As we get older we pine for the simplicity of the past. We hold the things of old near and dear to our hearts, even though we understand that some of those things have aged like yogurt in a tanning bed. Even though some of the toys and gizmos of our pasts aren’t even that old, the rapid pace of technological development quickly shifts the coolest items from 5 years ago in to the realm of old and antiquated.
Hence, Modern Nostalgia.
In our inaugural edition of Modern Nostalgia we will take a look back at an era of video gaming in which our games were not packed tightly on to a Blu Ray disc or a DVD, or even digitally delivered to us – they came to us via thick hunks of plastic stuffed with computer chips. Damn. That sounds like something a mad scientist hellbent on curing female hysteria with Tesla Coils would try to sell you at booth tucked away somewhere in a far corner of the World’s Fair.
I can clearly remember the first time I blew in to a non-functioning video game cartridge. No one ever told me about the technique. Like many other gamers of the late 80s and early 90s, the universe took note of my struggle to get my copy of Disney’s Adventures in The Magic Kingdom functioning, and the mystical forces of life bestowed upon me an idea that seemed to have come out of nowhere. “Hey,” the universe said to my 8-year-old brain. “Why don’t you blow in it?”
Normally when a voice enters your brain and suggests you blow something, the end result is crack rock. What I got instead was something along the lines of crack rock, but with far greater rate of tooth retention: a sense of mastery over malfunctioning technology.
With a few blows I was exploring the Magic Kingdom, taking a journey through the Haunted Mansion, and soaring through space in a Star War-inspired mini-game.
That game sucked, but that’s beside the point.
Looking back on it, blowing in to the cartridge was the first true meme most of us experienced. It was an idea that spread from person to person within a culture, and no one is ever quite sure who they learned it from. It just kind of sprung up in everyone’s heads simultaneously; it was an idea we all absorbed from each other, as if through osmosis.
As it turns out, though, blowing in to a game cartridge may not have actually been the best method of cleaning out dust particles and dirt. On the official Nintendo tech support page, number four on the list of game pak Dos and Don’ts specifically warns gamers to not blow in to the cartridge:
But if handed an old school NES and a copy of the Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt cartridge, one of the first things you’d do is give the slot a hardy blow and you’ll be well on your way to crushing Goombas and wanting to decapitate that goddamn giggling dog.