The Story of My (Video Game) Youth

Someone recently posted on the ASTRO Gaming Forums informing us that he was licking his controller cable before inserting it into his MixAmp for a better connection… It so reminded me of the weird “viral” happenstance of my youth.

It’s the classic example of how my fellow youth of the 80s ruined their Nintendo Entertainment Systems.

Backstory: The NES had some inherit fault with it, where after about 2-3 years of usage, it wouldn’t always read games. Once it powered on, it would produce a black screen and a blinking red light.

Some where, some kid came up with the idea that if he breathed hot air on the metal connection port of his 8Bit NES cartridge game, that it would help the console read it better (I guess water + electricity?). This spread like wildfire (even without the internet) and basically every kid who had a NES that was bad did this. We believed it. It still seldom worked, but we did it anyway. Breathing our hot, stinky, nacho cheese breath over the connectors. I’m sure if those cartridges were still around now they’d be corroded.

The reason? Well the NES was a front-loading cartridge, much like those old VCR’s. When you inserted the cartridge you had to press it down on the spring loaded surface to power the unit on, this actually caused a friction on both the male portion of the cartridge, and the female portion of the console (this is now sounding kinda sexual as I type it, LOL). Over time, and years of using the NES, the prongs that read the cartridge would get bent out of place, and wouldn’t be able to read the game data.

Nintendo all along knew this was the case (as they made their own Japanese Famicon with an upright, vertically inserted cartridge, and also followed up with the next gen Super Famicon and SNES in the same vertical cartridge setup), but still, saw an opportunity for more sales and released a “Nintendo Official Cleaning Kit” which my brother actually bought. It had some padding type material which you would dose with some rubbing alcohol and it would clean off any dirt and debris (probably from our nacho cheese breath) that accumulated on the cartridge pins. They also made repair centers where you could send your NES to be cleaned of dirt and debris for a fee.

It’s nice that after 25 years, Nintendo finally admitted to the public that you actually shouldn’t breath on the cartridges.

And that’s my story.

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