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Fired it up tonight, some issues with my Coleco, thoughts?


atarilovesyou
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I powered up the beast after an embarrassingly long time, and was a bit nervous. I've had everything cleaned (the carts anyway) and generally only use my multicart anyway, so I carefully set it all up and powered it up. In the past, I've noticed a bit of issue if I slide the power switch on kinda slow, so a good quick click seems to make it power up without issue. This time, the menu for my multicart came up pretty glitchy, and when a game loaded, the colours of 'Colecovision' weren't nearly as bright as what they should be. The game glitched and I powered it all up again. After a couple tries, I popped in Ladybug. Now the colours on the splash screen were correct, but the game got glitchy over a few minutes...the ladybug sprite had some extra pixels, and then the enemies...so on. Back in with the multicart. Powered up now, tried Cabbage Patch Kids. Very glitchy, lots of random letters and such.

 

After a few tries, though, carts in and out, it started to work much better. The RF isn't too bad, the blue level select screen is a bit shimmery (wavy? You know where you get one solid colour and you can tell that something isn't quite right, mostly noticed on the level select). I tried Tarzan tonight and got halfway through the game before it just crashed. Usually after turning it off, unplugging the cart and back in, it works ok.

 

I don't get any screen glitch if I touch the RF cable on the console, nor the controllers or the game in the port (although my 'reset' button on my multicart doesn't seem to work quickly...takes some time, and then glitches...requiring a console reset). When I touch the power supply jack, though, I can seen some slight screen fluctuations but nothing too bad. My controllers all work and passed a diagnostic on my multicart. Finally, there were some noise issues early on where it's almost like you're getting some 'snow' sound from a blank channel, but it doesn't usually last long. A few quick power resets and it goes away. Kind of like a static noise.

 

I realize my gear is 35 plus years old, and I treat it as such. It seems to like original carts better than my multicart, and feel better too (the cart connectors are probably a better fit on the originals, of course). Any ideas about the issues I ran into? I've heard that the power switch itself can be problematic, and that a rebuild can clean things up considerably. I've currently owned this system about ten years now, and when I first picked it up it played almost flawlessly. I keep thinking the power switch just needs more cycles!...meaning I should be playing it more often, in any case. Do any of these symptoms seem like I might have some major troubles down the road? I have a spare console for backup that I'd like to try taking apart the power switch, maybe even an AV mod, but I'm hesitant to touch my main console until I really need to. Thoughts? Thanks.

 

On a side note, I had a HELL OF A GOOD TIME firing up the ol' Coleco, this system was my first and I tell you it just gets better with age. I was lucky enough to get a full hour on it tonight: Donkey Kong, Mr Do!, Tarzan, Smurf...no multicart tonight, just the carts. Which, as I'm getting older, I'm really starting to appreciate more. Both from nostalgia, and just the physical usage of carts the way it was meant to be. I have multicarts for all my systems, but carts is still the way to go in my opinion (if you can: I made the mistake of going to ebay and saw some of the prices of the homebrew stuff...holy and shit were two words that came to mind when I saw the prices!)

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Well, you know, with 'tronics this old that are lightly glitching.. I could recommend a some simple things.

 

Clean and buff all contacts with a mild abrasive like paper or cardboard. Then coat it all with Deoxit contact cleaner for longevity. You can use IPA in a pinch, but it doesn't protect and lubricate like Deoxit. You'll be doing it again and again. Deoxit can be a 3 year treatment. Longer on closed/sealed switches. And even longer yet on contacts that don't move like IC sockets.

 

Re-tension and firm up power supply connections. Replace if needed. Reseat/clean all socketed ICs with Deoxit.

 

Think about recapping, and doing heatsinks on hot-running chips. I also bet the CV could benefit from a debounce and anti-spark capacitor. It switches a relatively high voltage (compared to TTL levels) and its contacts aren't optimized for such action. So you get a blast of static going. And a switch that hasn't been used has some oxidation on it. And a switch that has been used will have some carbon dust buildup.

 

These tips are not CV specific, but can and do apply to all older consoles in different forms and levels of "severity" or importance.

 

The Apple II+ has like 100 chips, so socket cleanliness is important here. It has a different kind of power switch that snaps into position, significantly reducing temperature hot-spots and pitting on the contacts from arcing, so less issues there. See?

 

 

That sort of thing.

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I'd start with cleaning the power switch. A dirty switch can cause some strange issues, similar to what you're describing. If that doesn't work, test your power supply with a multi meter to see that you're getting -5v, +5v and 12v.

Edited by 4300
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Thanks for the tips, dudes. I'm going to look into the switch cleaning procedure, I think I saw a link here once to a youtube vid. I did swap the RF cable with one that I thought wouldn't fit, but it did. Not Monster, but Python, something like that...and it made a HUGE difference in the 'waviness' of the RF signal. That cable will stay!

 

As far as testing the power supply, what's an easy and safe way to do that? The contacts exposed while the machine is powered on, the back of the power supply jack? I'll have to do some more research so I don't accidentally blow the thing up. Speaking of which, if I let the switch issue keep going, is there a chance that it will cause a domino effect and start to affect other components in the console, causing an even bigger problem? I'm trying to do the least amount of intrusion on the system to keep it going.

