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Thread: DP MYTHBUSTERS : Blowing in NES Cartridges

  1. #101
    ServBot (Level 11) k8track's Avatar
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    I've found that the most effective way to clean the carts is to have my cat lick it clean. The only way to entice her to do that, however, is to spread a bit of mackerel paste on the circuit board, then dip it in milk.
    "As you traitors roast in your own juices, I will be safely ensconced three miles below the earth's surface, listening to my wax-cylinder player and enjoying a delicious phosphate!"

  2. #102
    drowning in medals Ed Oscuro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dao2 View Post
    Nowhere around me seems too sell 99% isopropyl :/ Is 91% good enough or will that damage it (note after I clean it I turn the qtip around and dry it right off)
    It should work, might leave water spots. I think the composition of that alcohol will be 9% water, and that just dries off.

    Quote Originally Posted by Frankie_Says_Relax View Post
    I'm sorry, but I've never heard that applying water in any capacity to circuit boards is safe under any circumstances.
    Thanks to jb143 for providing the correct perspective on this issue.

    What's left from a quick rinse under the tap - unless you have the worst water in the world - will be a few water spots, hardly enough to cause a short circuit after drying.

    The drying process is critical, as you've all guessed. Can't let water sit around around sockets or joints and solder points or around resistors.

    It's also a good idea to keep water well away from capacitors...and you shouldn't be getting anything near water that could be holding a charge anyway (i.e. no washing a monitor harness, for example).

    Also, I suppose acidity of saliva could be a minor factor here, although testing for that seems out of the scope of any casual experiment. Certainly some gets on a cartridge's contacts when you blow on it, although I would think not much. The repeated exposure to moisture and the lack of drying care is what'd do it.

    On that score, I wonder if blowing is worse for the cartridges or the NES itself - I doubt most people would really be blowing on a single game over and over so often that it rusts.

    So, I'll go ahead and probably contradict myself and say that I doubt you'd see a lot of difference in blowing on a cartridge if it was being used as much as is normal for the average "play it for a week and then chuck it in the bin" NES game.

  3. #103
    ServBot (Level 11) TheDomesticInstitution's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by k8track View Post
    I've found that the most effective way to clean the carts is to have my cat lick it clean. The only way to entice her to do that, however, is to spread a bit of mackerel paste on the circuit board, then dip it in milk.

    Mmmm...

    Not only does mackerel paste taste amazing on circuit boards, I heard that it also gets you high.

  4. #104
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Oscuro View Post
    Blue Lander, I can't imagine the isopropyl is leaving a noticable residue. Most likely you aren't cleaning it enough to clear off all the dirt - I find I have to use a few q-tips per side of a dirty NES cartridge to get it somewhat clean. Other possibilities are applying it with something that's not clean (I bet you a washcloth will leave some garbage behind) or not using actual 99% isopropyl.
    I can't prove it's true, it's just what some old engineers I used to work with told me. Something about peroxides forming in rubbing alcohol that's been out to long or something like that, and that being deposited on the circuitboard. We used some sort of freon based cleaner, which I think is illegal these days.

    The more I think about it, the more absurd the whole premise is. Why blow on the cartridges in the first place? Since when does metal touching metal need moisture to make good contact? Unless the saliva's enough to dissolve the corrosion that's formed on the connectors from the last time you blew in it.

  5. #105
    drowning in medals Ed Oscuro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blue lander View Post
    I can't prove it's true, it's just what some old engineers I used to work with told me. Something about peroxides forming in rubbing alcohol that's been out to long or something like that, and that being deposited on the circuitboard. We used some sort of freon based cleaner, which I think is illegal these days.
    Lucky me - I don't work in an industrial environment with spoiled goods because we had a bunch in stock and couldn't dump it.

    Since when does metal touching metal need moisture to make good contact?
    I wouldn't say it "needs" moisture, but it will provide the desired effect in the short run.

    Unless the saliva's enough to dissolve the corrosion that's formed on the connectors from the last time you blew in it.
    You use sand to clean rust off steel and iron, not spit. Not gonna be helpful. The acidity of spit is probably minor to the effect of the moisture, but it wouldn't help regardless.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheDomesticInstitution View Post
    Not only does mackerel paste taste amazing on circuit boards, I heard that it also gets you high.
    That reminds me - pass on the mackerel sashimi.

  6. #106
    Peach (Level 3)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Oscuro View Post
    I wouldn't say it "needs" moisture, but it will provide the desired effect in the short run.
    Which is what, exactly? If you touch two pieces of metal togeather, why does moisture even come into the equation?

