Anyone old enough to have played with an original Nintendo NES knows the problem: You plug in the cartridge, turn on the system, and get a blank screen and the power light blinks at you. The schoolyard fix is to take out the cartridge, blow into it, then put it back into the system. Then, with a little luck, you can play your game. The trouble is, that’s just a short-term fix. In the long run, it makes the problem worse and eventually the system can’t play games at all. The solution is to clean them. Here’s a process for cleaning NES games.
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If you misplaced the AC adapter/power supply that came with your Nintendo NES, or it broke, you may need a replacement Nintendo NES AC adapter. Fortunately, you have a number of options.
Most devices are super picky about electricity. Don’t use random AC adapters as a general practice. What I’m about to say applies to the original Nintendo NES console, and the original NES only. I have general advice on replacing AC adapters that applies to other devices.
I spotted it on page 597 of the 1983 Sears Christmas catalog. “Two big names play the same games,” the headline boasted. Next to the venerable Atari 2600, Sears presented the Coleco Gemini video game system, an Atari 2600 clone.
In 1982, Coleco built an add-on to make its Coleco Vision game system Atari 2600-compatible. Atari sued. Coleco poked the bear by making the Gemini, an outright clone. Sears had sold Atari 2600 clones before, but they were actually real Atari 2600s with a different label on them, supplied by Atari itself. The Gemini was more of a true Atari 2600 clone.
What is retro gaming? The specifics depend on your age, but it generally means playing vintage (retro) video or computer games today. The part people argue about is what constitutes retro.
There isn’t a lot of agreement or consensus about that, and I have some ideas why.
What is a game cartridge? If you’re asking, you must not have grown up in the 1980s. But that’s OK. We’re happy to share our generation’s fun with you.
A game cartridge is a plastic case containing a circuit board, a connector, and a ROM chip. CDs and DVDs ultimately displaced them because they offered higher capacity at a lower cost. But in the 1970s and 1980s, the only lasers our game consoles had were the ones they drew on the screens in games about aliens. We liked our cartridges, even if we called them tapes sometimes.
The Atari 2600 CPU was a nondescript MOS 6507 chip. Neither Intel nor Motorola had a CPU chip in the early 1970s that could meet Atari’s price point. MOS Technology didn’t have one either, but they asked Atari what they could afford. Then they made one.
The 6507 is so nondescript, some of them don’t even have the number “6507” anywhere on them.
I went looking for a reliable, modern controller to use on my Retropie setup. I eventually settled on a Logitech F310, betting the Logitech F310 on Retropie would make a nice combination based on my experience with other Logitech peripherals in regards to their quality and value for the money.
The reviews I found suggested the F310 continued in this tradition, and I found enough people who said they got it working with Linux to feel confident I could get it working on the Raspberry Pi. And sure enough, I did.
I paid $18 for mine, and my first impressions of the quality were good. It’s precise, and button pushes register with a slight click. It’s no worse than a Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo controller, and if anything, I think I liked it a little better. A pair of Logitech F310s costs more than the Raspberry Pi board, but playing games is a lot more enjoyable when the controller does what you want it to do all the time, not just most of the time.
The F310 wasn’t a drop-in replacement for the controller I’d been using, though. I had to configure it for Retroarch, the software that provides most of Retropie’s console emulation.
I bought a Raspberry Pi over the weekend intending to turn it into a retro gaming system. I’d rather not have a mess of systems and cartridges out for my kids to tear up and to constantly have to switch around at their whims; a deck-of-cards-sized console with everything loaded on a single SD card seems much more appealing.
I followed Lifehacker’s writeup, which mostly worked. My biggest problem was my controllers. NES and SNES games would freeze seemingly at random, which I later isolated to trying to move to the left. It turned out my Playstation-USB adapter didn’t get along with the Pi at all, and was registering the select and start buttons when I tried to move certain directions, pausing the game.
When I switched to a Retrolink SNES-style pad, the random pausing went away. The precision reminded me of the really cheap aftermarket controllers of yore for the NES and SNES. I concluded my controller, which I bought used, was worn out. Ultimately I ended up switching to a Logitech controller, which worked well.Read More »Setting up Retropie on the Raspberry Pi
I’m reading a book called Trade-Off, by former USA Today technology columnist Kevin Maney. It’s primarily a marketing book.
Maney argues that all products are a balance of fidelity and convenience, and highly favor one or the other. He additionally argues that failed products fail because they attempted to achieve both, or failed to focus on either one.
An example of a convenient product is an economy car. They’re inexpensive to buy and inexpensive to keep fueled up, but don’t have much glitz and you probably won’t fall in love with it. A high-end sports car or luxury car is a lot less practical, but you’re a lot more likely to fall in love with it, and gain prestige by driving around town in it.Read More »The trade off of fidelity and convenience in marketing, and how it doomed my favorite company
Lifehacker asked this week what graybeards like me (mine gets longer every week) miss about the old days of computing.
I don’t think it’s any single thing.Read More »What I miss about the old days of computing