ROM Cartridges. Lifespan, and other tidbits

Swift Griggs swiftgriggs at
Tue Apr 19 11:41:03 CDT 2016

On Tue, 19 Apr 2016, ethan at wrote:
> > Why does blowing on them help? (mosture? cleaning action?)
> The moisure makes the connection work better or something, so that is
> where it comes from.  Cleaning the contacts is best, and if it's a NES you
> can replace the "finger module" or the slots on other systems.

It seems like both sides can get worn out.  I've seen carts that'd have
problems wherever you took them, even on nearly new NES units.  On the other
hand I've seen well-worn NES systems that could barely play a brand-new
cart.  I'm guessing that's where replacing the finger module would really
give you a new lease on life for your NES.

> > Are some better than others in terms of longevity?
> The card edge connectors would probably be where the reliability comes in.

It looked like some were plated with gold, some with tin, and others I
couldn't really tell (copper?  brass?).  I'm guessing gold-plated edge
connectors would be great, but who knows, maybe gold is too soft.  I'm not a
metallurgist or a EE, so I'm just speculating.

> A lot of the older game system carts you will find the labels coming off
> or deteriorating.  It depends on how they were stored I'd guess.  Moisture
> and heat.

Selling reproduction labels sounds like a cool side-job for someone with an
extra dye-sub printer laying around. 

> I think it was used more because the intro cost to the system was cheaper. 
> Floppy drives were expensive, you could sell carts to people with basic
> systems.

I didn't think of that.  That makes a lot of sense.  I was just a kid in the
80's.  Business sense wasn't something I had a lot of at 8 years old. :-)

> There were units for some of the game systems like the SNES that sat on
> top, and allowed you to copy the rom cart contents to floppy disks.

Yes!  I remember those.  I was in Jr.  High and I remember going to some
older kid's house (spoiled rich kid with a huge computer lab).  One of the
many things he owned that made my 12 year old eyes bug out was one of the
units you are describing.  He'd rent all the new games from Blockbuster
Video and then copy them off to 1.44MB 3.5" floppies.  They were always
called something like "Super Mega Duper" or some take-off on the game
console name with a bit of Asian flare from Hong Kong where they were made. 
What I wonder is where did people get them?  My family was too poor for such
things, but I still wonder where that kid got that gadget in the
pre-internet era.  Ads in the back of magazines or something ?

> > Remember the ones like Starfox for the SNES that had coprocessors embedded
> > on them? Those were neat.
> Yes, I think there were only two for the SNES but I could be wrong.

I think I remember reading the same thing somewhere. 

> Check out Pitfall II on the Atari 2600, it has a sound processor in the
> cart.

I just did. Neat. Here's the key excerpt from Wikipedia:

"The version developed for the Atari 2600 featured a four-part harmony music
soundtrack throughout the game, a first for the Atari 2600 platform.  This
was accomplished by building a custom chip called the "DPC" chip into the
cartridge.  This was also designed by game author David Crane."

How many game designers of today could/would design their own silicon?  I'm
thinking there isn't a Unity module for that. :-)

> The next year the costs were so much lower it was a neglible price cut,
> but had the pins been left there it would have allowed more memory space
> to be accessable in the cart leading to tons of expansion possibilities.

That was probably some business-weasels' idea.  They ruin everything.  Look
what they did to Commodore.  The could not physically produce and sell
enough Amigas when they died.  How can you f-up a business like that?  Wait
don't tell me, you let some Ivy-league CEO load up on debt, cut corners on
production, screw your vendors & partners, stall and cut R&D then just
continue making old hardware, and finally allow the trademark to be pass
through so many idle hands that the name becomes meaningless.  That seemed
to do it for Commodore.

> Yep, have a 4 slot MVS at home and run a 161 in 1 cart in it.

I have one of those MVS conversion consoles.  I would have got an AES, but
uhhh, not for the prices they go for.  I'd probably have to spend 2-10x as
much to get the same collection.  I just have 5 "real" carts of my favorites
(Samurai Showdown and the like).  I rarely use them as I also have the Stone
Age Gamer 161-in-1 rig.

> gonna embrace the video-games-are-beanie-babies thing. 

Same here.  Carts do make people more conducive to getting obsessive like
this, though.  You don't often see people getting that excited over 20 year
old (and probably corrupt floppies) PC game original materials.

> Some of the N64 and SNES games are more now than they were new.

Some Zelda games comes to mind.  I've seen the raw carts go pretty cheap
($15-20 bucks on ebay $20-50 bucks at local used shops), but some of the
special editions where people still have the box and dox go for $250 bucks
on Ebay.

> But if you want to see real bubble, look into collecting A list pinball
> titles.

Hmm, weird.  I wonder if that is because the generations of pinball players
are getting old enough to retire and need more hobbies?  Then perhaps they
go out and buy all the best machines with the coolest tables and effects? 
It makes me wonder if Neo Geo carts will be $1000 a pop when my generation
(gen-x) starts to retire.  Maybe it'll be Amiga that'll shoot up.  I kind of
doubt it, though.  My guess is that commodity 3D printers will be good
enough to print replicas (or enough parts to make your own replicas) in the
next 30 years.  That would change these hobby economies quite a bit.

> Yep, and the same damn games on all of them :-) AtariSoft!  Parker Bros! 
> Etc.  Frogger and the Qbert and the Centipede and the Defender.

I know, right?  It was always cool when some developer would go all-out and
develop a game specifically to take advantage of one platform's hardware
instead of trying to release it on umpteen platforms.  Whenever they turned
out any good games, there'd be a port to an "inferior" platform and we'd all
know it since the gaming magazines would skewer them with screenshot


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