Ah! What sordid juices have I produced in the darkness of your brain, reader? Don’t try to hide it. I know all sorts of hormonal fluids are frothing through your bloodstream at the sight of this wondrous pinball contraption. Don’t panic. It’s happening to me as well. The meaty surge of nostalgia courses through us both, for we are both alumni of this sly bumper-filled space vessel. Once, we were cadets, you and I. Cadets not only of space, but of Windows XP.
Full Tilt! was a pinball game with multiple tables, but I don’t know a soul who had the full game. I only know that every human in the early 2000s with the boldness to upgrade to a newer version of Microsoft’s screensaver software got this demo pre-installed (it was on other OSes too – Windows 2000 and Windows ME). It had one table: Space Cadet. And for those of us still suckling on our first Nokias, that was enough.
This windowed toy sustained us, kept us going. It brought pinball to millions, and it deserves to be celebrated and remembered. To have the high score for Space Cadet on your family computer was to be unstoppable. To be the best at pinging those little metal orbs about a tiny-windowed version of a game you’ll never own – that was true renown. It was dropped from future Windows versions because, according to coder Raymond Chen of Microsoft, upgrading it to 64-bit meant the ball started inexplicably dropping through the bottom of the table, and they couldn’t afford the time to fix it. A sorrowful end to a joyous machine.