Quoted from snaroff:
Forums like this have a spectrum of people and have been living through the Stern saga for years.
The only reason to "care" about Stern's "culture" is to understand the context. When I first took the dive into pinball collecting in 2004, I was lucky to purchase LOTR and TSPP (2 of Stern's most awesome & complete games). As time past, the products cheapened and the software shipped with many issues.
After being a customer of Stern's products for 12 years now, they clearly "major in" pinball manufacturing and "minor in" pinball software. That means software innovation & completeness isn't a priority. That's why we don't have color dots. Fortunately, there are awesome 3rd party products that help push the ball forward (for example, ColorDMD just released a product for TRON
Ironically, even though Stern's software may not be bleeding edge and updates can be frustrating, they have still produced some of the best rulesets in all of pinball. When comparing Stern's with B/W machines, most people agree that Stern rulesets are deeper and more fun for serious players (particularly for home use). How/Why? Because Lyman Sheets is one of the best players and programmers in the business. From my perspective, he has had a huge hand in Stern's ability to produce some awesome machines.
To summarize, building pinball machines isn't like building any "widget" as you imply above. It's art, it's tech, it's handmade, and it's being done by a fairly small group of people. Understanding the context, culture, and people involved are part of the fun! It's a very tough business to make a living in, and Stern is one of the few companies that has figured out how to do it!
Well said Steve! For all the complaining we do at the end of the day the games most people rate the highest are Sterns!