Archive for the ‘Ruined Cartridge’ Category

Chasing Dreams

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

Regardless how the last few entries to this site have appeared, I don’t usually like to be maudlin. But I wanted to touch on a subject that I’ve talked about before: the aim of this site, and where it goes from here. But that requires a brief history lesson.

I registered the domain name on December 17, 2001 on a lark. I was in the midst of finals in college and we were learning all about web programming languages, scripting languages, databases, and lots of etc. I figured it would be fun to grab a domain name and do some of that for myself. At that time, services like Bust A Name didn’t really exist (or if they did, I didn’t know anything about them), so I drew inspiration from my surroundings, saw that I was wearing threadbare socks that day, found that was available and registered it, put together an old computer in my kitchen running Debian GNU/Linux, downloaded PHP-Nuke, and boom, I had (more or less) had a website.

I didn’t really have much of a goal at first. I just wanted to learn about putting together a website, and I think that I’ve succeeded in that (plus lots of other things). But my goals were ever changing, and I could never fully dedicate myself to a concrete vision for a long enough length of time. I would even spin up a sister site for a while once an idea struck, but intereste tended to fall off for any of them after too long, which left me discouraged. I also tried lots of things with this site, most of which didn’t really pan out. Like that failed attempt at turning this site from a regular ol’ blog way back in ought-three, to doing gamy-style blog-posts-masquerading-as-news, for a few weeks in ’07, right after I finished my short stint in the video game industry.

Image showing an uptick in the numbers of articles written from June through July of 2007

That was a productive two months

Yes, a lot of this material was covered a couple of years ago, so I won’t really be retreading that old ground again, but this site is important to me. It’s one of the first things that I created that I actually stuck with and added to and experimented with and learned from. So, it’s not going to go away any time soon, but I have to seriously look at it and decide what I want to do with it, where I want to go, and if maybe something is holding me back.

At one time I wanted to be come a professional web-guy that talked about video games, technology, and various other techy-related-things, and I have made some half-hearted attempts to crowbar this site into that mold, but that didn’t happen. In fact, very few of the things I’ve done here have even been seen by more than a handful of people (with a couple of exceptions).

So, why does this site struggle to find anything to ‘stick’? I have a few theories, and a lot of data, but I’ve narrowed down a few reasons that might not be the whole reason, but are enough to give me pause:

  1. This site has struggled with its identity for nearly 13 years. I never really had much of a focus for it, and whenever I did think I had a great idea, I shunted it off to another site where it never really gained much traction, and this one suffered from neglect in the meantime.
  2. I don’t market my site enough. When I first registered this site, I would go around to computers on campus and navigate as many computers as I could to, and leave the browsers there. I wouldn’t set it as their home page, but I would try to make it look like someone was browsing the site, lost track of time, and then just left the browser open to something I had written. It didn’t really work very well, but these days I might spend a half a day writing some article or another, and might give out a feeble, “Hey, I wrote something, check it out, I guess” on Twitter… and that’s it.
  3. It’s possible that the things I write here just aren’t that interesting to anyone but me. I don’t really have any hard statistics on how many people I have subscribed via RSS, but I’m pretty sure it’s not many. Any time I post something, I get a brief uptick in views, but little to no feedback. I might get a comment or two from a friend or family member (which is appreciated, mind), but content here doesn’t seem to get traction anywhere, which is concerning. That leads to frustration, which leads to a content drought, which leads to even fewer visits, etc.
  4. I admit it. Crummysocks is embarrassing to say. It was a cute flight of fancy when I was a struggling college student, but now, well, it’s kind of less cute. I don’t really think about it any more, until I am confirming some information over the phone with a real actual person. When they’re verifying my email address I can hear them trying to hold back the, “Crummy Socks? What on earth is that about?” in their voice, and then I’m embarrassed. I don’t even like telling people I know about the name of this site because it sounds kind of dumb any more.

I could go on and on, but I think there’s a lot of good takeaway here. I need to re-envision what it is I want for my website to be. It’s probably time to de-emphasize this site (hey, 13 years is a good run) and put my full effort behind something a little more… respectable, I guess?

Not that this site is going to go away any time soon. You don’t just work on something off and on for thirteen years and then just casually discard it like… something funny… that you casually discard. No, now is the time to focus. To take all of the things I’ve learned from my failures, creating a YouTube series, running a video game marathon, and all of the disparate things that I’ve learned to do, and put them all together to make… something.

Okay, I haven’t actually figured out what that thing is yet. But these weekly updates are to help me shake off some of the writer’s rust (that’s a thing, right), which is definitely a step in the direction that I want to go.

Doc’s Fix-A-System Plus

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Let’s suppose for a moment that you’re around in the late 80’s / early 90’s. Let’s further assume that you have more than one video game console (I know, that only happens to movie stars and oil barons, but bear with me). Let’s even further assume that you would want to keep your systems clean for some reason, and the thought of buying one kit for each system seems like a gigantic waste of your money. Wouldn’t it be awesome if there were some kind of thing you could buy that would allow you to do all of that tedious maintenance on all of your systems?

