Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Just blow on it

With the recent cock up of older PS3 units thinking we had a leap year, and Sony’s savoury consumer advice of ‘don’t turn it on for now’, it makes me think back to a simpler time when blowing on things was usually enough to solve the problem.

I’m ashamed to say that I arrived relatively late to the console party, with my lovely Nintendo 64 being the cherry popper that first put a game pad in my hands. I was always a PC player before this as for some reason my parents decided I wasn’t going to have a games console, until one day it happened anyway. But that’s a whole different story filled with tiny violins and tears that is now being sealed in my Pandora’s wall safe.

The absolutely brilliant thing about the N64 was how seemingly easy the thing was to maintain. Today the news is full of red ring of death this, Playstation clock exploding that, and this is just from normal playing conditions. I’m actually afraid to keep my Xbox on for more than two hours at a time in case it does throw a wobbly and abruptly decides to smother itself, demanding a return to the mothership for some CPR.

My N64 was dropped, sprayed with water, tripped over, pulled on to the floor via the controller trip wire effect and it still works today. I don’t know if I am lucky, or if my particular console is protected by voodoo, but I do know that if this treatment was given to the 360 or PS3, it would be a much different story.

This might be as much as anything that the machines are now a lot weightier and therefore have more things in them to break. A fall that the relatively small N64 would have just bounced back from with no interruption might be enough to reduce today’s machines to a small pile of circuitry rubble. More components also means more things that can overheat or cause various other problems.

The biggest technical advantage of the N64 however comes when the games themselves stop working. If you were unlucky enough to encounter a black screen when trying to play a game, just take the cartridge out and blow into the connector slot at the bottom.

It didn’t always work the first time, but after multiple goes, 99 times out of 100 it would play as good as new. I like to think that the blowing technique helped a little in this process, as when blustering like you were a hurricane didn’t work, my mind immediately decided that you had to treat it more sensually, and tickle the protruding piece of circuit board with a light whisper of air. Whatever volume of air was blasted or teased in, it always seemed to work.

Fast forward to now, and somehow I don’t think that blowing on an Xbox would do anything to prevent it red ringing. If anything you’d be blowing the hot air back in and making the problem even worse, making you feel terrible as it would just be something else in your life that you flirted with, only to be treated to a show of no affection and a break from happiness.

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