NES Cartridge Hack Makes Great Novelty Gift

NES cartridge with arduino

Most all of us recall the Blinking Screen of Death on original NES systems. This was caused by a bad connection between the cartridge and the NES cartridge connector. For whatever reason, it became a very popular idea to give a quick blow down the cartridge, even though this didn’t really help. [Dale] decided to play on this annoying problem by making the NES Blow Cart!

Inspired by a previous cartridge hack, [Dale] mounted a custom made circuit sporting the ever popular ATtiny85 in a Super Mario / Duck Hunt cartridge. A small microphone sits where the original cartridge connector was, along with the on/off switch and program header. A quick blow triggers the ATtiny85 to play a song.

The most difficult part for [Dale] was to figure out how to get the ATtiny to play “music”. This was solved with the discovery of a library called Rtttl. This allowed him to take old Nokia Super Mario and Zelda ringtones and get them on the Attiny85. All files, including the rtttl library are available on his github. Be sure to stick around after the break for a video of the project in action.


13 thoughts on “NES Cartridge Hack Makes Great Novelty Gift

  1. The blinking was caused by the CIC copy protection/license enforcement chip. If the CIC in the NES didn’t complete a handshake with the cartridge in a certain amount of time, it would reset the system.

    Blowing on the cartridge would dislodge dust that would cause a poor connection with the CIC pins. It could also accelerate corrosion of the contacts, so it was officially discouraged.

      1. Interestingly enough, the action of taking the cart out and re-seating it was usually what made it work, as on the NES the problem was usually a combination of corrosion and loss of spring pressure from the funky cartridge connector.

  2. To this day I still blow in the SNES cartridges and the console itself. Still works and I’m a wizard with my blowing haha. Long live the “Blowing Technique” of fixing electronics! :p

    1. I still have mine, was just playing SMB3 with my 9 year old daughter. I let them start playing games on the NES, then they work their way up through the consoles to the Xbox, developing hand eye coordination on the two button and slowly adding buttons will help her be a better gamer in the future. At least, thats my opinion.

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