We all remember growing up and plugging an NES cartridge into the console's slot only to get a jumbled up error screen. And we all knew the solution to this particular query; blow on the underside of the cartridge. Yet a recent study has shown that not only did blowing not help, it may have actually hurt the cartridge.
According to a report at Mental_Floss, "When things went wrong inside your NES, the problem was usually a bad connection between the cartridge and its slot. That could be due to tarnishing, corrosion, crud in various places, weak pins in the slot, or other issues."
The report cited Frankie Viturello, host of the gaming show Digital Press Webcast, who noted "While I admittedly may have dabbled in a little cartridge-blowing as a naive NES-playing youth, I've long-since been an advocate for not doing it with the stance that for whatever it may do to aid in the temporary functionality of an NES, it ultimately opens the door for damage and distress to the hardware."
According to Viturello, blowing was just a placebo. But it did seem to work. He hypothesized this was due to one of two things:
"The act of removing, blowing in, and re-seating a cartridge most likely creates another random opportunity for the connection to be better made. So removing the cartridge 10 times and putting back in without blowing on it might net the exact same results as blowing on it between each time."
Or maybe "The moisture that occurs when you blow into a cartridge has some type of immediate effect on the electrical connection that occurs. Either the moisture helps to eliminate/move any debris/chemical buildup that has occurred when the contacts and the pin-readers rub together, or the moisture increases conductivity to a degree that it can send the data through any existing matter that was previously interfering with the connection."
Viturello conducted a study to test the differences between blowing and not blowing on a cartridge. He took two copies of Gyromite, removed the plastic cartridge shell, and blew on one copy ten times a day for a month while the second copy remained unaffected as the control. Both games were stored next to each other in the same part of his house. The results are below.
The only flaw in the experiment was that the cartridges weren't exactly identical to begin with, so perhaps the coating or materials could have been slightly different.
Still, it's the best evidence we have at this time and highly suggests that we were all a bunch of gullible sheep.