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
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
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)
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
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.