Inside the Nintendo Entertainment System

My original Nintendo Entertainment System

My NES from 1989

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.

The Top of my NES

The top of my NES still has my original "don't eat this - toxic" sticker I put on it in first grade.

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.

NES bottom and top metal casings

The bottom (left) and top (right) metal casings to protect the core of the NES

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.

The guts of the NES

The inside of the NES with metal casings and cartrige holder removed.

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.

The NES Expansion Port

The expansion port was included on the bottom of the NES. There was a hole for access in the metal casings, but the plastic box would have a section snapped off to use it. However, the port was never used for the NES, just the Famicom Disk System.

NES 72 Pin Connector

The 72-pin connector that connects the game cartridges to the main board and is the most likely cultprit for connection issues. It can be removed and replaced, but I need to get one.


About davidaschulz

I'm a video production professional with a nerdy passion for movies, Transformers, Star Wars, and retro video games. I also read comic books and play the occasional modern game. View all posts by davidaschulz

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