When aging electronics fail

Reserved for classic gaming discussions.
User avatar
scotland
Posts: 2346
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

When aging electronics fail

Postby scotland » October 10th, 2018, 9:09 am

Having a streak of issues on older electronics, and I'm wondering if I am hitting age related failures - the right hand side of the 'bathtub' curve of failure rates.

I acquired several handheld computerized games, about as old as an Atari 2600 would be (1977-1980 time frame). They would power on, but not operate correctly. My guess is that the capacitors have gone. Common estimates are that most capacitors have a 15-25 year lifespan, while these are 40 year old devices (but there are only about 3 capacitors in the entire device)

There are modern reproductions of some of these games, but like many attempts to emulate video game consoles, they have been fair from perfect. Some have not even been close, like reproductions of Mattel Football where you can move forwards and back (in classic Football, there is only a single button, and you only move toward the end zone). The defenders also can move backwards now. The game is different on a basic level. Other attempts mess up timing or other issues.

For video games, the community was large enough and loud enough to keep pushing for better emulation.

I've also encountered failures in older computers, but those are relatively complex circuit boards compared to the Atari 2600. Anyone experienced any failures with ROM cartridge video game consoles? I wonder if many of them might begin to break down in the next decade. Its not catastrophic as a capacitor kit is only about $10, but you still have to put in the labor/pay for labor of fixing it.

Sut
Posts: 786
Joined: April 8th, 2015, 4:23 pm

Re: When aging electronics fail

Postby Sut » October 10th, 2018, 3:13 pm

Only ROM cartridge based system I’ve had issue with is the Game Gear notorious for bad capacitors.
The Atari ST computer is a different story lots of maintenance required. I’ve now given up with disk drives for and use a floppy Emulator with SD card - life is so much easier.

User avatar
scotland
Posts: 2346
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

Re: When aging electronics fail

Postby scotland » October 10th, 2018, 6:18 pm

Sut wrote:Only ROM cartridge based system I’ve had issue with is the Game Gear notorious for bad capacitors.
The Atari ST computer is a different story lots of maintenance required. I’ve now given up with disk drives for and use a floppy Emulator with SD card - life is so much easier.


I have also gone to SD card floppy drive emulators on several of my computers too.

User avatar
VideoGameCritic
Site Admin
Posts: 11939
Joined: April 1st, 2015, 7:23 pm

Re: When aging electronics fail

Postby VideoGameCritic » October 10th, 2018, 7:14 pm

I agree that classic gaming is a high maintenance hobby. I've had issues with most of my older systems. Fortunately few have been beyond fixing.

In some cases I've sent them out to be repaired/upgraded (Virtual Boy, Turbo Duo, Colecovision). In other cases I've had backups on hand (Dreamcast, Atari 2600, Xbox 360). I had some friends who are pretty handy with the soldering iron, and they've fixed a few as well.

The good news is, you tend to get more knowledgeable about diagnosing problems and fixing them as you get more experience doing it.

Herschie
Posts: 549
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 11:44 pm

Re: When aging electronics fail

Postby Herschie » October 11th, 2018, 4:42 am

And still, how many of us had an Xbox 360 crap out while our NES or Master System were still kicking like the day they were unboxed?

User avatar
ptdebate
Posts: 946
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 8:39 pm

Re: When aging electronics fail

Postby ptdebate » October 11th, 2018, 6:08 am

Herschie wrote:And still, how many of us had an Xbox 360 crap out while our NES or Master System were still kicking like the day they were unboxed?


I swear that my n64 will never stop running. That thing was built like a tank.

ThePixelatedGenocide
Posts: 173
Joined: April 29th, 2015, 9:06 pm

Re: When aging electronics fail

Postby ThePixelatedGenocide » October 12th, 2018, 7:47 am

Isn't a little early to panic?

After all, we're perfectly okay with an NES that flickers on and off just years after purchase, and Saturns that don't save, and PS1s that need to be set on their side. Red ring of death? It's just the first step in their cycle of rebirth.

But then a trusted childhood friend lasts for decades, without complaint, and at the first sign of trouble, suddenly it's time to think of the day all our favorite games will end?

Worry about that, when it's time to actually say goodbye. For a while yet, we should be more worried about our own condition. It's a bit harder to replace our parts. And we can't be emulated in any form worth mentioning.

User avatar
scotland
Posts: 2346
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

Re: When aging electronics fail

Postby scotland » October 12th, 2018, 4:49 pm

ThePixelatedGenocide wrote:Isn't a little early to panic?

After all, we're perfectly okay with an NES that flickers on and off just years after purchase, and Saturns that don't save, and PS1s that need to be set on their side. Red ring of death? It's just the first step in their cycle of rebirth.

But then a trusted childhood friend lasts for decades, without complaint, and at the first sign of trouble, suddenly it's time to think of the day all our favorite games will end?

Worry about that, when it's time to actually say goodbye. For a while yet, we should be more worried about our own condition. It's a bit harder to replace our parts. And we can't be emulated in any form worth mentioning.


What you are describing, such as the NES issues, are design issues, bending of physical contact points or things like misalignments in the disk drive. The issue in these older electronics is a chemical failure in the electronic components themselves, often dielectric breakdown in the capacitors. Its wonderful these circuits boards, made for products that were not especially designed for long lives, are still operating with original capacitors at all, but many have failed. There are capacitor replacement kits available for many things, but for other items, when the capacitors go they are probably being discarded.


Return to “Classic Gaming”