Last year’s Christmas present to my oldest boy (2017), started to misbehave in such a way that made playing it no longer enjoyable. This GB Boy Colour, a Game Boy Color clone, likely not made with the highest quality components started to have switch problems. It either wouldn’t turn on or turn on and immediately off, have continual reboots (is that what a Game Boy does, reboot?) or some other odd screen dimming, random lines flickering across and other peculiar behavior. This malfunctioning device was causing my boy serious frustration.
Old Tech Is Better Tech
These older Nintendo Game Boy games are great because they don’t require internet connection so there is no way I am being spied on and there isn’t any advertising. On top of it, these old games games are still fun many years later.
If you want to know more about the device itself just search “GB Boy Colour” and there are numerous reviews. What is particularly fantastic about this device is that it is a color screen with backlight and it not only has a bunch of built in games but it has the cartridge slot so that you can pop in those 25 + year old games and play them with an even better experience than you had in the early 90s. I wasn’t into the Game Boy when it came out but this particular unit is pretty great.
I turned this broken device into an education opportunity for my kids. They not only get to see the inside of this portable fun-box, they can also observe the process of soldering and the importance of taking care around tools, like the soldering iron. I consider it a huge win that I burn myself or my kids.
Taking apart this device was a bigger headache than it should have been. The Nintendo specific screw heads could not be removed with the tool I purchased to remove it. I could have customized the tool to make it fit in the counterbore but since I don’t have a metal lathe (yet), I was not able to do so. I suppose I could have chucked it up in my drill and used a metal file or die grinder to grind it down but that seemed like far too much work. Instead, I decided to use an “easy-out” to remove the screws and replace the screws with standard cross-recess drive style.
Six screws is all that holds this case together. Pretty typical plastic screws you would see in devices of this type. Two of the screws are in the battery compartment which I didn’t immediately see.
Once the case is apart, there are three more screws that hold the main board to the front case.
Once separated, you have to be careful not to let the screen dangle around and get beat up. That reveled the power switch soldered joints.
My inexperienced observation of the device reveled that the soldering of the switch was likely done too cold so there wasn’t a good bond between the board and the switch. The fix was rather easy, I was able to use my soldering iron to heat up and add a bit more solder. When I completed soldering the switch I also noticed that the switch itself was ever so slightly cracked. The metal contact was pulling away from the sliding action. I fixed this by applying a little glob of hot glue to properly support the bits to keep it from pulling apart.
After reassembling this Game Boy Color Clone, I gave it a test run (read: played games instead of get work done), lost track of time for a bit until my boy insisted that he try it out himself.
I was pretty fortunate that I was able to just re-flow the solder on this switch and beef up the walls with hot glue to hold it together. Using this as an educational opportunity with my kids made for some good family time. It brought about many questions about what the components do, how a soldering iron works and why it melts the solder. I not only helped them to understand electronics a little bit, it also created respect for the tools and the need for increased caution. From their perspective, the most important part was being able to play Super Mario Land and Ms Pacman again without the thing getting stuck in reboot cycles.