At Rest

BrokenSNES

We only part to meet again.

-- John Gay

I’ve held on to a ghost for the better part of a decade. Confined sometimes to a dank closet, at other times displayed proudly on a mantle, the shell of my battered SNES clinged to waning relevance. For too long it sat silently, dreaming of a finality that was long in coming, reminding me of a crippling inability to act.

It had moved with me several times. Once to a dorm, then back with my parents. Once to an apartment, then to a home in San Diego where it was all but certain that this move would see its end. When I relocated to Los Angeles last year, some sense of pity made me hold onto it, made me bear the weight of one more piece of scrap. And so, it moved with me once more, hauntingly.

It’s hard to say why I held onto it for so long. Age had left it mostly devoid of live and functionality. Its clean lavender-grey plastic had warped into beige. Cracks and scorch-marks dotted its underbelly. But as I studied its dusty frame from across the living room, all sense of sentimentality seemed to drain from me. It was no longer a matter of how or why, but simply when I would throw it away.

Of all the consoles I have owned, the SNES was my most loved and the one that was the most worn-down. As I child, I used scented cloths to lovingly erase dirt from the SNES’s upper frame. Once a week, I would clean the machine’s external creases, wipe the grease from the buttons, and erase the dirt from its surface. In doing so, I likely unleashed some horrible chemical reaction that jaundiced its exterior. The poor thing survived trips across the border, but was no match for the active ingredient in an average babywipe.

But I had done more than just mar its face. The first time the machine broke, I went through the proper channels, located a Nintendo approved repair shop, and promptly wept at the price. The next time, I visited the corner TV repair shop, a hole-in-the-wall space that had previously housed a barber and now had paintings of televisions and one not-quite legitimate rendition of Mario and an NES over their entrance. One repair shop was as good as another, I figured. The cost of repairs ($20) should have tipped me off, but I was too busy bothering my parents for the money to weigh the possible outcomes.

When the machine was returned to me, parts of the exterior had cracked. Deep burns were present on the underside – apparently where the “technician” used a small torch to cut through the proprietary screws that held the machine shut. Without these screws, the SNES’s top popped off whenever I went to eject a game.

I got my money’s worth, in other words.

It died again a short while after. In fits, it would temperamentally choose when to let me play my old games. By then, I had moved on to the 32-bit generation and PC gaming. I discovered emulation shortly afterwards and henceforth had no need of clunky consoles and their carts. All the games I had ever owned on my SNES (and even a couple that I hadn’t) sat in a tidy corner of my hard drive.

But it wasn’t enough to force me to throw away my old system. There was something in its physicality that was alluring, something about owning a relic of history that appealed (and continues to appeal) to me. It’s not as if I would lose memories of my childhood without the poor console. But there was definitely recognition, a tangible recognition of events that came with the touch and click of an old possession. And for this reason, I carried it with me.

I knew I had to say goodbye when, month after month, my SNES remained perched on top of an old desktop. Watching it out of the corner of my eye, day after day, warmed me to the idea of it just being another thing. Its constant presence reminded me of how diminished it was. Then came the What If, the curious feeling that I had already lost a part of it when it was repaired, the paranoid question of whether my old system had been switched for a lemon. Even if that weren’t the case, there wasn’t much stopping me from just buying a replacement console. The musing eventually broke me down.

One day, I unassumingly popped off the top half and peered into its guts. I poked and prodded, removing the thin, flat strip that connected the controller ports to the main board. I took apart the connector dock, detached the sound engine, and extracted the on/off toggle switch. I laid its pieces out before me, examining the construction, looking at the numbers and names stamped across its many parts. As I turned the pieces in my hand, I came across an odd scrawl. Etched into one of the interior walls were my initials. I wondered how many times I really did take it to be fixed, how much I might have feared the repair shop would swap my machine, how it might have occurred to me to use a soldering iron to mark it as my own.

I had stripped it bare and discovered one last secret. I placed everything, save for the sound module, back into the cracked container and threw it away, listening as it clanked and tinked against a stained garbage chute. At long last came a distant thud.

Then, nothing.

No feelings of remorse, of emptiness, of guilt, sadness or regret. There was only the knowledge that I held on to a piece of junk for far longer than I should have, and the sight of an empty spot in my living room.

Comments

Wow, Great read Spaz. Why save the sound module?

I still have my SNES. As a matter of fact, it's right over there, placed neatly next to my Genesis / Sega CD, Dreamcast, and Saturn. I suppose that, like you, I should get rid of these things at some point, but I just can't bring myself to do it quite yet. They all work, though my last functioning Dreamcast controller no longer, well, functions, so it's not exactly playable.

Perhaps it's like you said, that some small part of me fears that by throwing them away I'll be throwing away the happy memories that went with them. I understand, in my conscious mind of course, that that simply isn't the case. But that seem to make it any easier. It doesn't help that part of me would just feel so... dirty... for getting rid of the systems that allow me to play Dark Wizard, Popful Mail, Vay, Shenmue, and Uniracers. Even if I can emulate them on my PC.

