(Topic ID: 232957)

Node Boards- Update- Stern tech fixes issue via email


By shacklersrevenge

6 months ago



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  • Latest reply 31 days ago by russdx
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#15 6 months ago
Quoted from Rum-Z:

I swear George Gomez said that Stern would be releasing schematics on Spike node boards way back during Expo 2017 or something. I just remember reading this in passing and not paying too much attention to it other than thinking "Good". However, so far nothing has happened in regards to schematics, which makes me think that Stern has back tracked on this comment by Gomez, as they'd rather sell new boards at insane mark-ups than have schematics out there that might assist people in making their own repairs (if people are brave enough with surface mount work) or assist competitors in making more cost effective aftermarket replacement boards.
Someone has got schematics on them, as it would seem that Stern employees designed them and then supplied them to a board supplier which made the boards.

I asked the question during his seminar at Pintastic last summer. The response was the material and tutorials are coming. Not sure if there is a video of that seminar available, but it's on it if there is one.

#52 6 months ago
Quoted from shacklersrevenge:

SO finally got through to a guy named Chaz, and the exchange was polite.
I explained to him the issue, that it was ONE switch not working and how I troubleshot it, and I asked him if there was anything they could do.
Chaz: "'well...they're kind of designed a certain way that makes them very difficult to repair, not sure what we can do...maybe send it in, and we'll look at it...''
Me: Is there a way you can swap it out so there isn't a lot of down time?''
Chaz: "it's something you need to order from your distributorrrrrr, or parts supplierrrrrr, eeeeyah...I mean, we're goingggg to be offering the schematics for them soon, very sooooon, but they're not easy to repair..... but I mean, you can try....''
Me: So my game needs to be down for several weeks unless I spend $220 for a new one, that isn't really guaranteed to not fail like this one and it runs two of these things, which means the other one can or will fail eventually too probably, and there is no real way to repair it over ONE simple switch? I own 6 Stern machines and like what you guys do but this isn't really good work''
Chaz: Yeahhhh...well...I mean, that's really all we can do right now, not sure what else we can do...sorry you're having troubles (chuckles) but you'd have to buy a new board
...thanks for calling (chuckles a few times more) WTF?
Okay Stern, game on. I'll buy that new ridiculously overpriced board and keep the rest of money going forward and chuckle all the way to the bank! From now on, SAM or before works for me and I'll sing the song of your Stern node JUNK.
Adios boys!

This is really sad and unfortunate. I have three spike games and have always been leery of them. Have you tried going through your distributor, if you are the original owner?

#57 6 months ago
Quoted from Shapeshifter:

For comparison, how easy are those huge boards in the remakes to repair?
No wonder 90's B/W games are so cherished - they will always be repairable.

Same deal, surface mount

#113 6 months ago
Quoted from WackyBrakke:

No fuses = fry fest

I believe the boards for spike are internally fused. If a short is detected, they shut down. Once the short is cleared, you reboot and they come back up.

#176 6 months ago
Quoted from YeOldPinPlayer:

Code requirements. SAM didn't have enough addressable memory to run today's games. The 2006 OS was an update to Whitestar and at some point HAD to be rewritten to use modern components.
Almost everything today has a microprocessor in it. The days of something running for 50 years and all the components being available are gone. That has its advantages but lastability isn't one of them.

Jjp seems to be ok running through hole components, and those games are way more packed than any stern. All I can think is it is a cost cutting move and the fact that they don’t release schematics and that these can’t be easily fixed is a big problem in my mind. Stern has always been good with replacement parts out of warranty, but if I have to pay $200-800 for a node board or CPU, that’s going to be the day I swear off these new games.

1 week later
#211 6 months ago
Quoted from xTheBlackKnightx:

