218: Nintendo Surgeon

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Nintendo Surgeon
Scary thought #138: Raptors coming down the waterslide behind me.
Title text: Scary thought #138: Raptors coming down the waterslide behind me.


The Nintendo Entertainment System, released in North America in 1985, helped revitalize the video-game industry after the video-game crash of 1983, with such games as the Super Mario Bros. series, The Legend of Zelda, the Mega Man series, Castlevania, and Metroid helping it stand alone as what is still considered by many people today, the greatest video-game console of all time.

However, it was notorious for glitching games upon start-up, due in no small part to the unusual shape of the game console, which required one to open the door, push the game cartridge inside, push down to lock it in place, and push the power button. The console was deliberately designed this way so that it wouldn't look like a regular video-game console (and wouldn't be associated with the still-fresh stigma of the video-game crash only two years previous), but it caused no end of pain for people wanting to play the games. It would work fine for about two years, but after that "cartridge tilt" would become a problem as either the game's or the console's electric contacts could become misaligned.

A ubiquitous fix for this problem among gamers was to take the cartridge out, blow into it, and put it back inside, all to clean out any dust inside the cartridge that would make "cartridge tilt" worse and occur more frequently. This was not a recommended solution by Nintendo of America, and didn't always work, but it worked frequently enough to enter gamer culture, and even today, people who had the NES as children remember having to do that. Some posit the act of cartridge reinsertion alone contributes most of the curative effect with the blowing only giving comfort/satisfaction value to the user if not introducing potentially harmful moisture as well.

The NES was 22 years old as of the date this comic was written. Someone who was 10 years old when they got their Nintendo for Christmas could very well be old enough in 2007 to have attained their doctorate degree, and so this comic hearkens back to the aforementioned cartridge fix by suggesting that a heart surgeon might try that on a real-life heart patient. And like the introduction states, that is a scary thought.[citation needed]

The title text is one of many xkcd references to the terrifying Velociraptor predator from the dinosaur movie Jurassic Park.


Scary Thought #137: The NES came out over two decades ago. Those kids are all grown-ups now.
[Two surgeons are in an operating room, leaning over a patient.]
First Surgeon: He's going into cardiac arrest. Stand by for defibrillation.
Second Surgeon: Wait. First let's try taking out the heart, blowing into the ventricles, and putting it back in.

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Was the NES really "notorious for glitching games upon start-up"? I always thought it was usually after the game cartridges had been around long enough to have attracted enough dust and dirt on the contacts to prevent proper electrical connection. Since the NES cartridges were basically a circuit board in a plastic case, with one end exposed for the edge connectors, dirty contacts could effectively add resistance to the circuits. Blowing on the contacts would displace the dirt. It would be possible to use rubbing alcohol or something similar, but many 10-year-olds would not have alcohol handy, plus the alcohol could leave a residue attracting more dirt in the future. Tryc (talk) 15:10, 18 June 2013 (UTC)

Wasn't just the NES, it was all cartridge-based systems, like the N64 and the GameBoy (I still do this with my eight-year old Advance SP). The nostalgic memories are kicking in now... (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I put tiny blobs of solder on each of the terminals and that would make it work. 05:49, 1 November 2013 (UTC)

I once had to do this to my Pokémon Sapphire. 03:38, 10 February 2014 (UTC)

Let's make this three decades soon, people ;) Maplestrip (talk) 15:44, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

is 137 in reference to the fine structure constant 1/137 thingy or just random numbers? 23:32, 11 October 2021 (UTC)Bumpf