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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Replacing the battery in a Game Boy cartridge (yes, it CAN be done!)

A few weeks ago I found my Game Boy Advance.  Still in pristine condition after being in a really nice case all this time.  Vintage game consoles seem to be enjoying a renaissance lately, like systems that play Atari and Nintendo Entertainment System cartridges on high-def television sets.  And this particular Game Boy Advance holds a special place in my heart, it having been a gift for Christmas eighteen years ago.

I still had a bunch of cartridges on hand: Game Boy Advance ones as well as for the classic Game Boy and the Game Boy Color.  They all still work great!  Except for one small problem...

The cartridges that utilize battery backup have almost all run dry.

Battery backup in game cartridges goes back at least as far as the original The Legend of Zelda for the NES.  After choosing to save a game it would use the built-in battery to hold the game state and vital stats, like which items your character possessed, amount of life it had, whatever.  I guess the most well known example of batteries used in game cartridges are the first several editions of Pokemon, before it went to flash memory starting with the Game Boy Advance (though batteries still powered the internal clocks of those cartridges).

But as with all such things, the batteries eventually go dead.  And along with it any practical means of playing the game again. If only there was a way to replace that battery...

It turns out, that there is.  And it works amazingly well!

Here's what you need:

From left to right: Game Boy cartridge, new CR2025 battery with tabs for soldering (available here), soldering iron (and sufficient amount of solder) such as this set that I used, and set of security screwdrivers (like this set available on Amazon for $6.99).

For the first attempt I used my copy of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening.  Bought when it first came out in the summer of 1993.  Took me a few weeks to beat it (SPOILER: the entire game is just a dream, sorta like when Pam Ewing found Bobby in the shower).  Twenty-seven years later the battery inside the cartridge had long been dry.  Perfect specimen for experimentation.  In the pic to right you see the cartridge along with the 4.5mm screwdriver.  None of the Nintendo gear seems to have used standard screwdrivers.  Instead they're special "security" screws.  That set for seven bucks I just told you about?  It comes with 3.8mm and 4.5mm screwdrivers as well as a tri-wing screwdriver that's supposed to come in especially handy for Game Boy Advance cartridges.  Along with opening up other Nintendo cartridges and game systems.

So first we open the cartridge (shown with the new battery):


Instead of lifting straight off, the top of the cartridge sort of slides up and out from the rest of the plastic casing.  And then we get to the guts of the thing:

See that round looking gimmick?  That's the original battery, which is what will be replaced.  It looks welded to the board.  Which, it kinda is.  But it's going to be a snap to remove it.

Simply heat up the soldering iron and apply it to the places where the battery is soldered to the board.  It should not take much effort at all to do this to each solder.  Do NOT apply the iron to the battery itself!  Just on the two metal tabs coming off of the battery (which, is what they are there for):

 And here is the old battery now removed from the cartridge:

Make extra sure that you are soldering the right tabs to the proper places on the circuit board (i.e. + to + and - to -.  But if you keep in mind how the old battery was placed, it should be easy to match them up right):

Here is our new battery completely soldered onto the board:

And now the cartridge is closed up and screwed down tight, looking brand new as ever!

But will it work??  The game turned on fine when inserted into the Game Boy Advance.  I started a new game/file and after playing around with it a few minutes I saved and turned it off.  Waited thirty seconds before turning it on again.

And there is the saved game:

The entire operation took less than five minutes!  Emboldened by the first surgery, I now turned the soldering iron to Pokemon Blue.  I bought this on a lark in 1998, out of curiosity about what the Pokemon craze was about.

A few minutes and one new battery later...

My Pokemon Blue now has at least 22 more years left before it needs the battery changed again.  Which means I've plenty of time to catch them all before I turn 70.  Who knows: I may buy a GameCube and the other intervening consoles between Game Boy and Switch or whatever, just to keep expanding my collection until the day I die.  Yes, that too is possible.

So if you want to extend the longevity of your Game Boy cartridges, don't be intimidated by the batteries!  A few simple tools are all you need to keep your games going for the next several decades :-)

Friday, November 27, 2020

Chris and Bennie's Trans-Atlantic Pecan Pie!

 Last week my good friend Bennie, a physician in Belgium, shared on Facebook a photo of a pecan pie she had made.  It looked magnificent!  I asked her for the recipe for it and she sent it along.  Turned out that it's from a French-language cookbook of American recipes.  Well whatever: I'm still counting it as a recipe from a foreign language book :-P

It looked so decadent that I had to make it, even though I've never baked anything more than brownies before.  And after some cross-oceanic consultation about things like proper temperature (at one time I thought it was going to bake at 800 Fahrenheit... which didn't sound right...) and some finagling with extra ingredients like corn syrup, I think it's safe to say that in light of what friends were raving yesterday at Thanksgiving dinner, we have concocted a masterpiece!

