Did blowing into Nintendo cartridges actually help?

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,059   +153
Staff member

It's the weekend and that means only one thing: time to play your favorite Nintendo game! You pop the cartridge into your NES, hit the power button and immediately, you're met with either a mess of scrambled graphics on the screen or a blinking light.

The solution? Take the game out, give it a good blow or two, put it back in the system and voila, everything works like magic.

Those of us that were around and playing video games in the '80s are all too familiar with this scenario. If the game didn't load properly, it's what you did to fix it - it was just common knowledge. Literally everyone knew about this "trick" even though there were no how-to videos or websites to educate us - impressive.

The only problem with the technique is that it was completely useless.

As outlined in this video from It's Okay To Be Smart, blowing into NES cartridges didn't remedy anything. No, you weren't blowing dust from the cartridge or increasing the conductivity of the metal connections. All it really did was disguise the fact that you were simply taking it out and trying it again.

In fact, blowing into a cartridge was actually bad for them as it would make the contacts rust over time. Who knew?!

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VitalyT

Posts: 6,179   +6,666
Even though I am Russian, it's of no relevance here - the magic hammer works on everything, so why not on Nintendo? ;)
 
D

davislane1

I remember using that trick on N64 cartridges. Then, one day, a GameStop employee told me that it didn't work and actually shortened the life of the contacts. Naturally, I had him thrown in a pit of vipers for contradicting me, but I never did blow into a cartridge again.
 
R

RustyTech

Bhahahha! I did it every time! :D
good memories! every though it was super annoying at the time.
 

hahahanoobs

Posts: 4,326   +2,328
NES:
I remember blowing in it, running my finger across the bottom of the PCB where the contacts are, hitting it, pushing the cartridge in just enough to push it down, slamming the cartridge in as hard as I f*cking could, and hitting the console. Those were the days....
 

LNCPapa

Posts: 4,315   +574
TS Special Forces
I actually didn't regularly blow into my cartridges and would tell people that there was no way that could make it work. I would just pop the cartridge out and put it back in or wiggle it while it was still pushed down and power it back up. I would only blow into it after someone had heard me say that a thousand times and then see if they noticed me do it.
 

cliffordcooley

Posts: 13,141   +6,439
NES:
I remember blowing in it, running my finger across the bottom of the PCB where the contacts are, hitting it, pushing the cartridge in just enough to push it down, slamming the cartridge in as hard as I f*cking could, and hitting the console. Those were the days....
If you actually touched the contacts, you likely made your problem worse.
 

robb213

Posts: 351   +115
I always used my dad's can of compressed air to clean off the contacts after it had sat out in the open (room) for awhile.

Anyways, by blowing on it yourself I understand that it can cause rust (from your mouth due to constant moisture), but I can't see it happening until long after the fact.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 18,547   +7,388
I actually didn't regularly blow into my cartridges and would tell people that there was no way that could make it work. I would just pop the cartridge out and put it back in or wiggle it while it was still pushed down and power it back up. I would only blow into it after someone had heard me say that a thousand times and then see if they noticed me do it.
So basically what you're saying is, "a Nintendo cartridge is like a toilet, when it doesn't work, all you have to do is jiggle the handle"!
 

Nero7

Posts: 498   +236
Bs. I know that it works for gbc. how do I know? over 2000h of playing with it. I could insert the game over 20 times and it wouldn't work. then I blow into it and it works instantly. lol no it did not hurt the game unless you spit into it like a goat. games and gbc work fine to this very day after well over 10 years xD
 
G

Guest

I like how the article and both links state that it doesn't work, but fail to offer evidence that it doesn't. I didn't blow too much on the Nes cartridges, I spent more time trying to position the cartridge just right before I pushed down. I remember the blowing thing to be much bigger on the 2600 (despite what the linked article states).
 

captaincranky

Posts: 18,547   +7,388
I like how the article and both links state that it doesn't work, but fail to offer evidence that it doesn't. I didn't blow too much on the Nes cartridges, I spent more time trying to position the cartridge just right before I pushed down. I remember the blowing thing to be much bigger on the 2600 (despite what the linked article states).
Boy, there's just no putting one over on you, is there?
 
G

Guest

I had always covered my cartridge with my tshirt before blowing into it. Guess I'm just a little smarter than the rest, mahahaha.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 18,547   +7,388
I had always covered my cartridge with my tshirt before blowing into it. Guess I'm just a little smarter than the rest, mahahaha.
Well, I don't think you needed the T-shirt. I think you would have been all right if you just didn't swallow....:cool:

I know, Staff, I know. But, sometimes I can't help myself.:D
 

Forg0t2

Posts: 147   +25
I never blew the cartridge unless I could see dust or nasties inside it. Same as I won't instinctly rub the DVD because it said it couldn't read something on the disc. I would look for fingerprints or whatever could be the problem. I mean why the risc in destroying something without looking first?
 
G

Guest

I used my t-shirt, too. and I rememebr sometimes after blowing that way, there'd be a thin line of black dust that came out of the cartridge left on my shirt... so not sure if my parent's house was just dusty a lot, or what it was.
 
G

Guest

Same here. And it actually cleaned the corrosion off the contacts. Never blew into the cartridge ever.
 
G

Guest

I don't see how it couldn't have helped. I understand a human being's breath has moisture and is bad for the electronics but... I remember specifically having to blow into the cartridge to make it work. Sure, I completely agree compressed air without moisture would have been better for it but... simply taking the game out and putting it back in was NOT enough. At least not for the n64. Nice theory though, but I have the experience from the real thing. Experience from hundreds of tries across quite a few games.

Oh and they still work :)