(Topic ID: 232957)

Node Boards- Update- Stern tech fixes issue via email

By shacklersrevenge

10 months ago

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  • Latest reply 5 months ago by russdx
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#227 10 months ago

I'm not a Stern or Spike owner but might be someday. I love playing modern Sterns but I'm hardly a rote fanboy.

We know technology advances relentlessly; not to excuse design faults but folks haven't been able to service their own TV's, radios, or phones for quite a long time. So I have a question to find perspective: Are Spike / Node Board issues truly endemic? Or, phrased another way, how do they really compare to board failures in the B/W/DE era - and is the modern "unapproachability" of electronics more to blame?

I mean we all know the B/W/DE boards were far from perfect. System 3-7 boards were "disposable" (Williams would simply exchange), the Bally 6803 platform could be buggy, and even up to through the late 90's design flaws (maxxed out 5V on WPC) and unobtanium parts (WPC sound boards, etc) are common. Point being, no system was ever perfect: to the point where finding an old game running all-matching original boards is a rarity, let alone a set that was never serviced.

Now of course the older ones were end-user serviceable with proper knowledge and tools but again, that was almost a by-product of the scale and size of components of their era: big fat components that were easy to see, handle, and trace out. Whereas thanks to miniaturization, almost NO consumer electronic device is E-U-S these days. And have you ever tried to find a schematic to fix a car stereo or TV or ___ yourself? Most of those don't exist either.

And even old EUS boards are becoming less and less so, as parts become obsolete and unobtanium - we're already seeing this. One might consider vacuum tubes the height of EUS design (the ICs of their day) - and good luck finding some of the more archaic ones. Yesterday's obsolete tube is today's obsolete IC... so even today's surface mount components won't be made forever.

So is Spike really a deliberate play to a nefarious plot, or just collateral damage of modern component availability and design philosophy? Williams stuck with their stupid "special solenoids" and troublesome interconnects for years before finally working those bugs out. Seems like Spike is just another "seemed like a good idea at the time... and now we're vested in it..." idea.

#237 10 months ago
Quoted from xTheBlackKnightx:

Anyone that tries to compare lack of repair ability of a TV / phone to this same aspect to being required to a pinball machine, clearly has already been brainwashed and accepted this is not a need of development, reliability, sustainability, or reliability of this form of entertainment.

You don't have to be so condescending. I'm not brainwashed. Probably 75% of everything I own and use is something I have resurrected and fixed myself: be it curbside trash or discount junk, or something I fixed to extend its life rather than replace outright. Everything from furniture to appliances to cars to 10 of my 11 pinball machines (and other pins I sold). I won't buy something I can't realistically fix... with the exceptions I mentioned (aka "consumer electronics") because there literally is NO CHOICE. (And even then, I've recapped inkjet printers and TVs so it's not like I'm a blind trend aw shucks consumer).

But to that lack of choice: someone else said

Quoted from branlon8:Other home electronic appliances last so many years, break down and you buy a new one. Compared to pinball they are inexpensive and you are happy to buy a new one because the technology has moved on dramatically.

In that I disagree. Washers, Dryers, Refrigerators are all not so different from how they were 20 years ago, yet the "tech for tech's sake" adds little new or truly worthwhile, breaks all the time, is unrepairable, and adds significant $$$ to repair and replacement. I am not happy about that. TVs... sure, every 5 or 6 years you're supposed to buy in to the latest definition / dick-size fad but at the end of the day they do the same dumb thing. You can add ports and such to older TVs for far less but "that's stupid... don't add a $40 converter or fix it, buy the latest thing for 'more' "... OK sure.

Now yes, all of those are much cheaper than Pinball. No argument there. But unlike appliances which "everyone needs", pinball is too niche to drive its own supply chain. Can pinball companies dictate to their electronics subcontractors to use Thru-hole components? Or use larger 2-layer boards? Doubtful.

Schematics - or lack thereof - are a problem... but then again is that's a Stern decision or a subcontractor one? You don't find many "photofacts" of schematics of anything electronic from the last 20-30 years. No for-profit company shares its recipes anymore. And we just had someone else comment:

Quoted from YeOldPinPlayer:

I used to work for 3M Telecom we would get stuff for failure analysis that were parts we sold for pennies. Obvious to us it was a copy but the end user had no way to tell, it was copied right down to the embossed 3M logo.

Holy hell: a company with the might of 3M had problems with counterfeit boards and warranty claims - do you think Stern wants that hassle?! Would B/W have enjoyed dealing with folks griping about problems when by-the-way, your replacement was too much so I'm using a Rottendog board?

Hell freaking no.

I do agree the lack of schematics is troublesome. I've only been able to enjoy pinball and expand my collection directly BECAUSE of their availability. But I am not Stern's target consumer: I can't easily afford NIB and probably wouldn't spend that money on NIB either. Yet as somone else pointed out: lots of folks trip over themselves telling Stern "STFU and take my money" anyway... so Stern doesn't need me. Or you, if you're complaining.

Still, I won't be buying secondhand until schematics become available. Maybe once the platform is EOL, Stern will release them and tell the community "OK, have fun and good luck!" But wven then a lot of folks (myself included) will be facing a learning curve of SM component handling. And as for re-engineering based on schematic: if those boards truly are multi-layer, it would be a challenge to fit all that into a "commodity" thru-hole footprint...

There are more considerations to this issue, is all I'm trying to point out: Yay, you have your schematic. Now find someone who can use it and has the equipment to fix your fragile node board. That will take time, and there is no magic solution to this problem.

