If there’s one thing everybody remembers from playing the original Nintendo, it’s that the kid across the street told you that one time that when your game wasn’t working it totally helped if you blew on the cartridge. And how did he know? Well this other kid told him this one time and it totally worked. And then he also heard it somewhere else, so it works, okay? It gets the dust out or cools it down or something. And then you tried it like five or ten times and then IT WORKED! so it must be true.
But does it actually work?
Thank god then for Chris Higgins over at mental_floss, who finally answers the question we’ve all been thinking about for the past 25 years. It’s actually pretty lengthy and well reported, but I’ll sum up the answer for you:
There are some good gems in this one- such as the fact that NES cartridges suffered from the same problem that the Statue of Liberty does, which is that copper develops a patina, and removing it could make it even worse:
To make things worse, the cartridges themselves had copper connectors. Copper tarnishes when exposed to air, causing it to develop a distinctive patina. While this patina was often not bad enough to cause problems, an overzealous kid (ahem, like me) might notice this effect and (ahem) attempt to remove it using all sorts of things from erasers to steel wool to solvents (side-note: my father, being a computer guy, had access to a magical substance called Cramolin — apparently worth its weight in gold, it could clean anything). Enough overzealous cleaning could ruin a connector, rendering the cartridge unplayable.