From Handwritten Notes to Tonka Trucks – Jersey Jack – February 2017


From Handwritten Notes to Tonka Trucks

A Look at Changes in How We Communicate & Play

Jack Guarnieri

Jack Guarnieri

by Jack Guarnieri, Jersey Jack Pinball &

Do you write letters or cards? The holiday season is over and I wonder how many of you still take pen to paper and write out a card. My wife gets a Valentine’s Day Card and a special funny poem that I write that morning with the latest events that happened in the last day or so. How about a handwritten thank you note. Perhaps with Jimmy Fallon doing Tonight Show segments on thank you notes where he actually uses a pen, some young people may discover the magic of writing that special correspondence.

Friends know that I have a collection of Montblanc writing instruments. I’ll change them daily based on my mood, or where I’m going and what I’m doing. I pay special attention not to lend them to people asking “do you have a pen?” as I do not, I have a “writing instrument.” As you can guess, the written word is important to me and, thankfully, once a month I get to write this column.

Friends and customers get handwritten notes from me and they’re usually pretty surprised that I took the time to handwrite a note or message. I guess that’s something that is going the way of chivalry, but that’s another column.

Technology has changed the way we do everything, especially how we communicate. From having a President tweet whatever comes to his mind to couples sitting at the dinner table texting endlessly and not paying any attention to each other, we all do it to some degree.

Are we raising a whole crop of humans that will verbally communicate less with each other? Will they write only up to 140 characters and if they need to say more, then write another 140 to finish their thought? Being at the tail end of the Baby Boom Generation and growing up learning script or cursive in school, I feel as if I know some secret ancient language skill. I even know how to long divide and add fractions using a pencil that has an eraser! As a kid, I learned to type (on a manual typewriter) with two fingers and I can get up to about 75 words per minute, which is still slower than I can think, but I easily get by. So the young people of today must truly be smarter than we are growing up with all of this new technology, right?

Where am I going with this? When we grew up, it was fun to play with your friends in a cardboard box that a refrigerator came in. As long as it didn’t rain for a couple of days in a row, we would get a few fun days out of that box before we made it into a fort and cut windows into it and rolled around, tipping each other over in it.

I would happily play for hours in the dirt with my metal Tonka trucks and have some Army men along with plastic cowboys and Indians. Not too many moms today would let their child play in the dirt, no less with some metal truck. After all, the child could get dirty, maybe stung by a bug or worse: cut on the sharp metal edges of that truck.

Cowboys and Indians and army men sound too politically incorrect to have a child play with, let’s face it, there are lots of issues that could follow those groups of plastic figures. It’s better to give that toddler an iPad and have him play with that and stay clean, warm and dry and “learn something.” (But, I must have learned something playing in the dirt with my trucks and plastic action figures. I don’t think I turned out so bad!)

We all play differently today than how we played years ago. Not just when we were kids, but even a few years ago. We need to be more stimulated. We have a higher expectation of what makes us say “WOW!!” This is the continuing changing challenge that we have in our industry.

It’s not just our industry … but it’s fashion, automobiles, food, and really almost everything. How do you keep your customers satisfied, entertained and stimulated? The continuing change that we expect as humans impacts how we answer that question.

What will we be doing in the next five to ten years? I’m not sure, but I know it will keep evolving for better or worse. Which side of it will you and your business be on?


Jack Guarnieri started servicing electro-mechanical pinball machines in 1975 and has been involved in every phase of the amusement game business since then. He was an operator in NYC, then began a distributorship in 1999,, selling coin-op to the consumer market. In January of 2011 he founded Jersey Jack Pinball (named after his RePlay Magazine pen name), which builds award-winning, full-featured, coin-op pinball machines. Email Jack at jack@


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