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Nintendolife article about dying hardware

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This is actually a really good article. I was expecting otherwise, given what I've seen from that site in the past... but we have definitely hit the point where "use original hardware" is not easy (or even good) advice. The more obscure the system, the more effort you're going to need to expend to play it in the future.

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Yeah, I thought it was surprisingly good, too -- especially with the photos and specific info about HOW and WHY the old hardware won't last forever, even if kept in perfect storage.

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I've bumped into that with the Virtual Boy. I lucked into someone I'm friends with who can fix the horribly attached by design ribbon cables in there with solder instead of the glue that's universally about failed now but the fine handy work there was over my pay grade. Looking at it though some stuff at least is being made as 1:1 repop now just lacking the Nintendo stamping but otherwise the same for the stand, bracket/headpiece, the foam visor and its plastic clip. But when you get much beyond that, you're in for trouble and with a system that sold 3/4 million units it'll get ugly in time. Seeing the troubles the Dreamcast has run into being flaky too and the discs with their high compression being bad about damages it's no wonder people are making pop in replacement parts using non-optical. All these optical drive systems are going to be an issue if someone doesn't keep the parts around and the more odd they get into the DC, Jag CD, PCE CD realm the harder it will be to source necessities.

 

Even now I keep backups of my handhelds, and the NES, SNES and N64 have been put away and have HiDef hacks or full units (super NT) replacing them to extend a useful life with modern compatibility. There is a real wall there given these all were meant not to last, especially 20, 30, 40+ years.

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Nah, it's bit of a "water is wet" discovery, and a stealth Analogue advertorial.

 

I don't think there is any person who likes old hardware believing it will magically last forever. Why would it? It will last as long as it will. Some units can flop within a day from purchase, some others may last for decades still. We know this, it's the part of the deal, no big surprises there.

 

It's also not at all a terrible experience dealing with them as some like to paint it, to the contrary - for those who are into this stuff it's a thrilling hobby, not some extraordinary chore.

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Yeah that's what I've been aways saying here but it was more like talking to a brick wall... :roll:

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It's a nice article. Especially if you generally apply the points it discusses. Like for example not every circuit board will have a 7805 regulator. Instead you may have something totally different. The idea is to make sure you have clean and steady power that's in spec and exhibits minimal or no ripple and rises to its target instantly and doesn't sag under load. To do that you will need to learn DMMs and 'scopes.

 

Over this past winter I had boatloads of fun restoring and freshening up my first PC, a rather straightforward generic 486. I gave it the royal spa treatment and did things like:

 

1- moving the onboard battery offboard, checked current draw and charging rates.

2- imaging the disk drives as I had left them at the turn of the century.

3- running various assorted diagnostic suites/programs from back in the day.

4- cleaning all the ISA slots, pin-by-pin, and coating them with a very light dielectric lube.

5- examining the crystal stability.

6- cleaning and reseating all the socketed ICs.

7- examining and recording BIOS settings, Autoexec.bat, and Config.sys, and such things.

8- examining and surface scanning the hard disks.

9- remounting the motherboard in a stress-free manner.

10- repairing the CD-ROM's head motor gear.

11- cleaning all the connectors and switches and buttons.

12- examined all the power supply rails for good quality power.

13- removed all dust from the system.

14- backed up all the EPROMS.

15- cleaned all 5.25 and 3.5 drive heads and mechanics.

16- tested all ports, loopback if applicable

 

..and probably more. I figure as it stands now it's all good for another 25 years. On my TODO list is recapping the monitor and washing the keyboard.

 

Most all of it was in pretty good shape. Of course to add extra excitement I played lots of vintage games. And it was FUN! And it was NOSTALGIC! Having those "Upgrading & Repairing your PC" bibles, some DOS and Peter Norton books and other period publications to answer some fine points was invaluable. It was nice working through each sub-system and remembering the good old days. Quite fun and rewarding seeing each diagnostic test pass one after the other.

 

I also began gathering and collating all the original documentation, instructions, advertisements and brochures into one pile. I also got spare parts, a spare motherboard, a scrap motherboard, of the same type. Spare HDDs, same types. Some spare ISA cards. Cables, a CD-ROM replacement laser and gear should it go bad. Another one of the proprietary memory expansion cards. A handful of period SIMMs. As I see cheap parts I'll pick them up. So if I need that custom chipset memory controller I'll have it.