 

The controllers...I've tried in the past to clean up old controllers, yet the results were crap. Now, I realize it may have been the system itself, but taking highly concentrated alcohol to clean contacts didn't have the results I thought they would give. Right now my controllers work well (I get some intermittent pausing of motion if I hold in a given direction, like on Tarzan or Cosmic Avenger, but that could also be software driven. I test that with Donkey Kong: if Mario runs from one end of the screen to the other, then the joystick is working just fine).

 

I still have to pull out the Expansions, but they all worked the last time I fired them up. I can't believe how hard it's become to find this stuff, even on ebay, in really good shape. I was fortunate enough to get in while there was still sealed NOS available, aside from the console itself. I'll make some separate posts on how that goes. Of all my retro systems (which isn't that much, really), the Coleco is the one I treat with kid hands the most. The Atari, that thing takes abuse and if it acts up, I can get it repaired reasonably easily. The Nintendo systems I own have done nothing but work properly over these years, thanks to Japanese engineering...my Genesis, that's a finicky one too but not at the level of my Coleco. Anyways, it's not like the Expansions have a ton of games but I'd feel less of a collector if I ever got rid of them :D ...even though the idea crosses my mind, at least now while they still work reasonably well! :D

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Noisy and dirty power is well known to shorten the life of most types of electronics. Think of it as sagging voltages or spiking voltages bouncing up and down very quickly. So, the cleaner the power, the longer the life. It's why there are filter capacitors in place. It's why we replace them when they dry up. It's a cap's job to smooth out the power. It's why you don't jam the switches on and off super-fast like when you were a kid, for fun.

 

Various classic computers all have their own unique way of dirtying up their power. And it's the owner's task to uncover it and fix it. Switches and contacts are good places to start.

 

---

 

Once you've done basic maintenance operations for a while, it'll be like old hat. And best get learning it because all classic hardware will need the basics done sooner or later.

Edited by Keatah
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Switch Science for all!

 

Deoxit works by lubrication & cleaning. That's pretty much common knowledge. Deoxit also has other mechanisms and tricks up its sleeve. It forms a barrier to Oxygen. This helps prevent corrosion/oxidation over time. This barrier is also a dielectric, an insulator, and it helps prevent and reduce (but does not eliminate) sparking. It does this by displacing the Oxygen and other atmospheric gasses from the surface of the contacts. When contact is made, like closing the switch, the metal contact surfaces penetrate the barrier and touch, making a closed circuit and the current flows. It's eliminating the gasses which can form a hot arcing plasma. Think microscopic lightning! When the contact opens, D flows back into the gap area thus sealing it up again.

 

D acts to cool the microscopic pits and help suspend debris - that's the fine metal particles created by wear and tear. That's "switch gunk" or carbon + other debris. It works not unlike motor oil. It helps prevent snowballing exponential wear increase by buffering the surface and sharp particle edges.

 

Incidentally this is why it's not a good idea to re-tension switches much beyond their spec. Ohh it'll work alright, as the contacts cut new surfaces in each other or wear off their plating. Then the switch fails again, with a bit more debris. Another cleaning cycle by the maintainer, and fail again. In an ever shortening spiral that may span several years.

 

To see this in action elsewhere, It's like the high-current connector that overheats and gets hot, you "fix" it with cleaning, it works, and soon overheats again. Automotive lightbulb connectors have this issue. They're like 20-use-only switches. Unless kept immaculately clean they get hot and burn up.

 

It's why some switches snap into position, or have springs or magnetic contacts. All in the name of reducing arcing.

 

And D is to be used sparingly, a drop on a Q-Tip is enough to coat several 40-pin DIP ICs. It's enough to do all 6 switches on a VCS. D won't hurt most plastic, but of course most rubbers will absorb and soften. To do VCS DB-9 connectors I clean them and then use a fine modeler's brush to do just the stake contacts inside the connector. Don't try and spray it all in there, and especially don't spray it in the little holes in the joystick plug. That's seriously overdoing it. Rely on the cleaned VCS connector to "absorb" away any foreign matter or oxidation in the joystick's plug.

 

D is not to be used on rubberized (5200 controllers) or elastomerics/zebras for LCD, it will just cause early failure. Wrong tool.

 

D is not to be used on printed rubber keyboards. It has the potential to simply erase the printing.

 

---

 

Deoxit is a front-line tool in the classic gamer's arsenal. Talk about an unfair advantage!

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  • 2 months later...

Don't mean to highjack this thread...but I am not good with these forums.

 

I'm looking for an A/V mod kit for Colecovision. Can anyone help...or point me in the right direction? Preferably a complete kit with the board and rca connectors and wires...if possible. Yurkies 3.5 RTTS would be awesome! Thanks

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I thought my controller was faulty but that too can be the controller port chip going bad which fortunately can be replaced to work like new.

 

I wish I knew more about electronics and could fix and diagnose certain issues that seem to happen to many of us. I have a multimeter for my guitar amp but would be afraid to use it on a live power supply without proper knowhow.

 

I leave my power supply connected and plugged into a power strip which plugs into wall outlet. But I wonder if that's OK for the system and/or power supply to always be on standby like that.

 

I too tend to play my cartridges more so than use my multicart on ColecoVision whereas on my NES, SNES, & N64 I use multicarts 99% of the time. I'm not sure which is better as far as wearing down the internal electronics. I assume leaving a multicart in is better than constantly swapping carts in and out.

 

Might I suggest what I've done at least tried to do which is have a 2nd working console on-hand and if need be you can still have a working one while you or someone else can repair the other one.

Edited by rodge2001
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