Well, behold!


Once again, the third parties come to the rescue.

The solution here is actually pretty ingenious. You have a hunk of plastic that attaches to the end of a cartridge for each of the supported systems. You just attach it to the cartridge of your choice, insert and remove it from your systems a few times, and you’re good to go. It also has something called a ‘detergent-based cleaning solution’ that you add to the ‘cleaning wand’ to scrub the contacts of your games clean. This is a little more involved than the official NES cleaning kit method, and is probably not designed to have you buy refills of the cleaner over and over again.

Probably not.

But this thing definitely doesn’t hurt to use. Unless you leave a ton of the cleaning gunk on your games and it dries up in there, I guess. That could be bad.

So, don’t do that, okay?


NES Cleaning Kit

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

We’ve all been there. Practically since the old style NES was a thing, games almost immediately didn’t work right. The screen blinks, stutters, has scrambled graphics, whatever. There are lots of homebrew methods to get the problem fixed (most of which are not recommended) from blowing on the contacts (quick fix, not recommended), to cracking open the cartridges and using oven cleaner (quick fix, absolutely not recommended), to using high-grit sandpaper (substantial chance of ruining the cartridge immediately, not recommended except as a last resort in the most extreme cases), to a cotton swab and alcohol (generally recommended, but it’s kind of labor intensive, so most people hate to do it).

But let’s say you’re a kid in the 80’s and 90’s. You don’t really want to fiddle with any of the above methods. I mean, trying to find and use a security bit, then spend what could amount to hours taking apart and swabbing cartridges? No thanks! But, what if you had… This?!

NES Cleaning Kit Box

An actual cleaning kit? Manufactured and endorsed by Nintendo? Well, that could be just fun enough to be worth it.

Opening the box reveals a few interesting goodies.

NES Cleaning Kit contents

It’s got a usage manual, a little scrubber, and a vaguely NES-shaped cartridge thingy. The scrubber is made to clean the gunk out of your NES cartridges. You wet the dark end with either distilled water, or a 50/50 mix of water and isopropyl alcohol, then scrub your cartridge. Shockingly, this is the same method that I recommended above, only with a giant scrubby pad instead of a flimsy cotton swab.

The other piece is for cleaning on of the neglected bits when people clean their NES games, cleaning the connector inside the system itself. All that funky junk on the contacts of the games you’re wedging into your NES is also getting on those contacts inside the NES, keeping them from making good contact. And, if you’re like me, you don’t really want to take the whole NES apart if you don’t have to, so this lets you at least attempt to clean the innards of your system with a minimum of fuss.

And, given that the NES is coming up on 30 years old, I think that’s something that I can get behind.

NES 42 in 1

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Oh, knock-off carts. Where would we be without you? Probably off somewhere doing whatever with a few more dollars in our pockets, but without your unique experiences.

Like this cartridge that has 42(!) games on it. Wow! That’s a lot. Check out this totally bodacious cartridge, too.


Well, I’m in, obviously. So, let’s check out some of the games on tap here (click to enlarge)


Oh yeah, Dig Dug, Lode Runner, and… Millipecle? Ramio Brother? Super Mari Bros? Penguin Adventure? Hrm, these aren’t quite the games I was expecting.

And, it turns out that this is the story with these weird multi-carts. A lot of pirated games with the copyright information removed, and a lot of small, simple games to pad out the numbers. I mean, check out some of this stuff

It turns out that some of the smaller, weirder games aren’t too bad. And the games like Super Mario Bros with all references to Mario subtly removed play like they should, so it’s just kind of a fun curiosity. Especially since these things have no official collectible value. And that means that when you do run across one, it’s either really cheap or way too expensive. But they’re a pretty fun way to spend a couple of bucks on, since playing one is kind of like a treasure hunt to find a good game.

Unless you find an Action 52. That just had bad games on it, so I wouldn’t bother with that.

King James Bible

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

I’ve written about this thing before, but I figured I’d retread some of that ground here. Mostly because I just ran across this cartridge again the other day while looking for something else.

Bible Game

This is clearly an unlicensed Game Boy game from our friends at Wisdom Tree, and it’s got the King James version of the Bible on it. How exciting!

When I bought this, it actually had a box and manual, but those are lost to the Mists of Time(tm), but you don’t actually need those to extract the maximum possible amount of enjoyment out of this cartridge. You could, for example, read the Bible. And since the Game Boy screen can only show about 30 words, you’ll be flipping a lot of pages. Kind of like trying to read a book on your smartphone, except much more difficult.

Or you can play a game, like Hangman. Except it’s not really Hangman, it’s the same basic idea, but with sheep in a pen that escape when you get a letter wrong.

I tell you all of this because the first time I played the sheep game the word I got (which is randomly chosen from the Biblical text) was ‘circumcise’. That was exactly one more time than I ever wanted to see that word in the context of a video game.

But this game did come in handy a few years later when my Humanities class in college started to study a few chapters from the Bible. I was able to bring in and use a Game Boy for a college-level class, and the teacher was Ok with it.

