Harry E. Williams (1906-1983) was an American engineer, game designer, and entrepreneur who paved the way for the coin-operated pinball industry. Williams originally worked as a pinball operator in California during the early 1930s, but he soon began to design his own pinball games. He invented the tilt mechanism to prevent cheating in games, as well as the electronic action device which “kicked” the ball across the playfield. In 1943, he founded Williams Manufacturing Company in Chicago, Illinois—the American center for pinball production. His company rose to prominence as one of the most important arcade and pinball game manufacturers in the United States after World War II.
Williams pinball designers introduced many pinball innovations, including ramps, scoring reels, drop targets, and modern 3-inch flippers. The company was acquired and incorporated several times, resulting in company name changes (becoming Williams Electronics, Inc. in 1974 and WMS Industries in 1987). In 1988, WMS purchased competitor Bally/Midway. The pinball division of WMS closed in 1999, after more than 50 years of designing and manufacturing electro-mechanical and solid-state pinball machines.