I have gone through this same situation numerous times, but have yet to pull the plug and let my SNES and NES retire. I really want to hold onto them so my kids can play them on some "ancient" tv. Both systems hold so many memories for myself as well, that I don't think I could ever part with them fully. Even if they both die out, I will most likely make something out of them, or at least keep the power switch.

My old VIC-20, purchased 2nd hand with my own money, the machine that first played games with me and taught me about computers, still lives in a dank basement in my parent's house.

In something of an adulterous coup, I also managed to score the old, much-coveted C64 owned by friends, the thing I _really_ wanted when I was playing with my VIC.

I have no idea why I'm so attached to keeping them. Well, to be fair: I'm not, my parents are. So, best of both worlds!

---N

I like how you examined the hardware sorta like a surgeon before removing it from your life. I mean, we spend a lot of time messing around in worlds powered by these devices. It kind of makes sense to connect with the physicality and the 'guts' of the system at some point, even briefly.

Almost 3 years ago, when I was preparing for the transatlantic move to Seattle, I finally sold my beloved ZX Spectrum +2, workhorse of my childhood gaming, the platform that I cut my teeth on playing Elite, Klax, Rainbow Islands and Tetris on, along with some lesser known, but perhaps even more loved titles like The Wild Bunch, Potty Pigeon, Viking Raiders, Footbal Manager 2 and Bloodwych.

After years of living in my mother's attic, it still worked like a charm, and I spent a delightful weekend loading games off cassettes and reliving my formative gaming experiences. Even though I already had an emulator on my laptop with all of those games on it, I still didn't want to part with it. It's only the combination of incompatible mains voltage and TV format here in the US that forced that sale.

A little bit of me died when it only fetched 20 quid on Ebay, complete with a huge collection of games.

I can never bring myself to part with my consoles. I still have my SNES, Canadian SNES (for imported JRPGs) N64, Dreamcast, PS1, chipped PS1 (again, for imported JRPGs), PS2, Gamecube Xbox, and various handhelds. I even came across an Neo Geo Pocket Colour recently; I forgot that I had even bought that one. Don't even get me started on games and accessories.

This thread is oddly relevent to me. I moved in October last year, and various sealed boxes, including the ones with my consoles, have been at my mother-in-law's place ever since. I finally collected them on Sunday, and spent a couple of hours going through the boxes caressing the various things that I found. I am no where near being ready to get rid of these beloved possessions, and I can't really see that I will ever be ready to.

They have become increasingly irrelevent. I wanted to replay Vagrant Story; I could fetch the discs from storage, and play them through my PS3.The PS1 is useless. But so are th

I can never bring myself to part with my consoles. I still have my SNES, Canadian SNES (for imported JRPGs) N64, Dreamcast, PS1, chipped PS1 (again, for imported JRPGs), PS2, Gamecube Xbox, and various handhelds. I even came across an Neo Geo Pocket Colour recently; I forgot that I had even bought that one. Don't even get me started on games and accessories.

This thread is oddly relevent to me. I moved in October last year, and various sealed boxes, including the ones with my consoles, have been at my mother-in-law's place ever since. I finally collected them on Sunday, and spent a couple of hours going through the boxes caressing the various things that I found. I am no where near being ready to get rid of these beloved possessions, and I can't really see that I will ever be ready to.

They have become increasingly irrelevent. I wanted to replay Vagrant Story; I could fetch the discs from storage, and play them through my PS3. The PS1 is useless. But so are the discs; I downloaded it from PSN, in the end. Even without the gray world of emulation, there are increasingly legitimate ways to do these things, and most of them are far more easy than hooking up an old machine, no matter how beloved it may be.

I suppose my point, such as it is, is that there is no rational reason for keeping these things, even if they are still functional. Ain't gonna stop me from doing it, though.

Considering that in the last year I played through The Guardian Legend (NES) and finally beat it for the first time, I'm not done with my classic consoles, all of them being Nintendo branded before the PS2 and Xbox.

I keep the stuff around because I still actually play them and I'm not going to go into emulation but I prefer the original.

This is inspirational. My launch PS2, perhaps the only piece of consumer electronics to which I've developed an emotional attachment, has been dead for a few months now (after "reviving" it temporarily with laser cleanings a few times). Yet I can't bear to get rid of it.

I do still have all of my other retro consoles back to the 2600, but that's so I can play retro games As God Intended Them To Be Played, and more importantly: they still work, I have a justification to keep them. The laser/disc media of newer consoles just doesn't have the longevity of cartridge-based systems, and none have seen the enormous wear and tear of my PS2.

Fortunately I can still buy a replacement PS2 (or use my backwards-compatible PS3) but it's not the same. It's not *MY* PS2, the one that over the course of ten years saw me dump 100+ hours each into several virtual worlds. I hope I can find your strength and let it go.

In the last few months, I've surrendered most of my old consoles. The last two, a Sega Genesis and an original PlayStation, will be turned over to an electronics recycler this weekend. I held on to the Genesis for a long time, as it was my darling console growing up, but I realized recently that I have no reason to hang on to these systems. Unlike Mr. Tomaytohead, I don't use them, and I'm not likely to dig up an ancient cartridge or disc to play on them. They stopped being meaningful to me as devices a long time ago, and now they've stopped being meaningful as things.

