Restoring the Classics

It’s a known cliché of men spending hours in their garages restoring old cars or motorcycles. The modern, dorky version of that is restoring old gaming equipment. My Non-Finite Electronic order arrived today. The GameBoy Classic I got on eBay also just happened to arrive today. So I spent most of my day finally opening up my two vintage GameBoys and tinkering with them. I don’t have all the equipment yet to install the backlighting, so I focused on cleaning them.

And there was a lot of cleaning to do! The GameBoy Classic was in horrible shape. Actually, I felt almost a little ripped off. The case was really dirty and yellowish. The buttons were extremely worn down. The display was heavily scratched. Using the new tri-wing screwdriver I got from Non-Finite, I disassembled it and put the case it in a bath. That helped a lot but there is still a visible yellowing of the case on the front. I presume the device was left in the sun for longer periods of time. I did some research and found this fascinating recipe for reversing this kind of aging. The website even has a detailed breakdown of the chemistry behind it! It seems like a dangerous and complicated procedure. So of course I’m eager to try it!

But for now the bath shall suffice. There is not enough sunshine to make this work and I don’t want to buy a UV lamp. The scratched screen lens and the worn buttons is not something I can repair. But I already ordered a replacement lens and I will order the replacement buttons some other time.

Moving on to the pocket, things didn’t go so well. The pocket was actually in good shape. The only thing I wanted to clean out were the battery contacts. Apparently the previous owner had a battery leak and the contacts had some residue. I had sometimes troubles to turn it on. Also it didn’t look so hot, especially with the transparent case. So I disassembled the case and put this one in a bath as well. I didn’t have any battery cleaner so I thought I will go with oven cleaner. After all, the contacts were metal, right? Well, that turned out to be a very, very, very bad idea. The oven cleaner not only removed the bater residue. It also basically dissolved the metal. Half of it crumbled and broke away. All that was left was just a rusty stub. Oh fffffffffffuuuuuuuuuu…..!!

I thought I would try to put a drop of solder in there. However, my last results with the soldering iron weren’t actually encouraging. Fair enough, I epically failed again. I was having some serious problems even melting the solder. I’m pretty much convinced that it’s all not my fault, my soldering iron just sucks big time. I got a drop of solder out eventually but since I wasn’t able to heat up the contacts as well, there was no good connection and the drop broke away when I tried to put everything back together. Along with the drop, even more of the contact broke away and I decided to give up on soldering. I simply bent the remaining metal of the contact into a weird shape that would reach all the way up to the battery. Thankfully, that worked! But for the long run, I will need a better solution in there.

So now I have a GameBoy Classic and a GameBoy Pocket. I must say although the Pocket is smaller, better looking and uses less batteries, I’m kinda drawn to the classic one. Because it’s so big, I can hold it better. The screen is smaller and has poorer contrast but due to it’s greenish hue, it somehow looks better. The reflector at the back of the GameBoy Pocket’s LCD sparkles a little. This creates a lot of visual noise. The GameBoy Classic produces a sooth, clean image. At least as far as motion blur goes, both are equally bad.

I ordered some more supplies, among those a new soldering iron. I’m dedicated to build in the backlight in one of the GameBoys. I’m not quite sure which one to do first. It seems like there is less to lose with the original GameBoy and it would be technically easier. On the other hand, the GameBoy Pocket would look much cooler and I’m would be more interested in playing it backlit. Decisions, decisions…

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

2 responses to “Restoring the Classics”

  1. Peter Bickhofe

    was macht der typ da für ne chemiepampe?
    also in good old europe gibt es den schlecker oder dm drogeriemarkt.
    da gibts 1a platikreiniger!

    meine alter mac würfel sieht danach aus wie neu!

    ach ja, und weissen fensterrahmen tut das zeug auch ganz gut. :-)


    1. Krystian Majewski

      Guter Tipp! Habe ich schon woanders gehört. Werde ich mal probieren. Das Problem ist aber dass der Gilb eigentlich keine Verschmutzung ist sondern eine durch UV Strahlen verursachte chemische Reaktion im Plastik. Aber ich lasse mich gerne überraschen. Fühle mich mit so etwas erstmal viel wohler als mit Peroxid. Wenn es soweit ist poste ich gerne Ergebnisse!


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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