  7. #107
    ServBot (Level 11) jb143's Avatar
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    If your touching 2 pieces of corroded metal together then anything conductive between them will help make contact. Or more than likely, it could be helping to clean the corrosion just enough to make better contact while in the long run corroding them even more.
    "Game programmers are generally lazy individuals. That's right. It's true. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Since the dawn of computer games, game programmers have looked for shortcuts to coolness." Kurt Arnlund - Game programmer for Activision, Accolade...

  8. #108
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    Quote Originally Posted by blue lander View Post
    Which is what, exactly? If you touch two pieces of metal togeather, why does moisture even come into the equation?
    I'm guessing you didn't examine the theoretical diagrams that I provided ...

    ...in the event that a few pins on the 72 pin-set are bent back so much as a milimeter, a blob of moisture could potentially bridge that gap and carry a current/data.

    "And the book says: 'We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us.'"


  9. #109
    drowning in medals Ed Oscuro's Avatar
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    You know, I have to agree with blue lander's argument here. If that diagram was meant to be read literally, that's just an insane amount of moisture. If it's beading that high then you might end up shorting pins!

    My guess is that the moisture seeps around dirt and provides a contact.

  10. #110
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    The diagram isn't to any type of real scale, it's just made to illustrate a THEORETICAL PRINCIPAL.

    If I illustrated the moisture any smaller it might not have made sense at a glance.

    ...while I'm certainly committed to finishing this one month test, I should have know that doing anything of this nature on the internet would have been filled with this much general conflict, conjecture, and general negativity.

    I don't know why I ever kid myself that people can have fun with something like this without taking every single opportunity to flex their internet intellect as if it was a virtual prick-measuring contest.
    "And the book says: 'We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us.'"


  11. #111
    Peach (Level 3)
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    Okay, let's assume that when you blow on a cartridge you're leaving a milimeter (or less, whatever) of spit on the connectors. Then like Ed says, those beads of spit could potentially connect several pins togeather and short the cartridge out. And if Ed's theory is correct and the only reason to blow on cartridges is to dissolves the corrosion left on the pins from the last time you blew in it, then why did we start blowing on cartridges in the first place? And why does this happen primarily to the NES instead of across all cartridge based systems? Shouldn't they all have corrosion problems, or shouldn't they all have bent back pins that need spit to make connection?

  12. #112
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    Quote Originally Posted by blue lander View Post
    Okay, let's assume that when you blow on a cartridge you're leaving a milimeter (or less, whatever) of spit on the connectors. Then like Ed says, those beads of spit could potentially connect several pins togeather and short the cartridge out. And if Ed's theory is correct and the only reason to blow on cartridges is to dissolves the corrosion left on the pins from the last time you blew in it, then why did we start blowing on cartridges in the first place? And why does this happen primarily to the NES instead of across all cartridge based systems? Shouldn't they all have corrosion problems, or shouldn't they all have bent back pins that need spit to make connection?
    Despite the fact that I've seen the same type of green and black mold/oxidation/corrosion in cartridges from Atari 2600 to Gameboy Advance (pretty much the last cart-based-system to have that style of top-lipped cartridge) including but not limited to NES, Genesis, Super NES, N64, and so on and so forth ...

    ... and I'm NOT claiming that these THEORIES are anything other than that, but I'm also not comfortable just writing this shit off because people like to be contrarians.

    Let me review where I'm coming from just to get this back on track.

    During my 5 years with Funcoland, I bought and sold THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of used NES games (as well as Genesis, SNES, N64, GB etc.) and I'd estimate that about 25% to 35% had mild to heavy corrosion going on in them.

    A majority of people have been blowing in cartridges to get them to work for over twenty years.

    A majority of people don't know what kind of damage they're causing.

    I've NEVER seen anybody attempt ANY TYPE of experiment to see if blowing in cartridges causes any damage whatsoever.

    As I stated clearly in the beginning of this thing, I don't care about multimeters, electron microscopes, PKE meters, nuclear reactors, or any other method for doing high-end electronic testing of these cartridges in actual NES systems or otherwise.

    That's just too much to deal with and it's more trouble than it's worth - because we KNOW that a game with CRAP growing on/breaking down the contacts is NOT GOING TO WORK.

    I wanted to do a simple experiment to see ONE EFFING THING:

    DOES BLOWING IN GAMES CAUSE CORROSION TO HAPPEN?

    DOES BLOWING IN GAMES CAUSE ANY DAMAGE AT ALL?

