Blowing your Nintendo cartridges did more harm than good

I feel like the debate of if blowing on your Nintendo cartridges did more harm than good is one that has been going on since the dawn of Nintendo.  We all did it.  I know I did.  You put in the cartridge and turn it on to a yellow screen.  Each time you press reset it’s a different color: pink, blue, yellow again, etc.  So what do you do?  You take the cartridge out, blow on the exposed section, put it back in, and pray.  It is what you did!

Leave it to now, decades later, for science to tell us that we were damned fools all those years.  We were young, we didn’t know better.  In truth, we were doing long term damage to the cartridges to receive this placebo effect.  To be honest, even if we did know we were harming the games as children, would we have stopped when we saw results?

The science behind this is an extremely basic case of oxidation.  Thanks to Mental Floss for putting the research together.  The exposed region in Nintendo game cartridges were made of nickel pins that had copper connectors.  Without getting too scientific, copper tarnishes in air.  If you are blowing on copper you run the risk of hurrying the tarnishing process.  Nintendo even came out with a statement which said that the moisture in your breathe could corrode the pins.  There is so much science happening on a chemical level here.

So the moral of this story is… oops.  Apparently the correct way to clean games and make them work was to use the ole isopropyl alcohol and swabs method.  Surprisingly, this is also what I did as a child, so I was half in the right.  Now that games are all digital or disk based, this isn’t so much of an issue anymore.  Now we just deal with scratched disks which are not repairable.

Oh nostalgic Nintendo.


Historian, teacher, writer, gamer, cheat master, and tech guru: follow on Twitter @AndrewC_GZ