This past February 14th, STERN Pinball made a couple code updates available on their website. These were for the newest pinball machine, Avengers, and TRON: Legacy, a well-received machine from 2011 that, rumor has it, is going to be "reprinted" (i.e., STERN is going to produce another run of TRON machines).
I had just done my morning coffee run that day when I happened to catch the post on Pinside mentioning the Avengers update. It was a surprise, really, because Avengers was still pretty new, and had launched with fairly complete code already in place. Avengers owners were already pretty happy. But I quickly downloaded the file, and put it on a thumb drive. I then printed out the documentation, which I left on the kitchen counter along with a "Happy Valentine's Day!" note and a few candy hearts sprinkled about.
I think this was my husband's favorite Valentine ever from me. :) But the surprises weren't over, because a bit later on, I discovered that TRON had gotten an update too. We have a TRON.
So when I got home that night, we applied both updates. The process for updating the code on modern pinball machines is actually quite easy, just a matter of plugging a thumb drive into the motherboard behind the backglass. The directions .pdf STERN has available for this is clearly explained and easy to follow.
I haven't really spent much time on the Avengers since the update, but I will say that the changes to TRON were dramatic and instantly noticeable. Many people are saying that TRON is now a whole different ballgame, literally, and I've seen more than one person say that they'd been planning to sell their TRON because they were tired of it, but had quickly changed their minds for now. This update made TRON fun again for players who had maybe gotten bored with it.
And that's yet another example of an element of the pinball hobby that most people probably never thought about. STERN still owes X-Men and Transformers owners some serious code updates, but the fact that something as solid and physical as a pinball machine can be changed like that after it's already sitting in your home... well that's pretty cool.