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Thread: DP MYTHBUSTERS : Blowing in NES Cartridges

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    Default DP MYTHBUSTERS : Blowing in NES Cartridges



    The original front-loading US 72 Pin NES system is notorious for cartridges not making a complete connection with the internal pin-set. The result is often scrambled graphics, a blinking screen on boot-up, or even worse MID GAME!

    Since the system's first signs of technical difficulties, people were perplexed to the point of creating various "quick fixes" to get cartridges to work properly.

    One of those "quick-fix" methods that proved to be highly successful in the short-term, but potentially damaging in the long run was the "blow into the cartridge/onto the cartridge chip".

    While most people who do this believe that they're "blowing dust" off of the cartridge contacts, what they're actually doing is increasing conductivity on the cartridge contacts by lining them with a thin (on in some cases a thick) layer of moisture by way of human breath (spit, bacteria, and whatever else is in the person's mouth doing the blowing ... yuck).

    It's true that some people never really knew the potential damage that they were doing to their cartridges and systems ... but the fact that most NES systems require internal pin set replacements/refurbishment twenty-something years later, and a majority of NES cartridges need intense cleaning to return them to working condition should be proof enough that this ultra-common practice was in fact damaging in the long-term.

    Yet, some people remain un-convinced. That's why I'm here to do a simple, analog science experiment and answer the question "Does blowing in your NES games cause a potential for serious long-term damage for both the games and the system?"

    Hopefully through this experiment I'll be able to bust the myth that blowing into NES games is not harmless, and that the damage is much more than just a "theory".

    NOTE: THIS TEST IS NOT TO SEE IF EITHER GAME WILL "WORK" CORRECTLY IN AN NES AFTER 30 DAYS. IN 2008 MOST NES SYSTEMS HAVE ISSUES BOOTING ANYTHING WITH ANY DEGREE OF MEASURABLE RELIABILITY. THIS IS A TEST TO DETERMINE THE POTENTIALLY DAMAGING CHEMICAL PROCESS THAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU BLOW IN A GAME AND THE VISIBLE EVIDENCE OF THAT.

    Here's how it's going to go down. I've got two - for all intents and purposes - "identical" copies of Gyromite, the FIRST game produced for the NES system. Both of them are in very good to near mint condition. I have done MINIMAL cleaning to them to prepare them for this experiment.

    Cartridge A will be the "zero abuse" subject. I will leave this cartridge out in an open room-temperature indoor environment for 30 days starting today.

    Cartridge B will be the "daily abuse" subject. I will blow into this cartridge 10 times (all at once) daily to simulate the same average type of abuse that an NES cartridge would suffer over the course of a few months in it's lifetime.

    At the end of the test we will all view what kind of oxidation/corrosion/mold, etc. develops on the cartridge contacts for both cartridges and extrapolate what happened and why.

    Here's the photos of the test subjects. Stay tuned for weekly updates!!!



    WEEK ONE RESULTS





    Observations:

    Cartridge A (No Abuse) shows no signs of damage. Looks indistinguishable to the way it did at the beginning of the test.

    Cartridge B (Daily Blow) shows no visible signs of breakdown/corrosion on the cartridge contact metal, however it is visibly dirty with dried particles likely retained in my breath. Also signs of white "mold/mildew/bacteria/unknown" present after 7 days.

    While there's certainly no physical damage to the cartridge conctacts after 7 days, this kind of dried crap + growth could certainly obstruct the pin-set from properly reading the game.

    WEEK TWO RESULTS





    Observations:

    Cartridge A was EXACTLY the same as week one, so until the final week, I'm going to leave that one off the scanner.

    Cartridge B looks generally the same ... no signs of corrosion, but that white bacteria/mold/mildew continues to grow in a very interesting pattern, which I belive may have also acted like a petrie dish and casued me to get a bit of a sore throat/cough last week while I was getting my face and mouth pretty close for blowing sessions. Hopefully I am now innoculated against whatever disease is growing in my Gyromite cartridge. (If not I had best call Dr. Mario)

    FINAL RESULTS

    Okay. Sorry I had so much going on that prevent me from ending this thing smoothly.

    I kept up with the blowing for the duration of the 30 days, and even went a week or so longer. So, here are the photo results of both cartridges.

    Cartridge B: Daily Blow




    Cartridge A: No Abuse



    Observations:

    The build up of mold/mildew/growth on cartridge B never got much worse than what developed in the second week. I'm not sure if that has anything to do with the fact that I wasn't doing anything MORE than JUST blowing (I know a LOT of people wanted the variable in place of actually PLAYING it in an toaster-style NES, but I just didn't have the means to do so) ...

    ... I think that the bottom line is that if a visual observation is the ONLY thing that we're going by, what happened to the cartridge that was blown on after 30 days (less than that even if you look at the timed results) is NOT GOOD. While there's no corrosion going on at a really visible to the naked eye level, there may be some microscopic chemical reactions going on ... and that build-up at the very least could prevent the games from working from a not-able-to-make-full-connection standpoint.

