We've all done it. Blowing on cartridge connections has (apparently) always been the most effective way of getting stubborn games to load, but according to MentalFloss, it could actually cause more problems in the long term.
MentalFloss spoke to Digital Press expert Frankie Viturello and he had some pretty damning words to say about the time-honoured method of game-cleaning.
While I admittedly may have dabbled in a little cartridge-blowing as a naive NES-playing youth, I’ve long-since been an advocate for not doing it with the stance that for whatever it may do to aid in the temporary functionality of an NES, it ultimately opens the door for damage and distress to the hardware.
I suppose it has a lot to do with the placebo effect. US NES hardware required, on most games, optimal connection across up to 72 pins as well as communication with a security lock-out chip. The theory that ‘dust’ could be a legitimate inhibitor and that ‘blowing it out’ was the solution, still sounds silly to me when I say it out loud.
So why has this procedure become so famous? Viturello offers his own theories:
The act of removing, blowing in, and re-seating a cartridge most likely creates another random opportunity for the connection to be better made. So removing the cartridge 10 times and putting back in without blowing on it might net the exact same results as blowing on it between each time. The moisture that occurs when you blow into a cartridge has some type of immediate effect on the electrical connection that occurs. Either the moisture helps to eliminate/move any debris/chemical buildup that has occurred when the contacts and the pin-readers rub together, or the moisture increases conductivity to a degree that it can send the data through any existing matter that was previously interfering with the connection. Those are my best theories.
Viturello has even backed up his stance with a semi-scientic study, where he took two copies of the same NES game and blew on one 10 tens a day while leaving the other untouched. The results are shown below.
So there you have it. When you blow on your NES cart, you're being cruel rather than kind.