    I'm really glad that this has evoked intelligent discussion on the topic ... but, as most intelligent discussions go on the internet, things are starting to become a contest as to who can trump whom's knowledge of this that and the other thing.

    I just want to have fun with this, and if that means not posting any further responses and just updating the main page then that's how I guess it's going to have to go for me, because I'm really starting to get tired of defending things that I've openly expressed as nothing more than theoretical against things that are tantamount the same weight theoretically but presented as hard fact. (Again, standard internet debate logic.)

    So, for those who are interested in results, stay tuned for updates on page one, but I'm signing off on the discussion henceforth.
    "And the book says: 'We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us.'"


  13. #113
    Strawberry (Level 2) Trevelyan's Avatar
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    good job man. I hope you start to see some interesting results & maybe continue the experiment after the month. Either way, I think Mythbusters type experiments regarding Video games are a great idea!
    Chet: It's futuristic, but that's a crate.

  14. #114

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    Don't let it get you down.

    I've been following this thread with interest, and am anxious to see the results or lack thereof.
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  15. #115
    Banana (Level 7) Garry Silljo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frankie_Says_Relax View Post
    I don't know why I ever kid myself that people can have fun with something like this without taking every single opportunity to flex their internet intellect as if it was a virtual prick-measuring contest.
    Awesome.
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  16. #116
    drowning in medals Ed Oscuro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frankie_Says_Relax View Post
    The diagram isn't to any type of real scale, it's just made to illustrate a THEORETICAL PRINCIPAL.
    Dude, don't stress!

    I don't think you have a right to complain if people are going to take the topic as a jumping-off point to have a serious discussion about this issue. You do your thing, but a worthwhile discussion involves more than one viewpoint and line of reasoning.

    Quote Originally Posted by blue lander View Post
    And if Ed's theory is correct and the only reason to blow on cartridges is to dissolves the corrosion left on the pins from the last time you blew in it, then why did we start blowing on cartridges in the first place?
    I don't think that's the case, but it's one of the ideas that's been put forward. I think what's going on is that the moisture gets around dirt on the pins and makes a firmer contact (aided perhaps by the impurities in saliva - it's not pure water, after all).

    Quote Originally Posted by Frankie_Says_Relax View Post
    I'm really glad that this has evoked intelligent discussion on the topic ... but, as most intelligent discussions go on the internet, things are starting to become a contest as to who can trump whom's knowledge of this that and the other thing.
    I think that's a mistaken view. I'm certainly not interested in looking smarter (if I was, I probably wouldn't be here saying that I'm contradicting myself, etc.), just in figuring out what's happening.

    I'll be the first to admit that I've gotten off my crusade from earlier. If you want to do an experiment to see what happens in one situation, that's okay...but people may draw conclusions from your result that are not strictly accurate. As you say, you're only testing one thing, but a number of factors are present in this situation.

  17. #117
    Peach (Level 3)
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    You know, If I started a thread that inspired this amount of interest and debate, I'd be pretty proud of myself. Hopefully whoever follows up on this experiment won't be so brittle.

    Quote Originally Posted by Frankie_Says_Relax View Post
    Despite the fact that I've seen the same type of green and black mold/oxidation/corrosion in cartridges from Atari 2600 to Gameboy Advance (pretty much the last cart-based-system to have that style of top-lipped cartridge) including but not limited to NES, Genesis, Super NES, N64, and so on and so forth ...
    Right, so why do we have to blow on a cartridge 5 times to make it work in a NES, but not those other consoles? I don't recall ever blowing in the Intellivision I had before my NES, and I sure as hell don't have to blow in my SNES and N64... so what's the difference?

    That's just too much to deal with and it's more trouble than it's worth - because we KNOW that a game with CRAP growing on/breaking down the contacts is NOT GOING TO WORK.
    How do you know? This is the part I don't get. Do we really need to run an experiment to prove that exposing bare metal to moisture will corrode it over time? Isn't the real question what effect that corrosion has on the reliability of the cartridge? And does blowing on a cartridge actually make it work better, or is it all a placebo effect? Just because everybody does it doesn't mean it works. That can be used to justify any myth.

  18. #118
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    Just so there's no confusion, this thread and this experiment shouldn't be considered "over" by any means!

    I'm just resigning myself to continue my experiment as planned, observe and report on the results.

    I see no reason why discussion/debate over the "who, what, where, when, how and why of the process" can't be continued without my input on speculation, theories, or other things being discussed.

    This was always about a very rigid, very limited experiment. I'm not interested in doing anything beyond what I planned on, and I'm very tired of repeatedly discussing that and discussing why in the face of "I don't understand why you don't do ABC." or "This would be so much better/effective if you did XYZ!"