 

Outwardly or inwardly the spiffed-up rig doesn't look that much different than it did in 1997. But it's solid and reliable and I'll work with it with a renewed sense of confidence.

Edited by Keatah

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The biggest thing is replacing custom IC's as they die, which the article touches on. Whenever I see a thread where someone's 2600 is acting up and the diagnosis is "It's the TIA, just replace the TIA" I cringe a little. The advice is said with a casualness that I find disturbing, as if there's a TIA fairy waiting with an endless supply of magical chips to draw from. Best sells them and the fact that the price rises and you are limited to one per order is a sure sign he's quickly running out.

 

With every dying TIA we come a little closer to 2600's becoming an extinct console, unless an FPGA drop in replacement becomes a reality. Of course we can just FPGA the whole thing but that's essentially a new console. It's the difference between restoring a 66 Shelby Cobra, for example, and making a brand new version from the ground up to look, feel and drive like the original. It's just not the same although I have resigned myself to that eventuality. Having said that, I don't think that any of these classic consoles from the 70's or 80's will die during our lifetimes but it's a sad certainty that in a few decades, anyone wanting to play these games will have to do so another way and the original console will just sit on a shelf, dead, as a museum piece showing a new generation what was.

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I bet a lot of the surrounding support circuitry is out of tolerance rather than the TIAs going bad. It's usually discrete components that will fail more often than a complex IC. It's the materials ICs are made from. Silicon, Aluminum, glass, epoxy, and so on are more stable than other stuff used in caps, resistors, diodes, moving switches, flexing copper wire and insulation, cables..

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Nah, it's bit of a "water is wet" discovery, and a stealth Analogue advertorial.

 

I don't think there is any person who likes old hardware believing it will magically last forever. Why would it? It will last as long as it will. Some units can flop within a day from purchase, some others may last for decades still. We know this, it's the part of the deal, no big surprises there.

 

It's also not at all a terrible experience dealing with them as some like to paint it, to the contrary - for those who are into this stuff it's a thrilling hobby, not some extraordinary chore.

It's the Analogue advocacy I found most interesting. NintendoLife, and this author in particular, have been softballing PolyMega for months. Very refreshing to see them address the superior option.

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Maybe it's not intentional? I figured it was a Gamester81-type opportunism to get a "scoop," and being overly critical would hurt their access for more info in the future.

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Yeah that's what I've been aways saying here but it was more like talking to a brick wall... :roll:

People have been dumping carts for years, in order to preserve software with regard to the original hardware eventually failing (both console and cartridge hardware). Emulation logically rose from the mere existence of these dumps, and when FPGAs became a thing for the general gaming public, logic dictated that new hardware should be created that precisely replicates old hardware, mainly because old hardware eventually fails and dies, with increasingly limited repair options.

 

I would guess that this trend will continue in the coming years with disc-based software (Sega CD, PC-Engine, PlayStation, PS2, Game Cube, Wii, etc.) because disc drives are also prone to eventual decay and failure, making the original discs unreadable. But then, major companies like Nintendo are moving to grab the contents of all those old discs and create in-house emulators for them, in order to sell these games again for extra profit (mainly on the Switch). This will inevitably lead to two distinct schools of thought regarding software preservation, one which is profit-driven, and the other which is not. These "schools of thought" already exists, of course, but I'm talking about legacy disc-based software (and also download-only games) not cartridges.

Edited by Pixelboy

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Most early emulation experiments were from CS students at university. The projects helped them learn a microprocessor and a system architecture on a low level. Some of these projects grew into what we have today. It was also the novelty of running an exact copy of an arcade game at home that drove emu dev, though on a different front.

 

No early emulator was about preservation. At least none I know of. Preservation came later.

 

As far as profit-driven preservation vs hobbyist-fun preservation. The for-profit stuff will always have some level of restriction and control attached to it. Always be some limitation on who can access it. Hobbyist preservation lets everyone ride for free. And that means there will be many personal repositories, many of which are going to be shared and made available to all.

 

What good is preservation if the material is locked away and inaccessible? Might as well not exist.