    And I reiterate that it was ONLY blown on, not loogie-hocked and spit in or rubbed down with non-distilled moisture like some kids may have done to their cartridge games to get them to work ...

    Could this cart be cleaned up post test and returned to 100% working condition? Sure. Probably. But right now it's fucking gross.

    Cartridge A on the other hand ... which wasn't blown in or touched for 30+ days has retained a HIGH level of shine / reflective surface / likely high level of conductivity. Bottom line there is that it looks better and probably works better.

    This was fun, and I wish I could have wrapped it up in a more timely fashion. While it doesn't really prove to the most concrete of degrees that blowing in games is guaranteed to destroy them ... I think from a visual standpoint we can see that SOMETHING BAD happens that could in certain cases probably LEAD to damage in the long run, especailly if the blowing continues over the course of YEARS and cleaning solutions are never applied to the game.
    Last edited by Frankie_Says_Relax; 07-09-2008 at 08:51 PM. Reason: Final Results
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  2. #2
    Strawberry (Level 2) Trevelyan's Avatar
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    Is the NES in good condition? Whats the deal with that?

    it's a great idea though, i cant wait to see the results
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    Man alive... that title image was worth the price of admission alone! Good job!

    I really look forward to seeing the results.

    Are you going to be using two NESs or one? In theory it would make sense to start with two NESs each with their own freshly installed connector.

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    Were these sealed copies of the game? If not, how can you guarantee that the cartridges have never been blown into before?

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    Neither game was sealed new. Both were in VG condition. I have no knowledge of their prior history, but this is just, as I stated a basic test ... we're not going to get into any other specifications other than clean and in good condition at the start of the test.

    Both of the games were tested on a Yobo NES clone prior to the start of the experiment, both passed booting up, and both were cleaned with circuit board friendly freon to remove what little oxidation there was.

    I'm not sticking "Subject B" into any of my systems once it has been blown into for 30 days straight ... so if you really want to see if it "works" at the end of the test, I'll do my best to get some access to a toaster NES and we'll see if either work, HOWEVER this really is more about the external visible oxidation/corrosion damage than anything.

    I just want to SEE what kind of VISIBLE exterior metal damage blowing into games creates.
    Last edited by Frankie_Says_Relax; 05-25-2008 at 06:14 PM.
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    Good idea. and yes, the picture is megawin
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    Interesting to see what happens. Kudos on the picture too.
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    Since this is being studied so thoroughly, I'm guessing you guys already knew this, but here goes: it feels to me (with an SNES or top-loading NES) that if the game was slightly tilted, you might not get the same conductivity. So if someone took out a cart to blow on it, then replaced it, they might replace it in a way more properly aligned to be read.

    I do this with with an old copy of SMRPG - the cart can tilt back and forth a bit while "secured" in the SNES, and booting it up with it tilted one way is usually more successful.

    So maybe this explains why people thought blowing was successful, along with the whole water-conductivity thing?

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    Quote Originally Posted by onReload View Post
    Since this is being studied so thoroughly, I'm guessing you guys already knew this, but here goes: it feels to me (with an SNES or top-loading NES) that if the game was slightly tilted, you might not get the same conductivity. So if someone took out a cart to blow on it, then replaced it, they might replace it in a way more properly aligned to be read.

    I do this with with an old copy of SMRPG - the cart can tilt back and forth a bit while "secured" in the SNES, and booting it up with it tilted one way is usually more successful.

    So maybe this explains why people thought blowing was successful, along with the whole water-conductivity thing?
    There are many factors that contribute to the casuse of cartridges not making correct contact with the NES's internal pinset.

    I'm not looking to discover the "cause" ... I just want to see what type of external visible damage that blowing into cartridges causes.
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    Strawberry (Level 2) Trevelyan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by onReload View Post
    if the game was slightly tilted, you might not get the same conductivity. So if someone took out a cart to blow on it, then replaced it, they might replace it in a way more properly aligned to be read.
    This was the case with Zelda:OOT on my N64. Its an interesting point.

    Noting which NES console variations you use in the experiment would be handy. Would one be able to determine by aid of a statistical analysis if the differing NES consoles vs 'typical' insertion technique (into 'said' console) might lead to a pattern? Maybe its all to do with the cartridges, but it may be worth checking out.

    EDIT: just read your post above mine, ignore this if its off topic/experiment
    Last edited by Trevelyan; 05-25-2008 at 07:50 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frankie_Says_Relax View Post
    I'm not looking to discover the "cause" ... I just want to see what type of external visible damage that blowing into cartridges causes.
    So you're not going to be inserting either cartridge into an NES during the month period?

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    I'll do my best to revise/further clarify in the original post to avoid confusion ... this isn't about whether or not the games work when inserted into an NES ... as there are WAY too many variables to take into consideraition in that equation.

    The short short is that I want to see what the physical damage to the metal contacts is after 30 days of daily abuse via "blowing" onto an NES cartridge.

