Retro Computing – Game Boy Restoration

30May19

Playing Tetris on my Gigatron reminded me that I still had my original Game Boy in a box in the loft, which had last been out when my kids were too young to remember.

I found it in a sorry state – the screen cover had fallen off, and the case had turned orange. Sadly I forgot to take the ‘before’ picture, but it may have been even worse than the one pictured in this Reddit thread ‘Quite possibly the most yellowed DMG I have yet to come by‘. Here’s what it looked like once finished:

Ersatz Retr0bright

The first problem I went after was the yellowing of the plastic. I found a couple of videos from ‘The 8-bit Manshed’ that provided a good overview of disassembly (part 1)[1] and plastic restoration (part 2). Having previously read the Wikipedia article on Retr0bright I knew that all I needed was some hair salon hydrogen peroxide (already on hand) and some sunlight[2].

I put the salon creme on with a brush, popped the parts into a zip lock bag, and left it out in the back garden. As can be seen above it came out nicely :)

Screen

The detached screen went back on with a dab of superglue (cyanoacrylate) on each corner – easy.

Battery terminals

These had picked up the usual green encrustation over the years. The removable ones went into vinegar whilst the case was whitening, and I sprayed the PCB mounted ones with contact cleaner and brushed them off.

When I put things back together it wasn’t firing up, as the PCB +ve terminal dome had corroded badly (which happened back when I used the Game Boy regularly).

The solution was to wrap some kitchen foil around the terminal, which now provides good conduction from the battery to the system.

Screen Lines

With everything nominally working again it was time for some Tetris, but that revealed some missing lines on the screen. It’s a common problem, and one with a well documented repair. One thing I did differently was to place a piece of scrap paper over the ribbon connection to the LCD and (briefly) run the soldering iron directly over that, which takes care of better heat transfer (as conduction beats convection) whilst avoiding direct contact between the ribbon plastic and the iron tip.

I can now get back to some of my old games

Including the 8×1 cartridge I picked up in Sham Shui Po’s ‘Golden Shopping Centre‘ in ’92.

I think my favourite was Shanghai, or was it Bubble Bobble – they were all good, maybe apart from the Chinese language ones that I couldn’t figure out :/

Notes

[1] Easy when you have a tri-wing screwdriver, which I didn’t back in the day, but that became an essential when DSs were a feature in $son0’s life.
[2] The 8-Bit Guy’s ‘Adventures in Retrobrite – New techniques for restoring yellowed plastic!‘ provides a good run down of various alternative techniques.

 



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