrote Keith.