If Nintendo had made their NES systems out of sturdier parts, we would still be playing them today, rather than throwing them into the barn to be eaten by owls. After a couple of years' steady play, it's nearly impossible to get a NES to stop flickering and actually load the games, to say nothing of not freezing up in the first five minutes. You could blow into the cartridges, wiggle them up and down, and smash the sad little box with your fist. Or you could take matters into your own hands.

The problem is most likely in the 72-pin connector, the part of the NES that you push cartridges into. Each springy little pin on the inside of the NES fits around one of the copper stripes you can see when you stare into the cartridges. Normally, you stick the game into the connector, and the pins depress just enough to make contact with the cartridges, allowing the game to pour into your television. Steady use pushes the pins too far down, so that there's space between them and the cartridges. The game doesn't load, and you're met with a blinking screen of frustration. You've got to open up your system and bend the pins back up.

First, you need a phillips head screwdriver, and also a tiny screwdriver like the kind you use on watches and eyeglasses. When you have those, flip the NES over and take out all the screws in the case. Turn it right side up again and pull the top off.

You'll see a shiny metal shield overtop the circuitry. Unscrew it and set it aside. You don't actually need to put it back when you're done -- it has something to do with shielding from interference however, and probably from dust too, so it might be a good idea.

Now you're looking at the heart of the beast. The 72-pin connector giving you all these problems is the black and silver thing clipped onto the side of the big green circuit board. Unscrew it, and pull it off. It doesn't like to leave its home -- you'll have to ease it off, a little at a time. Don't worry, you won't hurt it.

First, take a good look at it. If it's dirty or corroded, let it sit in a bath of rubbing alcohol for a few minutes, and give it a once-over with an old toothbrush.

Next, insert your miniature screwdriver underneath the first of the bottom row of pins. (Make sure it's the row that the cartridges slip into, as opposed to the part where the 72-pin connector clips onto the circuit board.) Bend the pin up slightly; don't overdo it. A millimetre or so is fine. This is how it should look:


uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu
uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuU

Repeat for every pin in the row. This is finicky work, and takes a long time. It pays off, as you should be inferring, in transcendental videogame bliss. Bliss like this:


uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu
UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

When you're finally done, slip the connector back onto the circuit board, then screw everything back together. You'll have to push a lot harder to get the games in, but it's well worth it.


Most of your problems can be solved by tinkering with the 72-pin connector. However, the cartridges can also mess with your experience by getting themselves all dirty and gross.

It says on the back of every cartridge that you must not "let your Game Pak come in contact with thinners, solvents, benzene, alcohol, or any other strong cleaning agents that can damage it." Corporations say funny things sometimes. Nintendo sold an official cleaning kit for these games; it consisted of a cleaning wand and a bottle of rubbing alcohol. The basic idea is that you mustn't let Nintendo's stranglehold on your wallet come in contact with any strong aspects of reality that might damage it.

You need to make a potion of half water, half rubbing alcohol. Distilled water is unnecessary, but would probably be the best if you really want to baby your plastic/silicon chunk. Apply the potion with a lint-free wand like you use to clean a VCR; lightly scrub both sides of the cartridge's connector with a gentle up-and-down motion. If you don't have a lint-free wand, a Q-Tip is okay, but watch out so that you don't leave bits of cotton where you clean. Let it air-dry for half an hour when you're done.

If you don't have any of these things, an unused white art eraser works in a pinch. Attach it to a wire, toothbrush handle or something similar, and give the connector a good rubdown.

If fixing your system and cleaning your game both don't work, then something's wrong. (Perhaps, with you.) That almost never happens though. These things are sturdy. Not like some shiny green DVD with its bits wasted on Tekken Death Blast VI.

References: www.classicgaming.com/features/articles/nesrepair for the ASCII art. There are some nice pictures there too.