When it comes to Stern SPIKE system games, it's like pissing on a fence to test and see if it's electrified.
(insert Stern nodal board high voltage joke here)
Eventually the odds catch up and the owner is going to get "stream shocked" with multiple replacement costs, if the boards are even still available, which game specific they are often not anymore. The node boards are not reliable and continue to be susceptible to voltage regulation and vibration issues. A single issue can take out multiple boards at one time. The average price of a Stern node board is $150, but can reach to $1000 for a full CPU board. Techs cannot troubleshoot well in the field AT ALL most of these types of issues. Boards are repairable, but only those with identifiable circuit paths and components. The more SPIKE games a person owns the more complicated the issues can be both via generation and components.
I discussed much of this over a year ago here in multiple responses of the thread, "Stern Reliability: SAM versus SPIKE" and "What are your thoughts on the Spike II system?", but let us go even FURTHER back in time.
Operators asked for schematics in 2013 and made various technical recommendations for the system that for the most part have not been fulfilled. They were not complaints, they were observations like "providing an end user diagnosis of specific nodal control based a partial boot failure, because it was not explained in any form of manual". Stern techs could not even answer this type of question at the time. The OP information from Chaz confirmed that from the standpoint of design, things have not changed, but instead are doing manual resets on circuit boards (when applicable). This is nearly SIX YEARS of "coming soon". With the continued increase of cost of NIB games, the only thing which has been maintained in that period is Stern customer service. However, prices are now 1.5x higher for what reason? "Improvements"? How? Screw that, Stern, some remaining operators don't buy that excuse now. The SPIKE II system regressed further with circuit protection. This is another example of a big middle finger to everyone that is involved in the industry. If owners want to be treated like mushrooms, kept in the dark, and fed bullshit, I cannot do anything about this problem, but I will at least speak out for education. Coincidentally, Using "swapatronics" is not a particularly impressive form of significant flattery and technical solution, if a customer service representative is experienced.
This situation would have been absolutely intolerable, even in the 90s, but because the end user is now a consumer, it seems somehow accepted. There is nothing wrong with advances in technology, if supported with direct repairs, but, Stern fails to offer this option, including ANY FORM of training classes, that were provided by B/W.
SPIKE is NOT that "advanced solution", except in profit margins of the manufacturer. That was never its intended purpose. SPIKE was never designed to ease the burden of any part of Reliability-Serviceability-Durability (RSD) of pinball. It actually was meant as a evolutionary venture of the same kind of lackluster "improvements" that were offered in terms of reduced quality of construction of the game, including cabinets, power, playfields, and hardware. Every single Stern supporter remains completely bushwhacked each time they buy a game with this system. End users are not getting what they are paying for overall, and is partially why B/W games remain so popular, not just with collectors, but operators as well.
Think about these points before gambling with another use of disposable income, new or used SPIKE games. If you play, but don't own or operate, and think it does not matter, it completely does, as it reflects into the cost per game that operators must use to keep these titles running. Also, it really helps to know Stern's titles, as if they are SAM, as it will make a HUGE difference in cost savings in the long run for maintenance regardless of type of location.

Well said. Spike scares the crap out of me. Every time I turn a game on or update code, I wonder what might fail. Knowing I cannot fix or even diagnose a node board failure is a huge risk I am taking. I own a few spike games and have been lucky as nothing has failed, but it is a big issue always on my mind. It is not just stern, Cgc has moved in the same direction and I have had issues with their boards, covered under warranty.

If i were an operator, I’d be even more upset, but what can you do? Makes no sense that you have to wait a week or more for a new board, pay whatever it costs and lose earnings while it’s down. But People want to play the newest games so ops need them on route.

1 week later
#289 5 months ago

Stern is in a very good position right now, demand is very strong and they have cut costs, and they have no real competition, especially at the pro level. That’s quite a position to be in. If I had to guess, I’d say most of the games are going to homeowners, not operators. If I were an op, I’d run the game through the warranty, then list it for sale.

Seems nobody cares about these crappy node boards or the spike system, except the few of us in this thread. Once the boards become NLA, if that happens, that’s when the uproar might begin.

#298 5 months ago
Quoted from mollyspub:

To be honest, this thread is scaring me.
No repair ? Boards no longer available? How can Stern let this happen? Am I and others going to have games that no longer can be played?

You should be scared. The boards are not easily repairable and new boards range from $200-$1000. There is no guarantee of supply. We can only hope that a secondary market for boards develops. It is my understanding that most of the boards are not transferrable across games. Nobody is going to invest time to make a board for just one game. Stern needs to release schematics as a first step. Once we see that, fears may ease a little.

Time will tell, but right now the future is very unclear you are rolling the dice. It is really unfortunate how this is being handled as the games are a lot of fun.

#311 5 months ago
Quoted from AUKraut:

My suggestion to people who are unhappy about this situation with no tech info or schematics available: Make yourself heard at Q&A panels at shows, festivals, etc. A lot of pinheads don't browse pinside for whatever reason, and we know that as a whole Stern tries it's best to ignore pinside. The more people hear about this issue in public events and see Stern try to dodge the question, the more pressure it puts on Stern to do the right thing, as Stern uses these sessions as PR to sell their product. I know I will be at TPF asking the question about schematics in a nice civil manner, maybe others can jump in as well. Squeeky wheel gets the grease......