    When it's over, I'll be more than happy to mail the carts to the next DP member who can add any number of external variables and measure the results with any number of tools.

    So, again, stay tuned for results on page 1.
    "And the book says: 'We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us.'"


  19. #119

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    Quote Originally Posted by blue lander View Post
    why do we have to blow on a cartridge 5 times to make it work in a NES, but not those other consoles? I don't recall ever blowing in the Intellivision I had before my NES, and I sure as hell don't have to blow in my SNES and N64... so what's the difference?
    The difference is in the way the cartridges are inserted. Genesis cartridges, SNES cartridges, N64 cartridges, etc. are inserted vertically. That results in minimal pin bending. However, NES games are inserted horizontally and pressed down. Each time a game is pressed down into position, the pins inside the NES are bent slightly. Over time, the bending gets worse and worse until games stop working.

    Am I right?

  20. #120
    drowning in medals Ed Oscuro's Avatar
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    So, disregard what I've said previously, this is all I need to say on the matter:

    It remains unknown how much time is needed for a NES cartridge's connectors to go bad, so in that sense this could be a worthwhile experiment. I wouldn't be surprised if Frankie doesn't get the connector to go bad in a reasonable amount of time, and for it to still be truckin' months down the road. Of course Frankie needs to describe the ambient humidity of the test environment, but that's all.

    So we might actually find that, if done only infrequently - consider how often you play an NES game - blowing might be effectively harmless, with little or no apparent damage to the cartridge. The internal NES connector might be a different story, of course, if you're doing this to all NES carts that enter it.

    That said, whether it is a fix - which is, last I heard, the "myth" here - is unfortunately not being tested in what would seem to be a rather simple extra step.

    The argument is this: Come on Frankie, put 'em in a NES. All you need to do is let 'em air dry, and if you're willing to sacrifice a cartridge you can replace an NES system's connector too.

    The counter-argument: Putting games in an NES system will confuse the results.

    The retort: Well, but then you're creating an artificial situation where the internal heat of the NES isn't a factor, the cartridge connector itself is irrelevant, etc.

    Anyhow, hopefully that's the last I'll feel the need to write until Frankie has some results in.

  21. #121
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob2600 View Post
    The difference is in the way the cartridges are inserted. Genesis cartridges, SNES cartridges, N64 cartridges, etc. are inserted vertically. That results in minimal pin bending. However, NES games are inserted horizontally and pressed down. Each time a game is pressed down into position, the pins inside the NES are bent slightly. Over time, the bending gets worse and worse until games stop working.

    Am I right?
    That makes sense. But I'd imagine that would bend the pins back quite a bit, far more than tiny globs of spit would be able connect. Maybe at first it'd be enough to make a difference, though, but I guess we'll never know until someone does a real experiment.

    Also, in my experience it was only certain games that needed to be blown into. Some would work fine yet others I'd have to blow in like crazy. If the pins were bent back, it should effect all cartridges equally.

  22. #122
    drowning in medals Ed Oscuro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blue lander View Post
    Also, in my experience it was only certain games that needed to be blown into.
    Not all NES games use all the pins (if indeed any do), so either the internal NES connector isn't making firm connection with all of them, or individual games have dirty pins.

  23. #123

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    Just for the record, as a kid I often blew into VCS cartridges when they misbehaved, and saw positive results (at least short-term) then.

    This wasn't exclusively an NES phenomenon.

    And I never saw anybody blow into the cartridges before I started doing it. I just deduced that there were a bunch of contacts on the cartridge, they probably had to connect to a bunch of corresponding contacts inside the VCS, behind the mysterious dust-blocking door, and maybe some dustspeck was blocking the contact. So I'd blow, and try to blow in a way that would get past the plastic dust-guard at the top of the cartridges, as well as blowing into the cartridge slot, trying to get past the dust cover there as well.

    (Edited to correct typos.)
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  24. #124

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    Yeah, I remember blowing into my 2600 games all the time. When the carts aren't seated right, instead of the blinking blue screen like on the NES, the 2600 gives you that hip pinstripe pattern with the high pitched whine.

    I blow on my DS games occassionally. Logically, I know it doesn't really do anything, but it's just second nature at this point.


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  25. #125
    drowning in medals Ed Oscuro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sweater Fish Deluxe View Post
    Logically, I know it doesn't really do anything, but it's just second nature at this point.
    Hooray for gross rituals!

    Some people run disk defragmenter every night, other people make sure they can be buried with their games, I suppose.

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