As we are all aware, Stern is currently top dog in the world of modern Pinball. With games such as Ghostbusters, Tron, and Spider-Man, it's no surprise. Since 2006 Stern has dominated Pinball, but Stern didn't start in 2006. Their history goes back a little further.
Sam Stern started with pinball in the 1930's as part owner and president of Williams. According to the Stern website, Sam had decided to ask for ownership of Williams while flying one day, which I guess is where all the best decisions are made. I actually did an article on Williams Pinball not to long ago, and as we all know by now, Williams was a pioneer in the pinball world. In 1977 Stern purchased the failing Chicago Coin company and renamed it Stern Electronics. Sales were initially slow, but by 1978 they picked up. That same year Stern was only producing solid state machines, which we still use today. For a time in the 1980's Stern also produced arcade machines such as Berzerk and Frenzy.
Unfortunately, during the video game crash of 1983, Stern was hit hard. By 1985 Stern Electronics had been taken over by Data East USA which produced machines from 1987 until 1994, when Sega took them over. Data East was known for making machines based on franchises (which was much more expensive than creating their own titles) such as Batman Forever, The Simpsons and Back To The Future. By 1999 Sega stepped out of pinball, selling everything off to Sam's son, Gary Stern. Stern Pinball officially debuted in 1999, and while they kept producing machines, pinball just wasn't as popular.
In 2006 things started to turn around. Stern had acquired the rights to release a Pirates of the Caribbean machine based on the movies. By 2008 Stern was releasing 3-4 new machines per year, a trend they've managed to keep up. I recently reviewed their newest machine, Aerosmith, and loved it! Stern has certainly stood the test of time, and it doesn't look like their going anywhere anytime soon.