Game Gear repair log

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May 192012

Not much to say here. Usual Game Gear faults of low sound and hardly any brightness on the screen. Always down to poor grade/leaky caps.
I had 2 of these to do so ordered up a bunch of capacitors and just changed the lot out.
Both of these were my mates but said I could have one of them if his one worked.

I never took any pictures of the internals as I wasn’t originally going to log this but as I’ve not got much else at the moment I thought why not.
All the original capacitors were surface mounted ones but the replacement ones I used were radial ones and there is plenty of room internally to allow the case to be closed up again, plus it makes it easier to solder them in.

Anyway, the sound is back nice and loud and the screen brightness is pretty decent. Shame the actual screens in these things were poor to begin with.

 Posted by at 12:09 pm
Apr 162012

I grabbed this little fella from eBay not too long ago for very nice price although it was sold as having vertical collapse on the screen.
As it happens this was a complete lie but it is eBay so I should have known better.

On powering up I was greeted with nothing. No ‘Vectrex buzz’, no noises of any sort, nothing!
Getting the easy stuff out the way first I checked the plug fuse. All OK in there.

Time to open it up and see what we can see.
I saw dust, and lots of it.

Let me take a moment to explain a little something about the Vectrex. The picture above shows the logic board in its housing. In the Vectrex it is not just a matter of removing a couple of screws and taking out the board. Everything is connected to everything and sometimes not by means of plugs either, they are soldered in there so removing the logic board took a long time and a lot of pictures were taken of various wire locations and a lot of tiny screws were removed.

I checked voltages at the transformer and got 240v. I checked the output of the transformer and got nothing. Problem #1 found.
The transformer is a standard 9-0-9 VAC type and I bought a replacement from Maplin (thanks to Mesmeric_G from UKVAC for pointing me in the right direction).

In the mean time I set about cleaning this logic board down.

Whilst the board was out I tested the on/off/volume pot, this checked out OK (but more on that later).

So a few days later the transformer arrived and I went about fitting it. Once everything was in position to test I fired it up and…….nothing!
Turns out my on/off/volume pot is a little temperamental on one of the power lines and will occasionally give a poor connection causing the voltage to drop to around 4v. As a temporary fix Ive hardwired the line in the ON position and am using the plug as a means of turning it on and off. As Im unable to find a suitable replacement for this switch I will probably add a DTSP switch at some point in the future to control the ON/OFF function.

So now Ive got a booting Vectrex with sound.
Another problem now. It boots straight into the Mine Storm game that’s built in.

I know for a fact that there is a Vectrex boot screen that should appear first. The game also doesn’t respond to any of the controls and it locks up when it displays “PLAYER 1”

Looking at the schematics that are floating around it looked like the sound chip is also responsible for dealing with the controls.
The chip in question is an AY-3-8912. This chip is socketed so removed it and fired it up.

The Vectrex logo is back but I have no replacement chip to use in this yet so that’s where this log will end for now.
I’m positive that’s the only problem left now so will try find a replacement chip somewhere.

Thanks to Phu from the RetroComputerMuseum for his advice. His knowledge on the Vectrex is unsurpassed.

 Posted by at 1:11 pm

Virtual Boy repair log #2

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Mar 112012

As with all VB’s and in my previous repair, one of the screens goes a little strange, in my case it was the left screen.
I initially used the oven fix method which worked well but only for a short amount of time.

I fired it up today and was greeted with the same left screen showing garbage.
Rather than use the oven trick again I decided it was time to try one of the more adventurous methods out there.
Turns out there is a nice video on YouTube of how to fix it using a soldering method.

Instead of dropping a load of solder onto it I used some liquid flux and a small amount of solder. You can see it working quite easily and no braid was needed to mop up the excess.

The whole thing only took a few minutes and worked perfectly when I put it back together.
Time will tell how long this lasts but I don’t see why it should cause issues again.

 Posted by at 4:28 pm
Mar 102012

Stiggy dropped round today for a cuppa and brought his sick Master System with him. I have 2 of the mark 1 MS units so we did a swap.
Basically this system was always seeing the UP direction pressed on port 1 even with no controller connected.
Looking at the schematics it would appear that the custom IC 315-5237 has an internal pull-up resistance on each pin and the controller grounds this to register a button press. As I found the pin giving out a permanent low signal chances are something has gone wrong internally.
What I did was fit a resistor between this pin and VCC which changes the default state to a logic HIGH but will still allow the controller to drive it LOW for the button press. Almost certainly not the ideal way of doing it but I don’t know the MS very well at all so this will have to do.
The system now works perfectly. This MS also has a couple of built in games which my old one didn’t.


 Posted by at 6:58 pm

Virtual Boy repair log #1

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Jan 212012

Got a Virtual Boy the other day with the Flash Boy Plus cartridge.
The unit worked fine with the Red Alarm game that was already on the cart but when I changed the game to Bound High I was greeted with a solid red screen. The music played and I could run the game blind but that was no use.

I reflashed with Red Alarm and after a couple of screen artifacts in the left screen the game played fine.
After a quick Google around it turns out that this can and will happen to every Virtual Boy made and occurs when the glue holding the FCC ribbon deteriorates so that connections become unreliable.
There are a couple of different fixes for this. One is to strip the plastic back and solder the very fine connections directly onto the board which is a permanent fix, the other is to but the little module into the oven at about 80 degrees C for a couple of minutes then apply pressure to the cable afterwards in the hope that the glue will reset making a nicer connection. This is not a permanent fix but will get you away. The later method is what i opted to do as I’m pretty lazy and dont have the chemicals needed to dissolve the plastic.

The first hurdle is actually getting into the unit as Nintendo kept with the same gamebit screws they used for other devices but they also stuck them down a deep hole so standard gamebit drivers cannot normally reach as they are too fat.
The solution is to make your own from a flat blade driver. I used my milling machine to cut it down and cut a groove in the end. Its certainly not pretty but worked perfectly.

On opening the ribbon cables are on either side of the unit and is held in at the board by 2 little crosshead screws. DO NOT try removing the 2 bigger screws near by, they control alignment.

The top of the cable just pulls out (carefully!).

Get a bit of tin foil, sit the offending article onto said foil, preheat the oven to around 80 degrees C and bake for around 1.5 – 2 minutes.
After its done remove it (its not hot) and rub or apply pressure onto the connection side until its sufficiently cooled and the glue will have reset.
After this, take some sticky tape and apply it to the area wrapping it round so that it applies a little pressure onto the connection.
Refit and test.
This worked perfect for me and many other people have said the same thing.

Time to waste my weekend playing some headache inducing goodness

 Posted by at 11:43 am