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.