Sometime in the late 80s, the vast collective consciousness of 8-year-olds discovered a Nintendo Entertainment System could be fixed merely by blowing on the cartridge connector. No one knows how this was independently discovered, no one knows the original discoverer, but one fact remains true: dirty pins probably weren’t the problem.
The problem with a NES that just won’t read a cartridge is the ZIF socket inside the console. Pins get bent, and that spring-loaded, VCR-like front loader assembly is the main point of failure of these consoles, even 30 years later. You can get replacement ZIF sockets for a few bucks, and replace the old one using only a screwdriver, but this only delays the inevitable. That ZIF socket will fail again a few years down the line. Finally, there is a solution.
The Blinking Light Win, as this project is called, replaces the ZIF connector with two card-edge slots. One slot connects to the NES main board, the other to the cartridge connector. There’s a plastic adapter that replaces the spring-loaded push down mechanism created for the original ZIF connector, and installation is exactly as easy as installing a reproduction NES ZIF connector.
If you’re wondering why consoles like the SNES, Genesis, and even the top-loader NES never had problems that required blowing into the cartridge connector, it’s because the mere insertion of the cartridge into the slot performed a scrubbing action against the pins. Since the ZIF socket in the O.G. NES didn’t have this, it was prone to failure. Replacing the ZIF with a true card-edge slot does away with all the problems of dirty contacts, and now turns the NES into something that’s at least as reliable as other cartridge-based consoles.
45 thoughts on “Fixing An NES For Good”
See also: 10NES mod
I clicked the link and went ‘aw damn it, Kickstarter’ then closed tab
Kickstarter is to hackaday as Rickrolling is to the Internet ;)
Yeah, I had the same reaction because I was thinking it was some awesome story about how someone wanted to fix a NES. Sadly, Kickstarter. Can we start getting funding campaign warnings like we get PDF warnings?
If at least their kickstarter had some pictuires …. I would like to see the comparision of the old and new “technologies” they are speaking of.
I revived an NES by clipping pin 4 of the CIC chip a few years ago, and thought thats where this article was going. Not sure if it’s related to the ZIF connector though, this new cartridge slot aims to fix a slightly different (but sometimes overlapping) issue. It was surprising that the 10NES trick works, but perhaps even more surprising was how easy it was to bypass oldschool DRM. Just goes to show, DRM has been on the losing side for decades.
10NES was to make it harder for unauthorised cartridge manufacturers to release games. Most people wouldn’t want to crack open their expensive NES and fiddle around inside snipping pins on the CIC. The unauthorised game solution was usually to build ever more elaborate glitching circuitry in an attempt to lockup the CIC uC inside the NES so it wouldn’t reset the console.
10NES and all the other cartridge lockout chips wasn’t designed to be hard to circumvent from the end user POV so it isn’t that surprising you were able to bypass it so easily.
Rather than just clipping it, I desoldered and lifted it from the board and then soldered it to ground. Clipping it /works/, but anything to break out the soldering iron is win too!
I still blew on my SNES and it’d work again -_- Stay calm don’t do it anymore…
you know what else works? SNES9X.
i mean, ironically, no, it wouldnt. snes9x does not emulate nes.
also, emulation kind of sucks.
I still blow on my SNES cartridges, it works for me.
i still regret that i didnt have the repairing skills back then when that ass kicked my nintendo into nirvana
$40 extra to ship to Canada… Might as well buy a new system every time it gets dirty.
The big concerns I would have are that the original ZIF socket did minimal wear the the cart contacts, whereas a standard card edge connector wears the contacts pretty hard, and that removal of a cart may be more difficult than with the ZIF, and a cart that spends too much time in the machine may have the contacts corrode or weld in, leading to more damage on removal.
I missed the original NES, but these were major faults with Vectrex.
You do realize that Nintendo did release a top loading NES model?
The top loader NES was sadly RF only for A/V output, making the quality significantly lower than the original toaster unit which had RF and RCA A/V outs. The famicom top loader however, used the same A/V multi-out connector as the SNES, N64, and GameCube and was a heck of a machine.
Japanese version of NES2 did have AV out. But you’d need an adapter to use NES cart in a Famicom slot.
The point being, Nintendo’s official top-loader NES used a cart-edge connector instead of a ZIF socket. One would hope the company had put in the requisite testing effort to ensure that the switch to cart-edge doesn’t damage games (or they’d have a major customer complaint headache!)
I’d rather do this : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnxZIuYb9WU
Boil the connector!
