The Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, has been a standard from my childhood up through my post-college years. I had to save up $50 of my allowance back in 1989 so I could pay my half for the system. I grew up playing Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Warrior, Megaman, and many more. Even when I got the Super Nintendo for my birthday years later, the NES was still hooked up and remained hooked up to a TV somewhere in the house. I never was sent to an attic or crawl space to collect dust, but remained a permanent fixture in our entertainment centers.This year I finally removed my NES from the family basement and relocated it to my own place. After the move I started to notice an increasing frequency of bad connections with the cartridges. Using a Game Genie seemed to help a bit, but it seemed my NES was finally dying. It had been good to me all these years.
I was not going down without a fight. After setting up the NES and connecting it to a nice old CRT TV, I could not get a single game to start up. I kept getting the same blinking light. So I decided I had nothing to lose. I would either fix up this thing of mine that I’ve had since I was five years old or I would make it worse and buy a new one.
With my wife as my assistant, I began the process of dissecting my childhood friend. First was the basic unscrewing of the top from the bottom. I knew I had to get to the center since I had a feeling the problems were simply a pin connection issue. The NES is notorious for having pins get bent due to overuse, and since I have had my NES since ’89, it has had over two decades of semi-constant use.
Once the top plastic casing was removed, I found a protective metal casing around the boards and connecting pins. Again I took my screwdriver and separated the metal from the innards. I could finally see the pins. I attempted to brush off any dust from this, but upon inserting multiple cartridges I was still stuck. No game. My next step was to pretty much disassemble the whole thing. I removed the motherboard entirely from the system to check the underside for possible pin corrosion. Everything looked fine, though I had to remove the lower metal covering and that was being blocked by the AV connectors. Luckily they were a simple unplug and replug.
Once everything was disconnected and the NES was practically naked I finally had some success with the games. My pins are still bad enough that inserting a cartridge barely works the first time, but now I’m able to move the cart around until I get a good connection. Then as long as no one bumps the NES mid-play, I can continue to game to my heart’s content.
I can easily pick up a working NES from a number of sources, but the joy I get from playing the very console that set me down the gaming path that I still walk cannot be replaced.