Fixing My Game Boy

When I was 5 or 6 my mom gave me a Game Boy with Tetris and Kid Icarus. I never really got into Tetris, but I really loved Kid Icarus. A while later, someone (probably my mom, too) gave me a copy of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I didn’t know it back then, but from today’s point of view, I’d count it as one of my all time favorite games (along with Final Fantasy 7, which just came out for iOS and which was announced to get a remake lately.) I have so many great memories about playing it off and on during my childhood.

For most of those past twenty-something years, I only had this one original Game Boy. And it let me play those few games I still had reliably. At some point, though, some batteries leaked into my beloved console and ruined it. After that, it wouldn’t turn on anymore. Heartbroken, since I loved this device so much, I wasn’t able to throw it away and so for the last couple of years I kept it in a drawer in our living room.

Last week, the fine folks over at iFixit had a microsolding introduction on their site which caught my attention. Jessa Jones taught Kyle Wiens and his colleagues how to fix devices on a micro-scale using a soldering iron, a hot air gun and a microscope. I found this so fascinating, that I wanted to try this myself.

Well, the Game Boy’s inside isn’t exactly as micro-scale as those modern phones and tablets are, but I don’t have the teeny-tiny equipment they have either. So I picked up my try-wing screw driver and opened up the thing. Inside I quickly realized, that the damage the battery acid caused wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. It was manly just the two outer contacts and the area around that that were oxidized and generally pretty gross. (The latter was also true for some of the other parts of the device which, of course, got a major cleanup as well).

So I cleaned off the board and desoldered the contacts, cleaned them using isopropanol and sand paper, and soldered them to the board again. After plugging everything back in the moment of truth came up: Will it show something on the screen or at least turn on the red LED?

It did. Not only did it turn on the LED, it also showed the Nintendo logo, followed by that familiar ding sound which was itself followed by what my brain immediately picked up as this lovely, yet cold and danger-announcing theme song of Zelda’s intro, that I had heard so many times during the all those years. I was so happy, I even made a short video.

This was a rather gratifying moment and I’m really thankful that iFixit is encouraging repair noobs like me to just give it a shot. It’s not as hard as it might seem.

Fun times ahead!