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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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    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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    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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    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 Frankie_Says_Relax View Post




    I have been wondering whether the same principle applies to people as to Nintendo cartridges and, in the interests of science, I humbly submit myself as subject B in the corresponding experiment to determine whether a month of 'no abuse' compared to a daily blow will result in long term harm.

    I nominate Kamino for the month of 'no abuse'.
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    Not to derail your thread but has anyone seen the ... uhmmm ... images floating around of Adam? I'm not going to say anything more about this but mannnn.... very gross stuff.

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    Sounds good. I am curious though if constant insertion and removal of games from the various systems also helped to corrode contacts. The 72 pin dilemma happened from inserting and removing cartridges since insertion and removal of games caused the contacts to wear.

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    Quote Originally Posted by debian4life View Post
    Sounds good. I am curious though if constant insertion and removal of games from the various systems also helped to corrode contacts. The 72 pin dilemma happened from inserting and removing cartridges since insertion and removal of games caused the contacts to wear.
    It could be.

    In the case of damaged cartridge contacts that don't have a random pattern of corrosion, but oxidation in the shape of the uniform markings of the 72 pin connectors ... that could be something we'll have to look into.

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    Quote Originally Posted by c0ldb33r View Post
    Not to derail your thread but has anyone seen the ... uhmmm ... images floating around of Adam? I'm not going to say anything more about this but mannnn.... very gross stuff.
    uuhm, what have i missed?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Krook View Post
    uuhm, what have i missed?
    Nothing. Just move along and close your eyes. I've seen them. Once you see it...


    But in much less scarring news, this is all news to me. Growing up, everyone always assumed that blowing on a cartridge was to get dirt or dust off, but considering how often they were used, dust never really had much time to accumulate. Hindsights 20/20 I suppose.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frankie_Says_Relax View Post
    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).
    I like the experiment, but I'm curious to hear how you reached this conclusion. Increasing the conductivity and, therefore, rendering the game playable seems pretty far-fetched; the magic, I would argue, is simply reseating the game (which one has to do after blowing on the cartridge each time).

    Sounds like a second science experiment that could be done...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Goracke View Post
    I like the experiment, but I'm curious to hear how you reached this conclusion. Increasing the conductivity and, therefore, rendering the game playable seems pretty far-fetched; the magic, I would argue, is simply reseating the game (which one has to do after blowing on the cartridge each time).

    Sounds like a second science experiment that could be done...
    I reached that theoretical conclusion, because moisture inarguably increases conductivity.

    And while I agree that repeatedly re-seating a cartridge in a toaster NES could probably yield an above average level of success in getting it to boot ... I believe that the act of "blowing" (moisture) into games likely yields a level of success above and beyond JUST re-seating them repeatedly, or else this phenomenon wouldn't have become the practice of hundreds of thousands of Nintendo users during the life of the system.

    Here's a diagram of exactly what I'm describing ...



    Figure A. No moisture, no contact being made.



    Figure B. Moisture, contact being bridged.
    Last edited by Frankie_Says_Relax; 05-27-2008 at 07:37 AM.
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    Awesome! Love the diagrams.

    I'd just like to add that it isn't necessarily spit that is on those contacts, and I think it rather unlikely one would be able to disperse their spit evenly enough onto the contacts to have a reliably positive impact on performance. Much more likely is that it is simply condensation from the person's hot humid breath onto cold metal contacts, which would mean it is pretty clean water. Granted, if you are coughing into your games or otherwise incapable of blowing without adding a bunch of phlegm, then a little something extra is being added to the mix!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cornelius View Post
    Awesome! Love the diagrams.

    I'd just like to add that it isn't necessarily spit that is on those contacts, and I think it rather unlikely one would be able to disperse their spit evenly enough onto the contacts to have a reliably positive impact on performance. Much more likely is that it is simply condensation from the person's hot humid breath onto cold metal contacts, which would mean it is pretty clean water. Granted, if you are coughing into your games or otherwise incapable of blowing without adding a bunch of phlegm, then a little something extra is being added to the mix!

    My cousins condensation was anything but clean... All his carts smelt like that stale saliva smell when kids suck on their toys haha.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frankie_Says_Relax View Post
    And while I agree that repeatedly re-seating a cartridge in a toaster NES could probably yield an above average level of success in getting it to boot ... I believe that the act of "blowing" (moisture) into games likely yields a level of success above and beyond JUST re-seating them repeatedly, or else this phenomenon wouldn't have become the practice of hundreds of thousands of Nintendo users during the life of the system.
    Placebo effect. Take the cartridge out, blow in it (no effect, but you saw some other kid do it so...), reseat it, watch it work, conclude that the "blowing" was the difference...

    Also, you would need the contacts to stay moist for hours... or you would start to see games "glitch" during play.

    It'd be an interesting experiment, none-the-less. Not saying your theory is impossible, but it certainly needs some data to back it up.

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