    I would venture to guess over that short a period of time the game could easily be "rescued" with simple cleaning products, and it might even work if inserted into a toaster or top loader ... but that's not the point of this test.

    There are people out there that A.) Don't realize that blowing into NES (or any cartridge games) potentially causes damage. and B.) Don't believe that it causes any type of damage at all. I just want some nice visual physical evidence that there is a damaging chemical process that happens when you do this, even if it does in-directly cause games to boot on a toaster NES with a higher degree of success (for whatever reason that is ... moisture increasing conductivity, repeated re-insertion causing a correct connect ... etc.)
    Last edited by Frankie_Says_Relax; 05-25-2008 at 08:08 PM.
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    Crono (Level 14)
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    I think this is a pretty cool idea, nice work!

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    Cool.

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    Since most whom believe blowing is bad think that the damage is LONG term, is 30 days enough time?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garry Silljo View Post
    Since most whom believe blowing is bad think that the damage is LONG term, is 30 days enough time?
    Well, I've seen plenty of really awful looking carts ... and I really don't know what it'll look like after 30 days, but if it looks HALF as bad as the worst I've ever seen, I think we'll be able to come to some type of conclusion as to how much damage could be done if the abuse were to continue.

    It's a wait and see my friend.

    A wait and see.
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    I'm going to have to bookmark this. This has got to be one of the most impressive factoids I have ever heard. I always told people "Please don't blow into the cart"
    These cartridges are dirty as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!

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    Strawberry (Level 2) NES_Rules's Avatar
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    I tried something similar a while back. I took a Pac-Man board and left it in a container of spit for a couple months. Amazingly, all it needed was a wipe with a dry cloth and it worked perfectly, there was no visible corrosion on it at all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NES_Rules View Post
    I tried something similar a while back. I took a Pac-Man board and left it in a container of spit for a couple months. Amazingly, all it needed was a wipe with a dry cloth and it worked perfectly, there was no visible corrosion on it at all.
    A ... container of spit?

    Um. ew.
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    Pear (Level 6)
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    Interesting. I'll be looking forward to seeing the results of the experiment.

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    Are you playing as Jamie or Adam? (Can't be Buster as R.O.B. fits perfectly for that position.)

    Here's something that been bugging me, is there a difference (long-term) is you use 70% concentration alcohol compared to 100% concentration? Just something to think about.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Press_Start View Post
    Are you playing as Jamie or Adam? (Can't be Buster as R.O.B. fits perfectly for that position.)

    Here's something that been bugging me, is there a difference (long-term) is you use 70% concentration alcohol compared to 100% concentration? Just something to think about.
    I'm playing Kari.

    I think that 100% alcohol has a higher PH and could eventually "strip" the base metals down ... same basic concept as what I'm doing with "moisture" ... prolonged repeated exposure to pure concentrations of alcohol would probably do progressive damage on a small scale over time.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NES_Rules View Post
    I tried something similar a while back. I took a Pac-Man board and left it in a container of spit for a couple months. Amazingly, all it needed was a wipe with a dry cloth and it worked perfectly, there was no visible corrosion on it at all.
    The metal would have to be exposed to both moisture and oxygen in order to corrode, so your container of spit wasn't doing much but waterlogging the circuit board. However, I'm still fairly skeptical that there will be any noticeable corrosion in Frankie's experiment after 30 days. If there's anything visible it would probably just be some dried salts left behind by Mr. Says_Relax's breath, which could be wiped away easily (those same salts would surely contribute the oxidization of the metal in the long run however). Maybe i'm wrong, though, and the oxidization will happen faster.

    Where are you performing this experiment, Frankie? If you're somewhere dry like Nevada, you're probably wasting your time. Unless the air is relatively humid, the moisture in your breath will evaporate too quickly. And if you're really at the bottom of Suda Trench, you'll have the same problem as NES_Rules and his bucket of spit.

    Quote Originally Posted by Press_Start View Post
    Here's something that been bugging me, is there a difference (long-term) is you use 70% concentration alcohol compared to 100% concentration? Just something to think about.
    Have you ever seen 100% alcohol for sale before? We use it at my work and we have to order it from a laboratory equipment distributor. The highest I've ever seen for sale in a store is 85%. The remaining percentage is made up of water, though, which is indeed more likely to be left behind and cause oxidization after the alcohol evaporates, so I guess pure grain alcohol would be better in theory. I doubt it's anything much to worry about in reality, though, since you're not using it very often.


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    Last edited by Sweater Fish Deluxe; 05-25-2008 at 11:55 PM.

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    I'll add that for Playstation memory cards, sometimes they malfunction [reading data] when there's dust inside.

    Blowing almost always seems to help if it's a minor issue.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sweater Fish Deluxe View Post
    Where are you performing this experiment, Frankie?
    New Jersey, where the air alone is probably toxic enough to corrode metal.
    "And the book says: 'We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us.'"


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