I specifically asked GG about schematics during his seminar at Pintastic last year. Not sure if the seminars were recorded or not. His response was that they would be forthcoming soon, including online tutorials. I've since learned I wasn't the only person who asked that of him as it was asked a year earlier I think someone said. I'll believe it when I see it. Stern is well aware people want the info.

#317 5 months ago
Quoted from pinballplusMN:

I just passed on a service call for a Deadpool. Issue was ball not kicking out. Probably an easy fix but I don't want the prospect of future repairs which may involve obsolete parts and /or being a deer in the headlights on a home service call.I hate that feeling and rarely if ever experience it with older stuff. Anyone that does home service knows that once they touch a game they marry it in a sense I will be happy to change if I can have confidence in knowing how the games function as well as guaranteed support for parts etc for at least 10 years. So for now Im telling people that call for service on Spike that Im deferring for the time being until I have more knowledge and confidence in the operating system. Schematics being provided will be a step in the right direction.
I have received some flack for this from people that say Im not supporting Stern by making this decision. I don't dislike Stern and want to support them. In fact I feel the games produced are some of the greatest games ever built play wise. For now its just a business decision for me that may change later in the future. I hope it does. JR

That would have been a simple fix. The switches are notorious for coming loose. My switch wasn't attached well when it arrived and I found one of the screws for it in the bottom of the cabinet.

#333 5 months ago

Silverball museum in asbury Park NJ does not have any new stern games because of the repair costs. They have BW and JJP. They have had older stern games like tspp and sopranos.

#371 5 months ago
Quoted from 27dnast:

So, the black knight went on Kaneda’s Podcast and popped off about Stern Spike system and node boards.
It’s really difficult to know if he 100% knows what he’s talking about or if he knows enough to be dangerous and then just talks up the rest (or if he’s simply wading in total Uninformed BS)... but he’s throwing around phrases like “planned obsolescence” for Spike games. Then again, he also seems to make up words (“technicianal” I believe was dropped?)
What say you Stern?
Stern just got completely called out for basically selling $5-8k-plus games that carry hardware that (a) has early games - like KISS - with boards that are NLA or becoming scarce... and suggestions that current games are going to end up in the same place.
Oh... add in the notion that the system is “half baked.”
I’d like to hear Stern come onto a podcast or a public forum and defend the electronics in its games... publicly commit to providing schematics or repair support... and discuss plans for games that have unique boards that are no longer made or available.

Here’s what we know, or at least I know:

1. Spike boards are harder to repair because they are surface mounted.
2. Spike boards are difficult to diagnose and repair due to lack of schematics.
3. The boards are more capable

Anything else is speculation, including:

1. Failure rates
2. Fragility of boards
3. Board availability now and in the future.

I suppose someone could call stern and ask if they have kiss boards in stock and how long they expect to have them. If I have a chance at tpf, I will ask about these unknowns.

#406 5 months ago
Quoted from branlon8:

what bugs me the most is the communication policy of Stern. The first time I heard of Spike from a distributor he told me Spike is great - no more board work - if something fails you just swap out one of the numerous small boards and you’re good to go. I think this sounds great in theory - I’ve learned enough about electronics to be a little bit dangerous, but there are way more holes in my knowledge than knowledge itself so I wouldn’t mind repairing pins in this way - also because good pin repair technicians are few and far between. I wouldn’t mind spending a few bucks from time to time for a board (It would be nice if they’re not so expensive you feel like you’re being gouged every time). It could be the modern way of taking care of pins.
But this Spike repair idea would have several requirements:
- the game has to tell me which board to replace
- the long term availability of said boards must to be assured and they need to be easy to get.
My impression is that both of these requirements are very far from being met and as far as I can tell these points are in no way being addressed. Until they are, no Spike games for me. Too bad because some of them look fun.

Spike is not great. Swapping out boards is expensive. Down time costs money. It takes time to even figure out the underlying issue to know which board to swap out. Nodeboard X failure is not helpful at all.

#425 5 months ago
Quoted from Zablon:

Uh...okay let me spell it out for you. I was on a committee to produce planned obsolescence. They USED those words. The goal was to make products that lasted 7 years max instead of 30. Not sure what else you need? You asked for examples. You were given some, and then go about the usual "well no, that's not right". No, YOU aren't right.
I'm not saying Stern is actually doing this however, but it certainly wouldn't surprise me and people who act like that would never happen should wake up a bit.

You lose brand loyalty if you make products that don’t last. It is very short sighted not to do so thinking people will just buy your product again. I bought a Sony directv box about 20 years ago, it failed within a year and Sony would not replace it. I literally have not bought a Sony product since.

