In an effort to expand my retro gaming collection, I picked up a broken snes from eBay. I narrowly missed out on one that was described as having no power, which I expected would be an easy fix. Instead I got one that was simply described as ‘not working’.

It arrived quickly and I hooked it up to find that it powered on fine but the graphics were all messed up.

I connected up the sound and could hear that the game seemed to be running fine but obviously something was wrong with the rendering of the picture. I messed with the controller and could hear that it was progressing through the game menus, so that gave me confidence that the console might be salvageable.

I did some (Google) research and the only issues that seemed to match what I was seeing was a bad ppu chip. Otherwise known as the Picture Processing Unit chip.

Actually in the snes it’s called a s-ppu chip, and there are two.
S-PPU1 (5C77-01)
S-PPU2 (5C78-02)

They are custom ICs and are not replaceable so my heart began to sink. I couldn’t find any other repairs for this. I did however find some fixes where the traces had been corroded so I cleaned up the board with a baking soda & water mix and then some isopropyl alcohol. The board was in great shape but I could then see that there was some minor corrosion on 3 pins. No prizes for guessing which chip had pins with corrosion. PPU1 !!!

The pins can be seen in the below picture.  


The checked the pin to via connection with a multimeter on connectivity and found that there was no connection. When I looked closer, I could see that the trace was totally broken on the board.


After pulling out my soldering iron, magnifying glass and shouting many expletives as I attempted to solder a jump wire to the correct pin – I got it connected up and was ready to test. I added some hot glue to hold the wire in place too.

The soldering wasn’t the most beautiful but the connection was sound, and once I fired up the console – all was good!!

I can add this to the successful fix  list. 😄



Nintendo NES Restoration

Posted: March 26, 2016 in Uncategorized

Maybe it’s the pending milestone birthday. ..
Maybe it’s the possibility of having something that I didn’t have as a kid…. regardless I decided to pick up an original NES from ebay.


I went for this one, which was listed as ‘AS-IS for Parts or Repair’, cause where is the fun of buying something working, right?

While it was in transit I picked up Mario 1,2 and 3 from a garage sale web site. The assumption being that at least one must work and would be good for testing.

The NES arrived and wasn’t in great shape. It was quite yellowed on the front and had some minor damage on one side, however with some gentle persuasion, it would actually play a game.
I’d have to insert the cartridge and move it around, however it refused to play Double Dragon.
(another game I’d picked up on ebay and couldn’t be sure worked)

I’d always planned to fully clean and restore the console so I set about taking it apart.
First job was to get rid of the yellowing, which I’d seen was possible through the use of peroxide and sunlight!

Using gloves (important!!), I spread the peroxide cream on to the console cover and covered with cligfilm/shrink wrap. You can see that it’s mainly the front of the console that is affected.

After 3 hours in the Texan sun, it was time to rinse off the cover and see if there was any improvement.


It was much better although there were some patches due to the shrink wrap making contact with the plastic. Another treatment would probably help although I was impatient to put it back together and to see if there console worked any better.

So while the console was drying I cleaned the games with some isopropyl alcohol and a few q-tips. Then I got the game connector and decided to risk one of the approaches I’d seen on youtube: To boil it for 10-15mins.


I wasn’t very comfortable about doing this but I thought it was worth the risk.
Cleaning with isoprpyl and q-tips didn’t really work for the connector as the metal pins are quite difficult to get to.

After boiling it seemed ok….. so it was time to put everything back together.


It was straight forward enough and all the Mario games worked perfectly without any help.

And even more importantly, Double Dragon started!!!


Sega Game Gear – recapping

Posted: March 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

I recently picked up a Game Gear on eBay for $5 + shipping.
It was described as “Broken, Not Working” so I thought I’d take a chance on it.

When it arrived, I could see a lot of battery corrosion one of the battery compartments, so I hooked it up to a DC power supply to see if this was the issue. Sure enough it came to life.

I took it apart and removed the battery contacts and gave them a good clean with a paste mixture of baking soda and a little water and allowed to dry overnight. The next day I tested it with batteries and it worked perfectly.

The only minor issue was the screen needed to be held at a quite specific angle to get a good picture. With help from google, I found that this is typically the capacitors that cause this. The original caps are all surface mounted as you can see circled in the pic below.

gg2 There are a few different revisions of the circuit board and you can buy cap kits specifically for each version, but I just ordered a set of 210 assorted caps off ebay for about $3.
(Enough to recap 2/3 game gears if you wanted to)

The thing about capacitors is that they don’t have to be replaced with exactly the same specification. The capacitance value must be the same but the voltage can be the same or higher… e.g. C37 above is a 10uF, 6V capacitor – However the replacement I used was a 10uF, 25V.

Anyway, once they arrived a few weeks later from China, I set about replacing the old ones. The original caps are glued to the board, so it’s best to use a pair of small nosed pliers to jiggle them loose. You can then de-solder them from the board. I found it easiest to wiggle the cap back and forth until the legs broke, and then clean up the remaining legs afterwards.

With the new caps in place, it was time to close it up…. and that’s when the fun began. 😐

As the new capacitors take up a lot more space than the originals, the case did not want to close. I ended up having to re-solder a couple of the capacitors so that they would fit closer to the board. One cap, I had to rotate totally around.

C47 above ended up pointing the other way – but I made sure to keep the polarity correct!