I have many NES systems that I have been given over time. In one of them I installed a edge cartard of the nes, then dremeled a hole on top. The only cart that never booted with this setup is the original Final Fantasy. I also bypassed the crystal and installed a socket with a toggle switch so I could use other crystals and change the speed of the NES.
The guy in the kickstarter video looked am awful lot like Jerry Seinfeld…
I have the perfect solution that doesn’t even cost money: MAME!
MAME does not emulate nes.
He’s dedicated, that’s for sure. I have a feeling if a third person suggests a non-NES emulator, there’s a good chance a troll is among us. Also, the sky is blue and water is wet.
Actually I believe MAME 0.162 and newer have the sister project MESS merged in. MESS was made for emulating computers and consoles while MAME was made for emulating arcade machines. As of 0.162 the two projects merged.
KICKSTARTERS LIKE THIS DON’T BELONG ON HaD.
I TOTALLY FREAKING AGREE.
ON A DIFFERENT NOTE…DO ANYONE ELSE’S EARS HURT?
ALL CAPS DON’T BELONG ON HaD EITHER.
Actual HaD-worthy solution:
If you can tell me where we can buy 2.5mm card edge connectors, please do. Standard 0.1″ spacing connectors have problem.
My 7 y/o self realized blowing on the cartridge was more of a rain dance than an actual fix. What I ended up doing was not quite fully inserting the cartridge into the system and then pressing it down as usual. The outer edge of the game cartridge would clip against the front of the slot and make a “crunch” sound. I think doing that slightly changed the angle at which the cartridge pins made contact with the ZIF connector. I just know it worked for me.
Not just me then.
I thought a ZIF socket was an IC socket, last I checked.
Nowhere in the title or the story does HaD refer to this as a kickstarter campaign. I feel like I’ve been tricked.
This sin’t a hack, its an ad.
I always slightly pushed the cart to one side or the other after inserting, which in my mind let the contacts hit areas that weren’t worn out. Always seemed to work for me.
We used to shove a paperback book into the gap between the lowered cart and the top of the NES. My little sister’s Boxcar Children series had a few titles that were a perfect fit.
“No one knows how this was independently discovered…”; it was ‘discovered’ from older kids who had Ataris, where the problem really was dirty connectors. I used to prefer wiping dust from my Atari 2600 connectors with my greasy, ESD-laden finger-tips. Incidentally, out of hundreds of games and an entire decade I never once killed a game through this practice.
A huge part of why NES games are so “hard” to get working for lots of people is because years of idiots blowing in them has made them incredibly corroded/filthy. Even q-tips and alcohol won’t take care of most of them and you need to get in there with some brasso before ever sticking a used game in your NES and transferring some of that filth to the connector inside.
This thing is by a guy with a very good reputation in the retro game community for making inexpensive, solid products free of gimmicky bullshit. The hate here is really weird.
There was a cleaning kit I had for about 10$. It fixed the problem no blowing as a kid here just a few drops on the cleaning stick, clean the cartridge, then clean the deck. Good as new.
I always told NES owners to get one of those cleaning cartridges with the pad that could be slid in and out of the connector after the cleaner was latched down like a game.
The cleaner cartridges worked, but no NES owner I ever told to get one ever bought one. They would complain about the $10 or so cost of the cleaner, while blowing spit into their $40 games.
wedging a lego above the game worked sometimes. Game genie worked almost all the time.
I got my first NES as a kid thanks to that problem. My buddy got a new for Christmas and we got to take the old one home. No cart would work so my dad helped me take it apart and showed me how to lift the pins with a tiny screwdriver.
Reminds me of The Goldbergs!
You’re either liking the project or not. If you’re fine fidgeting with your cart for several minutes; shoving other carts, books, LEGO blocks, or a Ford tire, by all means, enjoy. If you like spending your money on getting cheaper connectors and swapping them every time they (eventually) fail, that’s all you.
If you wanna end the madness of all that crap, support this KS. At least read (!!) the project description before snapping judgement.
FIXING A NES FOR GOOD*
The problem is really about the dirty contacts on the cartridges.. Electrical contact cleaner + cotton bud = removal of dirt! Got three hundred working news carts and never opened my console.. :)
take off the original & flip it over so cartridge side is swapped with the mainboard side & then trim the screw mounts off. This does the same thing.
Someone should make a chinese version of the blinking light win. Don’t feel like paying 25+ bucks plus wait like 2 months to get one.
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