Automatic scorer

An automatic scorer is the computerized scoring system to keep track of scoring in ten-bowling. It was introduced into bowling alleys in the 1970s and combined with mechanical pinsetters for detecting the pins bowled down. Automatic scorers took away the task of having to keep score by hand by using a specialized computer designed for the task of automatically keeping the tally.

Automatic Scorer with lanes scored
Automatic Scorer with overhead display

This also introduced new bowlers to the game that otherwise would not participate because of having to keep score themselves, as most do not understand the mathematical formula involved in bowler scoring. At first people were skeptical if a computer could keep accurate score. By the twenty-first century it is used in most bowling centers worldwide. The three manufactures of these specialized computers are Brunswick Bowling, AMF Bowling and RCA.


Inside 1970s computer console apparatus

Automatic equipment is considered a cornerstone of the modern bowling center. The traditional bowling center of the early 20th century was advanced in automation when the pinsetter person ("pin boy"), who set back up by hand the bowled down pins, was replaced by a machine that automatically replaced the pins in their proper play positions. This machine came out in the 1950s.[1] A detection system was developed from the pinsetter mechanism in the 1960s that could tell which pins had been knocked down, and that information could be transferred to a digital computer.[2][3]

Automatic electronic scoring was first conceived by Robert Reynolds, an electronic calculator expert.[4] He worked with Brunswick Bowling technicians to develop it. It was realized in the late 1960s when a specialized computer was designed for the purpose of automatic scorekeeping for bowling.[5] This increased the popularity of the sport.[6] The automatic scorer was first field tested at Village Lanes bowling center, Chicago in 1967.[7][8] The scoring machine received approval for official use by the American Bowling Congress in August of that year.[9] They were first used in national official league gaming on October 10, 1967.[10] In November Brunswick announced that they were accepting orders for the new digital computer, which cost around $3,000 per bowling lane.[11] Bowling centers that installed these new automatic scoring devices in the 1970s charged a dime extra per line of scoring for the convenience.[12] California was considered the best prospect for making the first sales since it was the only state where bowlers paid an individual for league scorekeeping.[13]


1970s circuit board schematic diagram showing electronic input system for tally.

Each Automatic Scorer computer unit kept score for four lanes. It had two bowler identification panels serving two lanes each.[1] The bowler pushed it into his named position when his turn came up so the computer knew who was bowling and score accordingly. After the bowler rolled the bowling ball down the lane and knocked down pins, the pinsetter detected which pins were down and relayed this information back to the computer for scoring. It was then printed on a scoresheet and projected overhead onto a large screen for all to see.[14]

The Automatic Scorer digital computer was mathematically accurate, however the detection system at the pinsetter mechanism sometimes reported the wrong number of pins knocked down. The computer could be corrected manually for this as well as handicap figures added and late arriving bowlers tallied. The automatic scoring is directly connected to the foul detection unit so that foul line violations are automatically scored.[3]

Brunswick put in ten years of research and developed a computer that kept the score of bowling and labeled it the Automatic Scorer. By 1972 there were over 500 of these computers installed in bowling centers worldwide.[15] AMF Bowling, competitor to Brunswick, entered into the automatic scorer computer field in 1973 and their systems were installed into their brand of bowling centers.[16][17] AMF and Brunswick each had their set of Customer Service Engineers in a territorial area that repaired the computers.[18][19] By 1974 RCA was also making these computers for automatic scoring.[20][21][22]


The purposes of the computerized scoring were to avoid errors by human scorers and to prevent cheating.[16] It had the side benefit of speeding up the progress of the game and introducing new bowlers to the game. Score-keeping for bowling is based on a formula that many new to bowling were not familiar with and thought difficult to learn.[23] These casual bowlers unfamiliar with the formula thought the scores given by the computers were confusing.[24][25] Some bowlers did not trust automatic scorers when they were introduced in the 1970s, so kept score using the traditional method on paper score sheets to verify the accuracy of the reporting.[26]

Automatic scorers are considered the normal part of modern bowling installations worldwide. The owners and managers say that bowlers expect these scoring system computers in 21st century bowling establishments. Many state that business has increased since their introduction.[27] The traditional 'bowling alleys' have become known as 'bowling centers' since the introduction of the color television style automatic scorer in 1983.[28] These type of electronic visual displays show bowler avatars and social media connections to publish the bowlers' scores.[29] Bowling center owners can use these style automatic scorers for advertising, management, videos, and live television.[30][31] Some are capable of being extended entertainment systems of games for children and adults.[32]

The automatic scoring bowling computers of the 21st century detect electronically if a bowling pin has been knocked down. This is done with fluorescent coatings on the outer surface of the wooden pins. This is an ionomer cladding material put on a preselected area of the bowling pin, usually in the neck portion. It consists of a particular type of coating that emits a high level of light when hit with ultraviolet light. Another coating is put on the pin that emits a moon-glow and thereby amplifies the first coating's light by the contrast. This then makes it detectable by an electronic sensor if the pin is still standing. That detected pin or knocked down pin is a signal sent back to the automatic scorer computer for the tally and keeps score for the bowler.[33][34]