So here is the recipe for Chris and Bennie's Trans-Atlantic Pecan Pie:


1 9-inch pie crust

3 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of salt

1 cup corn syrup (I use good ol' reliable Karo brand, dark)

1 cup pecans

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (or 150 Celsius for our friends in Europe and abroad).  Whisk together all the ingredients, except the nuts.  Pour into pie crust.  Cover with pecans cut in two lengthwise (Bennie also suggests crushing the pecans).  Bake for 70 minutes.  Let cool at room temperature before placing in refrigerator for setting.  Wait 1 hour before serving (or wrapping in plastic wrap for transport to dinner elsewhere).

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving... 2020?

Maybe 2020 is as good a year as any to bring back a tradition on this blog: listing the things that I am thankful for.  Having all the craziness and challenges that Twenty-Twenty has tossed our way, perhaps it will make thankfulness that much better.  Make our blessings more appreciated.  I want to believe so anyway.

So here are the things I'm thankful for in 2020:

1.  Having the friends that I have, who I consider very much to be real family.

2.  My dog Tammy: as precious to me as a child.

3.  Housing, food on the table, a car, and too many other things that are often taken for granted.

4.  Speaking of food, this year I've learned how to cook more than ever before.

5.  That I've been writing again for publication.

6.  That I completed my first book.

7.  That I have a challenging and rewarding career, that I get to go into every day and really help others with.

8.  My colleagues at work, who truly have become as dear to me as anyone.

9.  A faith in God that, I like to believe, is becoming rekindled.

10.  That I was finally able to play... and complete... Fallout 4.

11.  That warts and all, I can say that I live in the United States of America and that I still believe in the best about this country.

12.  That though it took a sizable hit from The Rise of Skywalker, I'm still counting myself as a Star Wars fan.

13.  That I'm discovering new ways to better manage my bipolar disorder and PTSD.

14.  That despite it all, sometimes even myself, I am still alive.

And there are probably other things that could be put on the list, but you get the idea.

All things considered, that's a heck of a lot to be thankful for in the year of Our Lord two thousand and twenty.

Who knows.  There's still a month left.  Maybe some more blessings will come still...

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Just watched Ron Howard's HILLBILLY ELEGY

I think Hillbilly Elegy must have hit Netflix this week.  A friend and I were discussing it just yesterday but I had no idea it was coming out so soon.  I was about to start on The Queen's Gambit (a series getting lots of high praise from people I trust) but I went with Hillbilly Elegy instead.

Ron Howard's latest film hit hard.  Parts of it were like a sucker-punch to the gut.  Hillbilly Elegy slapped me hard in the face and didn't give a damn.  So much of this movie that resonated with me, and not all of it for good reasons.

Let me be succinct about it.  I know people that are like the people in Hillbilly Elegy.  And I could see some of myself in it.  Maybe too much for the circumstances that life has put me in at the moment, but I digress...

Based on J.D. Vance's 2016 memoir of the same name, Hillbilly Elegy spans the course of roughly fourteen years in the life of a Kentucky/Ohio family.  I haven't read the book (yet) but I could identify with the world of young J.D. in this film.  The sense of feeling trapped, and realizing that a person has to want to escape hard enough to make it happen.  Family as something to love as much as be captive to.  The strength to break away without losing one's sense of identity in what came before.

So much that I could say about this movie.  It's going to take some time to sink in, no doubt.

Look for Amy Adams and Glenn Close to sweep up a whole bunch of awards for their portrayals in this movie.  Especially Close, whose character of Mamaw Vance might be more accurate than many of us would like to admit.

It's not a beautiful movie, but it is an honest one.  And I may watch it again soon (but not before watching A Quiet Place, which at least one friend has told me I'm depriving myself by not seeing it yet). 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

To whom it may concern:

 Go stick your head in a goat!

That is all.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Today is Veterans Day

 My father, Robert Knight, circa 1958.  He was 19 years old, serving in the United States Navy aboard the Seventh Fleet flagship U.S.S. Northampton.



Thinking of all members of the United States armed forces on this Veterans Day.  Thank you for your service.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

This game show host brought dignity, class, and an astounding intellect into millions of homes for almost forty years

 "Who is Alex Trebek?"

Rest in peace, good sir.

Friday, November 06, 2020

Want some commentary about this presidential election?

 No?  I don't care.  You're getting it anyway...

The more I am finding out ("voters" born in 1850, 160,000+ ballots going for ONE candidate in a single dump, software "glitches" etc.) the more I am of the persuasion that this presidential election needs a nationwide do-over. This time with NO mail-in ballots and paper only.

But realistically, I don't see that happening.

We are hurtling headlong into a very dark and chaotic time.