Mythbusters! Blowing in NES Cartridges (GOOD OR BAD?) FIND OUT NOW!

#1
I read this article over at digitalpress.com and needless to say, this was the most shocking and amazing article I have read to date!

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 ACCURACY. 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.




 

Bluevoodu

Site Founder
May 2004
Indiana
#3
Call me crazy... I don't see any difference. The difference that I DO see, seems to be in the lighting in the photo. 1 set of the pins always seems to be at a different angle.

Maybe I am missing it. What is the difference, Mega?

†B†V† :hat
 

Bluevoodu

Site Founder
May 2004
Indiana
#5
Dart said:
Oxidation on the discolored pins. My NES has a new stainless steel connector, so gone are the days of blowing in my carts. :D
right... but the discoloration "look" could be from the picture angle, can't it/

If you look at the NES-NROM reflection... the reflection isn't the same in both pics. Could that be light reflection? or discoloration?

Or maybe I am still missing what is seen in the picture.

†B†V† :hat
 
#6
The darken (Cart B) is the difference, the saliva from when we blow into a cart, stays on the cart and slowly breaks down the color of it. Much like copper when exposed to water or any type of liquid.
 
#7
Most of the time it's the security lockout on the breadbox NES that caused all the trouble. If not lined up right, it assumed that the cart is a pirate or home brew (otherwise unauthorized) you'd end up with the blink, or a pink screen. The top loaders lack that feature. That's one reason why they worked better.
 
#9
Now what we need to do is grab the second image and throw it into Photoshop to brighten the image to match the brightness of first one. I am with BV, the lighting is off to make it appear more discolored than it actually is, or else Frankie purposely put a shadow/changed the angle so he would be "right." :-X
 
#10
Regardless of if it was good or bad, the bottom line is it worked!  Also rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab was effective.  Before everyone starts yelling at me, this is the instructions I got decades ago when I brought my NES into Nintendo for fixing.

TJ Liebgott


MOD EDIT: NO ADVERTISING
 
#11
Cleaning cartridges is really pretty easy. Get a small amount of rubbing alcohol, and a good amount of Q-tips. Dip the Q-tips in the rubbing alcohol, then squeeze the excess from the end of it. Gently, but firmly, brush the connectors. Just rinse and repeat after that. The alcohol content in it dries faster than windex or other such "Proven Cart Cleaners". Your games will be spotless!
 
#12
Freedan The DkNite said:
Cleaning cartridges is really pretty easy. Get a small amount of rubbing alcohol, and a good amount of Q-tips. Dip the Q-tips in the rubbing alcohol, then squeeze the excess from the end of it. Gently, but firmly, brush the connectors. Just rinse and repeat after that. The alcohol content in it dries faster than windex or other such "Proven Cart Cleaners". Your games will be spotless!
True, but you want some that has high alcohol content. You can use 50% but the other 50% is usually distilled water which can cause oxidation as well.
 
Jun 2004
Indiana
#14
Freedan The DkNite said:
Cleaning cartridges is really pretty easy. Get a small amount of rubbing alcohol, and a good amount of Q-tips. Dip the Q-tips in the rubbing alcohol, then squeeze the excess from the end of it. Gently, but firmly, brush the connectors. Just rinse and repeat after that. The alcohol content in it dries faster than windex or other such "Proven Cart Cleaners". Your games will be spotless!
That's pretty much the method I always used, even though the official stance was to only use an official NES cleaning kit.
 
#18
CreepinDeth said:
Man, that would suck for whoever does that. I would be interested in seeing the end result though. :D

But also, I don't remember this topic. This is pretty interesting.
Salt water would make it corrode and quickly become brittle. Bleach... Wouldn't that have a similar discolouration effect and do whatever damage you'd call it that would prevent the system from recognising the cartridge?
 
#20
So in the short term some random spit can haphazardly bolster conductivity but long term it's adding to oxidation.

My renewed interest in both the Nintendo and the thrift stores has swelled my Nintendo collection an I've been slowly disassembling, cleaning, and reassembling my consoles and games and have tried a lot of different suggestions and found some things that work best for me.

1. Remove as much debris and dirt as possible before applying any chemical agents. Compressed air works wonders.

2. Forget Isopropyl Alcohol from the grocery or drug store, get denatured alcohol. the alcohol content is through the roof and it dries almost immediately with zero residue. That percent that's not alcohol in what everyone else likes to get from walmart or target turns to residue.

3. Brasso works great for really dingy contacts. Its a brass polish that does a wonder on copper (and gets fine scratches out of plastic). Clean any left over residue with the denatured alcohol.

4. A credit card with a terry cloth wrapped around it gets into cartridge slots well (use less of the brasso or alcohol, there's more crevices extra cleaner can puddle up in)

5. Goof off is fantastic for those stupid price stickers, just pray it's not suck to the game's label.

6. Dish washing detergent seems mild enough to wash the rubber internals of contorllers, I try to not use anything but water when possible.

7. soak sticky buttons in warm soapy water, dawn is a great degreaser

8. put everything together when its completely dry

9. keep cleaners away from labels, blot not rub if label does get wet.

10. take pictures. Stuff disassembles a lot quicker and easier than it reassembles. I remember watching 15 youtube videos trying to figure out how the spring goes back in the gamecube's lid. I just about lost my religion that day.

11. Just because you see it on youtube doesn't mean its correct. I watched a kid take a dremel with a wire wheel and clean a game boy cart. In his defense he did say use only as a last ditch effort but metal shavings (be it from the connectors or the wire brush) in electronics makes shorts and smoky stuff. The abrasives in the brasso is plenty to take off the worst of build up and corrosion, using a dremel with a wire brush is lazy and potentially dangerous, however it can work if you don't mind the risk. '

I'm still researching the use of buffing pads on a dremel in conjunction with the brasso especially. you'd need something soft enough that it wouldn't wreck the connectors but also something that would build up static.

Pencil erasers do work on copper contacts. Rub up and down with the contacts, not sideways.
 
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