Anyway, once back together the screen was much brighter and clearer. It still wasn’t perfect from all angles, but I suppose that’s the way it was coming from the factory.

iPad mini – screen going crazy!

Posted: February 26, 2016 in Uncategorized

ipad mini mainThanks to my kids, we’re on our 4th screen on our iPad mini. One lasting as little as a few hours before nose diving off the top of the fridge. When ordering the latest replacement screen, I opted to buy a rubber case at the same time.

This has proven to be a great investment, however recently, the screen of the iPad took on a mind of it’s own. It would swipe between screens, switch apps.. and in general the screen wasn’t responsive. It was just randomly jumping around and totally unusable.

It was obvious there was some issue with the digitizer but the iPad hadn’t been dropped and looked fine.

I removed the cover and things improved. So, I guessed that the screen was getting squeezed to the innards with too much force. Rather than risk another screen getting smashed due to lack of protection, I once again opened up the iPad to look for a clue.

I soon noticed some bare contacts. I’m not sure if I missed something on one of the repairs but I guessed this could be the issue.

ipad mini.jpgI put some regular electrical tape over the top (and over the back of the home button) just to lend some support and protection.

Put it all back together and the issue was gone. And the home button felt much more solid too!

EDIT : A couple of days later the home button stopped working. I removed the support tape and it was much better. Dont add tape behind the home button. 🙂

Just a quick post about a headphone jack replacement.
I picked up a set of used speakers from a garage sale site for $5.

The intention was to tear them down for use in my arcade cabinet as I wanted to pull the amp I was using at the moment for something else.

However, when I tested these, the sound quality was way better than the PC speakers I was currently using. The only downside was that the connector was a little bit dodgy.
I’d lose the right speaker and have to jiggle and bend the cable to get it back.

So I went to Frys and picked up a replacement 3.5mm jack. ($1.19)

img_1900I used my wire strippers to cut the original cable and strip the 2 wires inside.
This automatic wire stripping tool is unreal. I used to be pulling at wires, damaging them in the process with my old pliers type strippers.

Anyway, I used my multi meter to work out which wires went where. Although it’s fairly straight forward…you’ve a 1 in 2 chance if you just guess it!

img_1896_annotated2The ground cable is un-shielded – and it was a reasonable guess that Red would be Right (which it turned out to be).

I then set my multi-meter in continuity mode to ensure I connected the speakers to the right terminals. The nose of the jack is left, the center is right, and the base is ground.

N.B. Remember to slide the headphone screw sleeve cover on to the cable before soldering the wires in place.

Once soldered and closed up, it’s looked better than new 🙂


For anyone who isn’t familiar with the abbreviation IoT, it means the ‘Internet of Things’. This is the popular term being used for adding internet connectivity to everyday things.
Turning on your air conditioning using your mobile phone, or your fridge alerting you that you’re low on milk… or your smoke detector automatically calling the fire brigade.

IMG_1849The ESP8266 is a very cheap chip that enables wifi access for only a few dollars. I picked up two that were on development boards, for only $7 a piece including shipping!

(You can see how small they are in the pic – with the wifi module being about thumbnail sized)

The bare bones chip can be found for as little as $2 on ebay!!! – however, I wanted something that I could get up and running relatively easy so opted for a dev board.

The first issue I hit is that it seems that the development board is kept cheap by not using the standard FTDI to serial interface. I had to install a CH340G driver.

However, it was easy to know to do this, as it’s printed on the rear of the ESP8266 board. 🙂

driversOnce installed correctly, you should see your device detected as this in Windows Device Manager.

Now  it was time to try to talk to the chip….

Many of the tutorials suggest to use a COM port with the baud rate of 9600. While I could see I was getting something back in putty, it was mostly garbage and I wasn’t able to run any of the AT commands that the tutorials used.

Through some more searching, and trial and error I found that baud rate 115200 worked.
I was able to sent AT – and get OK back 🙂

The AT+GMR command returns the firmware, and it looked like I would have to flash something usable to the device, as none of the other AT commands really worked.

But after further messing with the commands, I got some to work.




I discovered that command would fail if you used the delete key for any typos.. given I tend to make a lot of mistakes when typing, this happened a lot for me. I guess the terminal window sends all the characters, including the character representing <delete> and so the ESP8266 doesnt understand the command.

I stumbled upon a list of AT commands that seemed to work for this firmware.

Now that I had it connected, it was time to find a project to apply it to….. 🙂

A quick and easy fix this time. The back glass on my wife’s old phone had been totally shattered.


This was caused by the battery inside expanding, resulting in a lot of pressure on the back cover. When I removed the damaged cover (just two pentelobe screws holding it in place either side of the charging port), you can see how much it had increased in size!

I got a new battery from ebay and a new back cover.

The battery is very simple to replace. There are just two small screws holding a retaining plate in place. Once you remove that, there is a grounding clip that will likely jump out. It will need to be replaced, as I assume it grounds the antenna which is part of the back glass structure.

IMG_1775Point to note on the cover… it does NOT clip in.!
I made the mistake of forcing it, and broke the new back glass.

Fortunately I had another one of order, as I had been waiting so long on this one to arrive from China.

You place the panel slightly higher than it should be, then it drops in place, and can be slid downwards in to the correct position.

Easy if you don’t force it. !