And that is awesome, no matter how you slice it.


Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Right, I still don’t have an Intellivision, but I do have this.

Intellivision Frogger 1

That’s right, a copy of Frogger. A game that people who don’t even like video games have heard of.

Awkward sentence aside, it’s pretty great that I found a copy of this, in its original box, with all the trimmings, 30 years after it was released. It’s the actual reason I have Bomb Squad the other day. I saw this thing and jumped at it, and the guy threw in Bomb Squad for $1. How could I refuse?

No, really, I’m asking because I have a hard time refusing things.

But check out the innards of this box. This thing even smells like the 1980’s. Apparently the 1980’s smelled a lot like old books.

Intellivision Frogger 2

And if that doesn’t get you excited, maybe this excerpt from the manual will:

Each time you bring 5 frogs home, you’ll hear a short tune. The game will continue at a more difficult game level with your remaining frogs. The speed of the cars and trucks will vary from lane to lane. Traffic patterns will change. There will be fewer floating objects on the river, and the speed of the objects will vary from fast to slow. Frogger-eating snakes will appear on the riverbank and otters will swim around in the river.

Great stuff, right? The excerpt also talks about the music, and I did kind of want to bring that up, too. Check out the first song that plays when you start a new game of Frogger.

Pretty catchy, right?

Now check out this Japanese kids’ song called “犬のおまわりさん – Inu No Omawarisan” (literally, The Dog Policeman)

What’s that? They sound the same? You’re darn right they do.

And who says that finding old video games can’t be fun?

Bomb Squad

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

While growing up, I never had an Intellivision, and I never was friends with anyone that had one (or if they did, they kept their mouths shut about it). But, I happened across this gem at a yard sale, and the price was right, so I jumped on it. No, that’s not why the box is flattened.

Bomb Squad Box

But why would I get a game for a console that I don’t have? Well, I might get one some day, but that’s a pretty flimsy excuse. The bigger reason is that it was bundled in free with the game I actually wanted… which we’ll talk about later this week. A third reason is because I really like the package art of a lot of the older titles.

But there’s not really a lot of art to be had here, either.

Bomb Squad Box Innards

I was intrigued to find that this was a game that talks (or so the box says). I didn’t think that this capability came into use much later, especially for home entertainment devices. And even then we were restricted to a word or two, at maximum, compressed so much that it sounded like the clip was recorded by putting a microphone against the wall of an apartment and hoping your neighbors said something you could use in your game.

But this one was different. It uses a synthesized voice, of course, but it actually sounds decent.

Now I feel like I need to find an Intellivision system, and an Intellivoice module.

Shouldn’t be too hard, right?


Packy & Marlon

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Video games are good for a lot of things: procrastinating instead of doing homework, making you late for appointments, saving fake princesses from imaginary lands, etc. But they also occasionally can be used to teach people things a bit more important than how to min/max your Pokemon (but maybe not as complex). Like what? Like diabetes.

No, really.

You may never have thought that there would be a video game where you would take a diabetic elephant through a summer camp while he has to manage his blood sugar, did you?


But is the game any good? Unfortunately, I don’t know. It turns out that I stumbled across this game, unopened, at a local thrift store, and this game is worth more sealed than opened. So, I’ll just have to play it vicariously via videos on YouTube.

Somehow I feel like I’m not missing much.

The Last Starfighter

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

I really tried a couple of times to get through The Last Starfighter (the movie), but I never could do it. So it kind of stands to reason that I never sought out the video game adaptation. But that all changed this past weekend when I made an interesting find.

I didn't pay $12.95 for it, either.

I didn’t pay $12.95 for it, either.

“Big deal,” I hear you say? Well, okay. I admit that the game itself wasn’t the whole reason for me picking up this particular Ruined Cartridge. But I did find this interesting for a couple of reasons.

First, look at that case. It’s pretty typical of the cases you would get if you would rent a NES cartridge at some point in the NES’s heyday. It’s even got something approximating the box art on the front. And on the inside?

The Last Starfighter Case Internal

Pretty standard stuff… except, what is this?

The Last Starfighter Detail

A sticker for The Video Vault in Radcliff, KY? A business that no longer seems to be in operation?

Oh, right. The other thing.

The Last Starfighter Insert

What we have here is an excerpt of the manual of the game, typed out and pasted to the carved up box and wedged into the plastic cover of the game. For anyone growing up in the age of games coming in DVD cases, you might not be familiar with the concept of disappearing manuals. But if you have a manual the size of a doubled-over postcard but without all the durability, you create a situation where the first person to rent a game would get a manual, but the second person would get a manual with no cover, and the third person would get a couple of staples (if he was lucky). This seemed like an elegant solution to that problem, rather than wasting time making photocopies or some other such nonsense.

Wesley Alexander’s Werewolf Cartridge

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

If anyone knows Wesley Alexander, you might tell him that I have his Werewolf cartridge.


I was able to clean up the stray marker… er, marks, and the contacts with some rubbing alcohol.

Unfortunately, this awful game now works perfectly.