#597 5 months ago
Quoted from hoby1:

Does it concern me........... I never really sit there and think about it, " OMG can I get a new node board IF this goes bad. "
Uuuuuuum No.
You guys that wont buy games with Spike games are really missing out on alot of cool stuff. If I gotta spend a little coin down the road to enjoy some of these GREAT title. Im in.

You don’t care that if your game breaks you can’t fix it yourself, the cost to fix it is in the hundreds of dollars and down time is weeks? And the possibility that a board won’t exist and your game becomes a paperweight doesn’t bother you? Compare that to SAM/whitestar. Every time I turn my game on or update code, in the back of my mind I wonder if something will go wrong,

#603 5 months ago
Quoted from hoby1:

Who says they cant be fixed..... I have an AMAZING friend that can do extremely intricate surface mount. Seen him replace those 60/80 pin surface mount ICs on Sam flawlessly.
And if not I buy a node. Just not gonna sit there and worry about if and when its going to happen as Stern will make replacements.
Enjoy your games as its not going back to the old way of thinking. It is what it is.

Well, you have to know what’s wrong first before you can fix it. I just have a different philosophy than send it out to be fixed or just buy a replacement. I like to fix things and I’m not able to do that with these spike games right now. Personally, I’d rather be able to replace a fuse or resistor/transistor on the board and be done with it.

These are very different than typical consumer electronics. We all know it’s not if a machine will break down, it’s a matter of when. The day comes for all of us. When that day comes for a Sam, whitestar or BW board set, I am happy to fix it. When it comes for a spike game, we are at the mercy of stern to buy a new board.

You are lucky you have a friend who can help you, most of us don’t.

#621 5 months ago
Quoted from Wolfmarsh:

Planned obsolescence in pinball control boards? ROFL.
There are a good number of these node board shutdowns that happen because someone puts mods in their games and exceeds the power budget for the item they connected the mod to. There are much more advanced ways of dealing with overcurrent these days than using a one-time-blown fuse. Spike 2 has opted to make use of those newer methods. I'd imagine they are still dialing in the firmware to surface all of these errors more effectively so the end user doesn't just think their node board failed.
The interchangeability of node boards isn't that hard either, and doesn't need a chart. Node boards 8 are interchangeable on any Spike system of the same generation (spike 1 vs spike 2), same with node 9. Node boards with a letter after them, like 8a, are light or feature boards specific to that game.

I’m not convinced that this a cause. In some cases it may, but as a modder, I’ve never lost a node board because of power dra.

If the board senses a short, it shuts down. Clear the short, reboot the game and it’s good.

If it is the cause, then that is worse than the older board sets.

#627 5 months ago
Quoted from HighVoltage:

At tech talk at PRGE last summer, Stern personnel specifically called this out as one of the causes.

I don't believe anything stern says on this. Release the schematics and prove it. What exactly is failing because of mods? No way adding a few extra LEDs should blow a node board, that's horrible design.

#683 5 months ago
Quoted from Zitt:

Seriously; umm.. have you been paying attention?
I know with 100% certainty the Stern Star Trek games have no power budget on the GI. Try putting an Evo Cap in the pop bumper areas. Causes malfunctions because the node board design actually measures for current draw.

With all due respect, I disagree. StarTrek is a SAM game. I’ve run 15” backboard led strips and 6” trough lights off the gi with no issue. No issues doing that with spike either.

4 months later
#737 31 days ago
Quoted from Dr-pin:

I think the node board concept is a freekin disaster for everybody, but maybe stern in the short run. In the long run it probebly is a deathblow to them aswell.
A modern pinball obviously costs lots of money, which is understandable, since players expect more advanced blingies and deeper rulesets, but there is no reason to rely on small series of non easily replaceable electronics.
If the pinball manufacturers wishes to survive and ask the customers to bare the costs of theese wonderful machines. Playfields need to last and parts needs to be accesable over time and easy to change.
My dreamsetup as a customer is a windows computer and adding to that a controller card for all the lights and outgoing stuff(like motors for toys), all theese can be dmx controlled, which makes the board a breeze to change and securing lasting spares. Then you need an additional board for sensory input for switches and such. theese boards could also ofc be standardized.
When the prerequisites are met from the manufacturers, we customers can buy theese expensive pieces of art, fully confident that they will last.
Spike is the exact opposite of this concept.

While I am no fan of spike, older bw games may be facing obsolescence. Many boards specific to games are no longer available. Unless someone is going to remake the boards, it could very well be that many games may be heading for the scrap heap.

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