Edited by Keatah
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To me it's just part of the classic gaming hobby, like classic cars or listening to vinyl records. Moving (and in some cases, non-moving) parts wear out. Physics takes its toll. Maintenance is important. Either you can tinker and do the work yourself or you'll pay a lot for someone to do it for you. It's not wrong, but it's not bringing anything new to the table. Pre-modded systems with new caps and RGB mods are like buying a restored hot rod. It all depends on the quality of the work.

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Maybe it's not intentional? I figured it was a Gamester81-type opportunism to get a "scoop," and being overly critical would hurt their access for more info in the future.

Maybe, but he fact that NintendoLife was the *only* source of information about the PolyMega bait-and-Switch the day pre-orders started makes me doubt that.

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Yeah, that is kinda weird, especially given that P*lyM*ga doesn't have a Nintendo focus at all. Usually these things put out a press release or media kit for the tech sites to mindlessly parrot without interpretation.

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Nah, it's bit of a "water is wet" discovery, and a stealth Analogue advertorial.

 

I don't think there is any person who likes old hardware believing it will magically last forever. Why would it? It will last as long as it will. Some units can flop within a day from purchase, some others may last for decades still. We know this, it's the part of the deal, no big surprises there.

 

It's also not at all a terrible experience dealing with them as some like to paint it, to the contrary - for those who are into this stuff it's a thrilling hobby, not some extraordinary chore.

You'd be surprised at how many people firmly believe that NOS systems are supposed to work like day one, and as the article mention, how many people hold the original PSU of older systems as the only viable option... when in most cases, especially today, they are the worst option.

 

Basically for me, if it isn't regulated then it would be replaced sooner or later.

As he notes, on most 9 volts systems the regulator is a standard affair, and you can feed it 7.5 volts. BTW on the Sharp Twin Famicom, despite the fact that the console is just a Famicom and a Famicom Disk System "glued together", both taking 9 volts, the Twin power supply is a 7.5 volts one - one can only assume that Sharp knew better than to feed both systems and save strain on the power regulator, it was more clever to decrease the input voltage.

 

Now 9 volts regualted power supplies are the most common, so use those. At least it will no longer send 10 to 12 volts into the system.

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I wish I knew you when my childhood Odyssey 2 power supply would buzz and get hot to the touch. Maybe I would have kept the old thing longer.

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I wish I knew you when my childhood Odyssey 2 power supply would buzz and get hot to the touch. Maybe I would have kept the old thing longer.

 

My Jaguar wall wart does that...

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Getting hot is normal, unless it's "too hot to the touch" buzzing... normally it shouldn't, but it might just indicate a poorly assembled power supply, not a failing one. Still I would replace it, especially for a Jaguar... not that it's so precious :D but it's getting expensive, and a Jag power supply is super generic (9 Volts, barrel connector, 1200 mA)(before you ask, no I'm not a power supply freak. I googled it).

Edited by CatPix
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(before you ask, no I'm not a power supply freak. I googled it).

 

I tried typing in the question into my 1982 Odyssey 2 but all I got was "SELECT GAME"

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There is no way I can type this without sounding like a smartarse... but it's true. After we get the genesis and maybe TG16 some viable FPGA reproductions, the next logical choice for an aftermarket clone.

 

And we all know where to go for shells.

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You'd be surprised at how many people firmly believe that NOS systems are supposed to work like day one, and as the article mention, how many people hold the original PSU of older systems as the only viable option... when in most cases, especially today, they are the worst option.

 

I dunno....there are a lot of bad 3rd party power supplies out there for the NES. Ones that claim to handle multiple systems seem to be the worst. I've read lots of stuff on how these might or might not damage your system, something I'm not educated on, but after having THREE new third party PSs fail on me (two brands, one I bought twice), I DO try to get original nowadays. Maybe I'm just lucky, but I've never had a original PSU die for my older systems (though I have bought stuff at tag sales already having bad PSs).

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The mistake is trying to buy specialized power supplies. Most of our old systems use generic power supplies (I think the US NES and SNES might be exceptions with their odd connectors?).

But many people hop in and buy crappy power supplies with a custom "for NES" sticker.

I know a shop that sell power suplies which are reasonnably priced and I used one for years with my Famicom with no issues. In most cases the original PSU are decent, but refused to get a modern replacement when the old one fail, even if you pay 3 times the price of a decent generic PSU is a bit of a loss of money.

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After we get the genesis and maybe TG16 some viable FPGA reproductions

We've already got an excellent FPGA-based Genesis with the Mega Sg...

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