I cannot leave tech stuff alone.

As a kid I always wanted to take new stuff apart to see what made it tick, and to see on the off (VERY off) chance that I could alter it to make it better. Whenever we got a new VHS player, remote control toy, computer.. whatever it is. I always wanted to tear it open... I know most people say 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. Sometimes you gotta break something to learn how to make it better (or, at least.. how it goes back together in the event of a real repair situation).

This was way before stuff like iFixit and Instructables. If you wanted tech support you had to dial some random technology store nearby and hope they knew what you were talking about. If it was something specific - no chance.

Anyway, fast forward to now (some 20+ years on... ugh). I've probably taken apart every tech thing in my house to at least clean it, but a lot of them I've changed parts on. A few that spring to mind:

  • Nintendo 64. Took it apart, swapped the red power indicator to a blue one, installed an RGB AV mod, cleaned and polished all the metal contacts and heatsinks as well as gone over the whole board with IPA. I also tore open an N64 Rumble Pak and moved the location of a resistor which allowed it to be powered without batteries (NO idea why this wasn't already a thing.. the console delivered enough power to the rumble pak, that resistor just stopped it). I also put the case in the dishwasher to clean it, but this was a bad move. It kinda took some of the finish off. I replaced it with a different case eventually. The whole thing runs with a pretty expensive RGB Scart cable from RetroRGB.
  • PlayStation Classic. Can't quite recall how, I think I shorted two resistors around the USB port stuff on the board (this effectively disables them) so that full power was being delivered to the USB ports. By default they only provide 100mA, without the resistors they can deliver the full 1000mA+. I also modified the system so that it ran RetroArch with a dozen or so emulators on board.
  • GameCube. Oh boy. Complete custom paint job, everything got cleaned with automotive polymer cleaner including the jewel at the top so it was scratch-free. Power LED changed to purple instead of orange. XenoGC modchip built in, an SD card mod so I could load GameCube and GameBoy / GameBoy Advance games from card. This also allows me to play stuff like game hacks and randomizers on genuine hardware which is neat. Also have a boot disc called Swiss which has loads of fancy options, similar to an emulator might have like resolution options, cheats, etc. It also has a HDMI mod attached which allows direct Digital to Digital sound and video to the TV, so games look and sound as good as they are gonna.
  • Switch. I've replaced the back of the console with a white shell.. and the Joycons are also all-white. Although I've recently changed the Joycons to one orange and one purple so people don't think I'm trying to make it look like the OLED one (it's not). I've also polished up the metal backing plate for unknown reasons. You can't even see it. I've also opened a few sets of joycons to put in some conductive padding to try and prevent joycon drift. Seems to have worked? Not sure. Maybe I've just been lucky!
  • PS2. Really weird thing to take apart. I did a really crappy LED mod to it.. I just piggybacked some 12V LED lights onto the main power cable so they light when you turn the console on. You can kinda see the light through the vents at the front. Kinda pointless but it was an interesting thing to take apart. I also sanded down the exterior so it had a smooth finish instead of that textured feel (no idea, I liked the sound of it).
  • GBA SP. Replaced the screen with an IPS fully backlit display. I also did a deep clean of the internals. This was quite fun, as the results were AMAZING.
  • Countless DC fans and battery powered fans -- simple enough. Just increase the voltage... the fan will spin faster. Obviously this will reduce the life of the thing, but as things like fans are only uses seasonally by me... I can live with a few dead ones. But so far amazingly I've only had one casualty.
  • All of my Desktop PC's have been custom built by me, I've always researched every piece that goes into it so you'll never catch me with anything that's low quality. But that doesn't mean I won't go for cheap brands at times - sometimes there's a diamond in the rough.
  • Apple G4 Cube. This thing was amazing for the year 2000. It was celebrated for it's silence - it had no fans. But it wasn't silent.. It had a hard disk drive! I managed to stuff a SATA SSD into there and install OS X Tiger onto it. I also tried my best to get Linux installed onto it, but I failed a hundred times. I wasted many but a week on this... I eventually just decided to call it quits and treat the thing as a museum exhibit. I also cleaned up all of the plastics as they had begun to yellow over the years of UV exposure.
  • I've also opened up a handful of phones I've owned. iPhones, Samsung Galaxy phones. Mainly just to clean them after months of use, but twice for battery replacements (those pull tab things NEVER work properly dammit) and once for a screen and glass replacement.
  • iPods. Loads of iPods. iPod Mini and an original iPod v3 in particular. I've spent HOURS wet and dry sanding these to get a brand-new looking smooth, shiny finish. After decades in peoples pockets they tend to lose their lustre. I've also replaced a lot of batteries and replaced the old microdrive and picodrive tech with SD cards.

