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Intellivision is overheating


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#1 thegoldenband OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:32 PM

This evening I decided to kill two birds with one stone, and test out one of my extra Intellivisions while also playing for the HSC.

(Side note: I'd picked this console up a couple months ago as part of a large lot, but the controllers were dead. Today I opened the console up and switched out the controllers, replacing them with two from a dead console with working controllers, kindly sent to me by a fellow Atariage member. This worked perfectly -- I played a few different games, and everything seemed fine -- but I wanted to put the console through a couple hours of gameplay before getting ready to sell it.)

Anyway, tonight I played Astrosmash for about 15-20 minutes, reaching about 50k, and then the game crashed. Huh.

And then I reset and played for another 2 minutes, before it crashed again...

And then I reset and played for 30 seconds, and it crashed a third time.

But then -- here's the strange part -- I played Cloudy Mountain for 25 minutes, with no problems at all. Huh #2.

Then I popped Astrosmash back in, and it crashed within 30 seconds. I even tried a different copy of the cart -- same thing. And then I tried Thunder Castle, and it crashed during the intro screen to Level 1.

All this sounds to me like the Intellivision is overheating, and based on comments in the HSC thread, it sounds like Astrosmash may be known for exacerbating the problem. Or maybe it's just that the game goes on for a long time. Either way, it's strange that I had no problems with Cloudy Mountain.

So I have a pile of questions. What can I do about this? What should I test, and what tools do I need (I have a multimeter but don't really know how to use it)? Would removing the RF shield help? Do I need a soldering iron to do that?

If I take off the RF shield, should I check the heatsinks? If so, how do I do that and what am I looking for? Has anyone ever found a reliable fix for the Intellivision I's overheating problems? Should I just chalk it up to the hot weather? zylon mentions having all kinds of overheating problems when playing Astrosmash in the HSC thread.

Or, am I totally wrong, and is this problem unrelated to overheating? But the increasing rapidity of the crashes surely suggests it to me.

BTW, one irony in all this is that the dead system from which I scavenged the replacement controllers was actually yell0w_lantern's system, which had a similar-but-different problem that he describes here. I assume there's no way the controllers could somehow be causing the crash.

#2 thegoldenband OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:34 PM

tl;dr version:

Intellivision crash when play Astrosmash, no crash when play AD&D. Is too hot? If yes, how make not too hot?

#3 zylon ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:39 PM

This game does cause a little more stress than others mostly because it can run for so long to finish. Some of my attempts pass 3 hours or more. Every time you overheat it, it will occur sooner the next time. I use a small desk fan near the system when playing this game and I won't risk my Tandyvision on it. Some other games use different pathways in the chips so it might not happen with other games.
The power supply is what generates the most heat. Poor airflow doesn't help either.

If it's crashing that quickly, it's more than just the game. Especially if that game plays fine on other systems.

#4 thegoldenband OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:52 PM

Thanks for your reply. I haven't tried my main Intellivision I with it yet, nor my Inty II. Since I tried two different copies of Astrosmash and got the same result, though, I don't think it's the cart. :( I need to get some sort of test cart at some point.

BTW the Intellivision is sitting on a coffee table top (not a rug), with no foreign objects around it. Has anyone ever pinned down exactly which parts are overheating, or what the exact origins of heat-related crashes are?

Edited by thegoldenband, Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:52 PM.


#5 GroovyBee OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 12, 2011 2:29 AM

Sounds to me like the PSU caps are on the way out or you have a dry solder joint on the PCB somewhere. Can you measure the voltage on the 5v supply rail?

#6 thegoldenband OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 12, 2011 5:27 PM

Sounds to me like the PSU caps are on the way out or you have a dry solder joint on the PCB somewhere. Can you measure the voltage on the 5v supply rail?

Forgive the naivete of my question, but can you tell me how to do this safely? I have a multimeter, or at least I think it's a multimeter, but I'm not sure how to use it, especially to measure larger voltages (I tried measuring a 1.5v battery and everything I did seemed to peg the meter).

BTW I have an extra power supply (again kindly provided by yell0w_lantern) so I could just try swapping that in.

Meanwhile I let the Intellivision sit for a couple hours last night, and played Thunder Castle for 10 minutes before it crashed. :( Oddly, the music kept going after the crash -- is that diagnostically useful? I was "energized" at the time, so the power-up tune was looping while the display was frozen. In fact, every crash I've seen on this console so far hasn't stopped the music or looping sound FX (cf. Astrosmash).

Edited by thegoldenband, Tue Jul 12, 2011 5:29 PM.


#7 zylon ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Jul 13, 2011 1:38 PM

Sounds like the video circuits may be crashing, but leaving the CPU running. I'd start looking for a small crack in solder joint or a trace somewhere.

#8 thegoldenband OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jul 13, 2011 1:52 PM

Sounds like the video circuits may be crashing, but leaving the CPU running. I'd start looking for a small crack in solder joint or a trace somewhere.

Thanks! Will do, though I guess I'll need to find a way to remove the RF shield first (which is soldered in place, right?). I assume a heat gun isn't a viable tool for desoldering it, so looks like I'm in the market for a soldering iron (which I should get, and learn how to use, anyway).

#9 zylon ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Jul 13, 2011 1:59 PM

Before you go digging in the shield, check the small ribbon cable from power supply to motherboard very carefully. You could have a small crack in it that opens with heat. Also clean out the cart port real well as I've found that some corrosion creates enough resistance to crash a game when hot enough. Easy stuff first. :)

#10 GroovyBee OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:20 AM

Forgive the naivete of my question, but can you tell me how to do this safely? I have a multimeter, or at least I think it's a multimeter, but I'm not sure how to use it, especially to measure larger voltages (I tried measuring a 1.5v battery and everything I did seemed to peg the meter).


Do you have a picture or a part number for your meter? It sounds like its analogue.

#11 thegoldenband OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 17, 2011 3:14 PM

I just wanted to thank everyone for their help. My laptop HD just crashed, so right now I've got some more pressing hardware woes to deal with first. :( Once that's taken care of, I'm definitely going to look into this some more.

#12 thegoldenband OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:41 PM

OK, reviving this thread! I hadn't touched this since the HD crash I mentioned above, but I decided to take a look tonight. I'd been hoping that the crashes were exacerbated by the summer heatwave, and that in the cool of winter things would be different. No dice: after 10 minutes of Astrosmash, it crashed, and the behavior was comparable to what I've described above.

I inspected the power ribbon cable, but saw nothing I could identify as damage. I also tried swapping out the PSU board for a spare I had, but it didn't help.

Now, here's a second wrinkle: I also have another Intellivision that has the same problem, but develops it more quickly. This one crashed after only about 30 seconds of initial use, and then would crash progressively faster and faster after each restart, until the crashes were almost instantaneous. I should add that it would almost always display the Astrosmash splash screen -- the crash would come when I began gameplay.

The interesting thing about this second Intellivision is that there doesn't seem to be a ribbon cable -- instead, there are what appear to be bare wires going into a connector that's half-hidden in a blob of hot glue (?). I pulled one of them out, but was able to put it back in without issue. I'm not sure what I'm seeing -- I can take pictures if needed. Either way, it seems unlikely that it's the PSU caps, since I've tried 3 PSUs on two systems.

BTW to answer GroovyBee's question, my multimeter is a Micronta 22-202A (made by Radio Shack), and is definitely analog.

Any thoughts? How do people go about figuring this stuff out, anyway? At least I have a soldering gun now (Christmas present), but haven't learned how to use it yet. One of edintv's posts suggested that removing the RF shield would help, but I can't imagine that's the issue with the console that crashes in just 30 seconds.




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