As melodramatic as tossing it down the chute was, you probably should have taken it to an e-recycler.

When I got out of grad school I was completely and utterly broke to the point where I had to sell my Genesis to pay my rent. I had an ancient-at-the-time 286 with a 5 1/4" single-density floppy drive, so PC gaming was out. My solution? I wound up buying a Colecovision on Usenet, and starting with that. It became an obsession eventually. I wound up hitting thrift stores looking for old systems. I used to make a regular run of all the thrift shops in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids looking for old games. I still have them all. I have probably 140 2600 games and 40 each Intellivision and Colecovision games, plus a load of 7800 games. This was in the days before Ebay, where you could find old games for practically nothing all the time at thrift shops; now, they're all scooped up by Ebayers and I stopped being able to find anything.

I still have the Atari 2600 and 7800, the Intellivision, Colecovision, TRS-80, and VIC-20. I never got a working Atari 5200, but I have a load of games. In the post-grad school years my friends and I would stay up until all hours of the night drinking beer and playing old games. It was a great time, really one of the best eras of gaming in my life.

I got out the Colecovision a few weeks ago, and the video is finally dying on the thing. I need another one, I like the nostalgia of holding the actual controllers. I loved my Colecovision as a kid (best Christmas present EVER), and it's nice to be able to wander down memory lane every once and a while.

Tigerbill wrote:

Why save the sound module?

As I was messing with the parts, I knew I had to keep one piece for myself. I thought about the controller ports (since they were my conduit into the games), but I couldn't really see myself doing much with that piece. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed that music was the heart of the SNES experience for me. There were so many beautiful pieces of music written for the machine that I still remember and cherish. Since the sound module popped right off, it seemed the best choice for a memento. I figure I can mount it in a frame with a blow-apart diagram of the thing sometime in the future. (Maybe after I win the Lotto tonight).

Gravey wrote:

As melodramatic as tossing it down the chute was, you probably should have taken it to an e-recycler. ;)

I fully admit to the purple prose. I'm a giant ham at heart. The idea of e-cycling really didn't come to me until I was typing this up. I doubt they could repurpose any of the parts, but I guess it's better than having it rot in a landfill.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

They stopped being meaningful to me as devices a long time ago, and now they've stopped being meaningful as things.

This is really beautiful. It sums up what went through my mind perfectly. Sigged.

Spaz wrote:
Gravey wrote:

As melodramatic as tossing it down the chute was, you probably should have taken it to an e-recycler. ;)

I fully admit to the purple prose. I'm a giant ham at heart. The idea of e-cycling really didn't come to me until I was typing this up. I doubt they could repurpose any of the parts, but I guess it's better than having it rot in a landfill.

The prose is as purple as an SNES power switch (I quite enjoyed "At long last came a distant thud. Then, nothing."), so let's say it was worth it.

It's funny, the SNES was the first console that I actually owned myself (the Atari was "the whole family's" and I only played NES at neighbor kids' houses), and I was all to eager too sell it for a few bucks when PlayStation and N64 came around. But years on I regretted it when I wanted to show my kids Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country, so I bought a used one I found somewhere.

All my subsequent consoles I kept. Yes, even the Jaguar. They sit in their boxes collecting dust in closets or under beds. But they have their moments, the kids love to hook up an old console and see old games. They aren't sophisticated enough to care about graphics, they just like the novelty of it all. I just hooked up the original PlayStation in my daughter's room so she could play Klonoa.

Come to think of it, that Jaguar is the only one I've never hooked up again. Maybe some things are best left to the garbage chute.

Spaz wrote:
ClockworkHouse wrote:

They stopped being meaningful to me as devices a long time ago, and now they've stopped being meaningful as things.

This is really beautiful. It sums up what went through my mind perfectly. Sigged.

Thanks. That made my day.

Clemenstation wrote:

I like how you examined the hardware sorta like a surgeon before removing it from your life. I mean, we spend a lot of time messing around in worlds powered by these devices. It kind of makes sense to connect with the physicality and the 'guts' of the system at some point, even briefly.

I do this will all the electronics that I've given up on.

That said, I've never done this to the old systems, because the 4 of us kids had to pool our Christmas presents to get them, so they're not technically mine enough to have brought with me when I moved out after high school.

The busted original PS2 got a thorough autopsy, though.

Spaz wrote:
ClockworkHouse wrote:

They stopped being meaningful to me as devices a long time ago, and now they've stopped being meaningful as things.

This is really beautiful. It sums up what went through my mind perfectly. Sigged.

Character limit denied.

Still have a perfectly functional and quite-nice-looking Snes with me. The only thing that's not original is the AC adapter I had to acquire from a third party when the original one burned out. It's on the block for a friend - he said he'd buy it eventually.

Still have my Sega Saturn, though I really should sell it.

The DC has been gone for years. The Nes is a dead husk. I still have my PSOne, GC and PS2. Wonder if I'll ever get rid of those...