#245 9 months ago
Quoted from Durzel:

Maybe I'm being a bit simple but didn't B/W pins all come with schematics? The reason B/W wouldn't have had to deal with Rottendog et al back in the day would surely have been quite simply because they would've been cost effective for operators, especially within maintenance contracts or whatever. Rottendog filled a void after B/W had long since stopped supporting their products (or even really existed).

You're absolutely right. But as others have pointed out the market was different back then. Commercial operators were expected to have the knowledge or resources to use the schematics and fix machines on their own to earn revenue. The few private owners were supported through distros. It was all very controlled access to warranty support. Also don't forget, the components most widely (cheaply!) available and used back then, across ALL electronics industries, were easily handled thru-hole components, commodity ICs, etc. Not the microscopic stuff of today.

Rottendog (and others) stepped in only after B/W support ended, True! But the outsourcing options (from China, like Vid pointed out) didn't exist then either. I have to wonder how Spooky or JJP will feel if/when their systems were cloned... and how they would react if those aftermarket systems started causing other problems. They've not been around long enough for us to find out... and B/W were already out of the market. So this question has only been answered by one player: Stern. They clearly do not want the risk.

Because Stern is now in the collector-sumer commodity space: a completely different arena with different rules of engagement. And the technology has changed too: even the most competent schematics tech will have more of a struggle with SM components... partly because all the new video and LED driver and other gee-whiz tech demanded isn't available "legacy sized"... yet how many home users are even competent enough to read them?

So pretend you're Stern. You're no longer selling to competent operators, but every noveau-riche guy with money to brag and the ego to match. One of them buys your machine. Eventually mods or pops a counterfeit board in because reasons... something blows up... they put the original one back in and claim ignorance while begging for assistance. It would most certainly happen: Sony, Nintendo, Apple, and MS all employ labels and other tamper-voiding to quell those kinds of shenanigans.

(Curiously, in that regard Stern remains VERY supportive of its customers, what with all the potential for disaster from aftermarket speakers, lights, displays, toy mods, etc etc etc.)

Or Stern supplies the schematics for all this fancy new tech. Joe Homey watches the first youtube clip he sees, thinks he's figured it out, and fries his board. You KNOW that would happen because Pinside is littered with aftermath newbie threads. Difference is unlike cheaper project pins from defunct companies, Stern's on the hook "because the game is new and they provided this schematic so what was I supposed to do..."

Folks say new pins cost as much as cars and should therefore be EUS. I don't necessarily disagree, but when's the last time Ford or Toyota included a wiring diagram and teardown manual with the purchase of a car? Their end consumers have to go to dealers for assistance, and that's only gotten worse for "creeping tech" over the years.

I'm not saying what Stern is doing now is RIGHT, per se. They should at least up the warranty while they fix the bugs. Gatekeep schematics maybe (but then they would leak so...) But I am saying there are multiple considerations as to how we got here, and Stern can never do right either way. I sort of understand why Stern did what they have... but my view remains, I won't buy a SPIKE game (new or used) while Stern's support stance remains as it is.

Many buyers feel otherwise. You're at least free to make the purchase decision either way.

( Geez, I've typed more words on this thread in one day, than I have on the forum in months. I should see myself out...)

1 week later
#295 9 months ago
Quoted from Luckydogg420:

This is Node 11 from game of thrones....
[quoted image]

Egad! SM components are one thing... but I had no idea Spike Nodes were packed so dense!

So OK, serious question: just *how* is one supposed to remove something like, say, that small IC "U12" for example... with all those other sensitive components in the way? Do you just clear them all out and hope for the best?

I mean I have some needlepoint tips for my Hakko that could theoretically reach but, damn: one false move and you've nicked something nearby. And be honest, you've done that on your Sys6 and other boards too, and those components are miles away by comparison.

And removal is probably the easy part: how in hell are you supposed to thread a needlepoint iron AND a solder lead between larger components to reattach an SM part? That's basically just floating until you manage to tack it down, and apparently WITHOUT the luxury of basic sight to see what you're trying to do?!?

Ugh. If they were more robust, sure, I get it. Or so uniform as to become a commodity in themselves, even that could make sense. But damn, that seems so unnecessary. Makes me wonder what was wrong with bundles of wire (which technically are still there in all the inter-node connections, ha). I guess they are hoping to never change the MPU and offload more of the work to Nodes and headers and such?

#309 9 months ago
Quoted from AUKraut:

The more people hear about this issue

Well to that end I linked the other Spike games I could think of, to this topic. I might have missed a few. Wasn't WWE the first?

1 week later
#700 9 months ago

So SPIKE is now going into 5 years' production for standard machines, and might be considered 7-8 years if you count "The Pins". Both timeframes have historic precedent as a complete run for a pinball platform. SAM was approx. 8 years. Whitestar about the same. B/W platforms generally went roughly 5 years or so from System 6/7 to System9 /11 to WPC to WPC 95 and so on.

When SPIKE was developed, LED bulbs were the "new" thing and since then we've seen widespread adoption of LCD/HD video, better sound, more complex light shows and feature integration... How much more overhead is available in SPIKE to drive now-common (or future) enhancements and innovations? After all, someone pointed out that PC_based platforms are driving most of Stern's most compelling competition. There must be a reason.

Anyone think Stern is readying the successor to SPIKE, and the long-delayed release of schematics signals its end of life ("We're done here so here you go, have fun...")? Perhaps Stern has something larger in the works. I mean they'd have to, right... but maybe it's more imminent than we think...?

#705 9 months ago

Hmm. I wasn't sure if SPIKE v. SPIKE2 are considered unique platforms to themselves, or simple revisions along the lines of Sys11/11a/b/c and so on.

I didn't realize Whitestar went that long. Wow! That's impressive. If it ain't broke don't fix it, eh?

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