There's a ton more, but hey. This blog is my section of the interwebs. I can stop when I want. :ROFLMAO: :ROFLMAO:


So from my years of tinkering. Here's what I suggest:

  • A decent toolkit. If it's electronics, an iFixit precision set. You should get the biggest kit they do as you never know what weird tool you might need. The problem with cheap kits (and in particular, the tools you get with replacement batteries etc) is that the bits are crap and the drivers often can't deliver enough torque. And you're lucky if they are magnetic. They'll chew your screw heads. If it's big stuff like nuts and bolts.. Wera. They're expensive but they are ridiculously good. Teng are also good.
  • A clean, organised space to work. Never underestimate the power of a well-lit work surface that is WHITE (or close to it). Don't work with dark plastics and black screws on a dark table for christ sake, you'll be constantly lookin for them! Also make sure you remember where things go back when you take them out. Keep a mental note, or (what I do) arrange the screws and stuff on your work area as if you're looking at your piece in an exploded view. Makes it way easier to put stuff back together.
  • Be patient. Stuff like adhesives and plastic tabs don't come out super easily. Gently heat adhesive stuff instead of blasting a heat gun or hairdryer at it. And when you're prying with a pry tool, never use a metal one or the back of a spoon like some people might. Use plastic/nylon stuff. You can get stuff open without snapping anything.
  • Set some time aside and make sure you're able to do the work uninterrupted. You needing to go to the bathroom or something halfway through just ruins the flow.
  • A decent soldering iron. Don't use the butane powered ones or some cheap crap you found on Amazon. I personally use the classic Hakko fx-888d. It gets to temperature in seconds and the tips seem to last forever.
  • Also get a load of flux paste. Don't get the pen dispensers, it's better just to slather flux on without too much precision. As long as it's over the joint, you're good.
  • 99% Isopropyl Alcohol. This is perfect for cleaning circuit boards, contacts.. or anything really. It completely evaporates also. As a bonus it kinda smells like vodka also (DON'T drink it...)
  • Stuff designed for cars is the best stuff. Paints, polishes, cleaners, waxes. If you want good quality finishes and satisfying results... go automotive.

There's probably more to it but I need to return some videotapes.
 

jamesyfx

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I'm now the proud owner of a modded GBA AGB-001, which is the original version of the Gameboy Advance.

However.. seeing as it's me... It has brand new shell and buttons (all white), glass screen, IPS display, improved speaker with a dehum/denoise mod and a rechargeable battery built in, with a USB C port neatly cut out. Unlike a lot of recharge mods this one can be charged and played at the same time. I've also got a cart called an EZ Flash which basically lets you load whatever Gameboy game you want from SD card.

I've got a Gameboy Pocket coming from eBay this week too which has some kinda fault where the screen doesn't work.. I'm excited to be able to fix it. I'm thinking if the machine turns on, the speaker works and input works.. It can't be that hard to fix. We shall see!
 
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Wish I had that same dedication while growing up, I did want to take stuff apart but didn't have any to do so, much less the needed tools. These days I find my hands a bit too unsteady to attempt much of that anymore.
 
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