  1. ^ a b "Bowling scoring Now Automatic". Herald and Review. Decatur, Illinois. November 9, 1967. p. 31 – via  .
  2. ^ "Electronic Scorer Ready". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California. November 11, 1967. p. 31 – via  .
  3. ^ a b Gil Craker (November 16, 1967). "Opinion Divided on Automatic Scorer". Herald and Review. Decatur, Illinois. p. 19 – via  .
  4. ^ "Brunswick Markets Automatic Scorer". Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, New York. November 9, 1967. p. 42 – via  .
  5. ^ "Company Notes". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Fort Worth, Texas. November 9, 1967. p. 27 – via  .
  6. ^ "New Scoring Machines right up their alley". The Times. San Mateo, California. June 18, 1977. p. 13 – via  .
  7. ^ Chuck Pezzano (November 10, 1967). "Scoring Machine Wins Approval of Reporter". The Record. Hackensack, New Jersey. p. 56 – via  .
  8. ^ Gil Craker (November 16, 1967). "Unit Now Being Field Tested". Herald and Review. Decatur, Illinois. p. 19 – via  .
  9. ^ Thomas Rogers (November 9, 1967). "Bowling eyes big $ score". The Morning News. Wilmington, Delaware. p. 43 – via  .
  10. ^ Kane, Joseph Nathan; Anzovin, Steven; Podell, Janet (1997). Famous First Facts. Famous First Facts (5th, revised ed.). New York: The H. W. Wilson Company. p. 546. ISBN 0824209303.
  11. ^ "Automatic scorer comes for bowlers / At almost $3,000 per lane". Southern Illinoisan. Carbondale, Illinois. November 13, 1967. p. 10 – via  .
  12. ^ "Bowling gets Auto-Scorer". Wisconsin State Journal. Madison, Wisconsin. November 9, 1967. p. 29 – via  .
  13. ^ Chuck Pezzano (November 10, 1967). "Our Chuck Pezzano Converted". The Morning Call. Paterson, New Jersey. p. 22 – via  .
  14. ^ Dave Harfst (November 9, 1967). "New Bowling Service: Computerized Scoring". Lansing State Journal. Lansing, Michigan. p. 53 – via  .
  15. ^ "Bowling enters the electronic age". Independent Press Telegram. Long Beach, California. February 27, 1972. p. 125 – via  .
  16. ^ a b "No more pencils for keeping score, computer does it". Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, New York. December 12, 1982. p. 103 – via  .
  17. ^ "AMF computer systems technician". News-Journal. Mansfield, Ohio. April 16, 1978. p. 69 – via  .
  18. ^ "Service Engineer". Arizona Republic. Phoenix, Arizona. May 26, 1968. p. 101 – via  .
  19. ^ "AMF computer systems technician". News-Journal. Mansfield, Ohio. April 14, 1978. p. 32 – via  .
  20. ^ "City and area bowlers start rolling this week". Wisconsin State Journal. Madison, Wisconsin. September 1, 1974. p. 26 – via  .
  21. ^ "Super bowling in New York". Daily News. New York, New York. November 2, 1975. p. 381, 388 – via  .
  22. ^ "M-66 Bowl". Battle Creek Enquirer. Battle Creek, Michigan. April 5, 1974. p. 18 – via  .
  23. ^ Don Schilling (August 7, 1977). "Bowling". The Leaf-Chronicle. Clarksville, Tennessee. p. 19 – via  .
  24. ^ Jef Goodger (November 4, 2019). "Bowling Scoring". LiveAbout. Retrieved October 13, 2020.
  25. ^ Dustin (February 12, 2017). "How to Score Bowling". The Bowling Universe. Retrieved October 13, 2020.
  26. ^ Sid Boardman (March 7, 1970). "Scoring has Automatic Twist". The Kansas City Star. Kansas City, Missouri. p. 7 – via  . Scoring sounds simple to those that know how.
  27. ^ Sharon L. Bass (August 21, 1988). "Some Alleys can now do Everything but Bowl". The New York Times Company. Retrieved October 11, 2020.
  28. ^ "Please don't mention 'alleys' at Brunswick". The Rock Island Argus. Rock Island, Illinois. July 9, 1988. p. 25 – via  .
  29. ^ "Pulsating / Bowling center installs new scoring system". The Republic newspaper. July 20, 2018. Retrieved October 11, 2020.
  30. ^ "Brunswick". The Journal News. White Plains, New York. July 9, 1988. p. 11 – via  .
  31. ^ "QubicaAMF /Scoring, Entertainment and Central Management System". AMF. 2020. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
  32. ^ Brian Kleinknecht (2020). "Sunn Valley Lanes Installs QubicaAMF's BES-X Entertainment System". Sun Valley Lanes and Games. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
  33. ^ "Fluorescent bowling pins". Justia. 2020. Retrieved October 11, 2020. A bowling pin for use with an automatic scorer includes a wood core and an ionomer cladding having an outer surface which surrounds the standing portion of the pin.
  34. ^ "Fluorescent bowling pins". October 15, 2020. Retrieved October 15, 2020.