Last year, 2012, the Channel F console suffered from a broken cartridge port mechanism right at the start of the MGC 2012 show. It was somewhat of a disappointment, but it worked out okay with the built-in games for the Channel F.
At the show in 2012, the system was taken to the BenHeck Experience, located then in the basement level of the Sheraton. I didn’t talk or meet with Ben directly, but did deal with one of his crew members. He stated they would take a look at it and see what they could do, and that I should come back on sunday morning.
With high hopes, I returned sunday morning to the BenHeck Experience room. I have to admit that the name of the guy I dealt with is forgotten (sorry – just remember a tall guy), but he informed me then that they could not find anything wrong with the unit, and were even puzzled by the cartridge eject button itself. Direct quote was “the button appears to have no real function at all”. Now this system has been with the U.C. area for a while, and I knew that the eject button pops the cartridge out, but didn’t feel like arguing the point. If they couldn’t fix it, then they couldn’t fix it.
It was my determination to try fixing it myself then, but that was to be done during the summer of last year. With the 2013 show coming up real quick, I took the Channel F console out on March 10th, and was determined to see what the true issue was.
Normally, on a Channel F, the cartridge is pushed into the console cartridge port and it locks in place after it seats itself into the port assembly. Pushing on the eject button moves the cartridge port assembly in a minor way, but enough to unlock it and allow it to pop out slightly, were you can then safely remove the cartridge.
Since last year though, the cartridge port would not ‘hold’ any cartridge, and the eject button did not move at all – not even the tiniest movement. This of course is not normal. So removing two small screws from the bottom front of the unit, the Channel F cover was loosened up somewhat (enough for the eject button to fall out). The tricky part was prying two tabs on the back of the unit, that hold that part of the case together. Won’t deny that I ended up breaking the small plastic tab that held one of the joystick holders in place, but that was a small price to pay to get the unit open.
Once open, it was amazing (but not unexpected) to see how easy it was to access all of the insides of the Channel F, including the RF shield that came off by simply pulling it off (no screws or such). Once off, the cartridge port was much more exposed, and the problem was very visibly apparent. After playing with the cartridge port for just a minute, it was found that the right side had a piece of plastic that was supposed to hold the thing in place, but it was bent – probably from age. With this piece loose, part of the cartridge port assembly would come up, and this prevented the eject button from working at all.
The cartridge port came out after removing four screws and removing two ribbon cables, which again was very easy to do. After a small time just playing with the cartridge port assembly, and a hair dryer, I found that the bent plastic piece would not bend back into place. So it was determined that something else had to be done to prevent the bent piece from popping out in the first place. I decided that if I could put ‘something’ into the side area where there was too much movement, this would effectively prevent the bent plastic piece from popping out of the port assembly. After a bit of using my brain cells, I simply decided on using a glue gun to insert a glob of clue into the hinge next to the bent plastic tab. I just had to make sure the glue got into the right area while it was in a good position, which wasn’t too hard to do. Before the glue had a chance to harden, I pushed it in with the flat part of a small screwdriver, and let the glue harden. Then made sure that even with the glue in place, the cartridge port assembly still did what it was suppose to do.
And the cool thing was, the glue gun did the trick perfectly, and the cartridge port assembly on the Channel F works rather well now (I would not say perfectly, but it works good, and that is what counts). What puzzles me somewhat is why the BenHeck Experience could not find the problem I found and fix it, or at least determine what the problem was in the very least. In fact, I wonder if they (or the one person) actually took the unit apart at all, or if they just looked at it and could not make sense of it without taking it apart. I’ll never really know, but if they had truly taken the Channel F apart, the problem would have been very, very apparent.
Now I have a lot of respect for Ben Heck and his group (I really, really do), but there is only one thing I have to say about the Channel F and The BenHeck Experience. I BEAT THE BENHECK EXPERIENCE (at least in regards to an old Channel F with a faulty cartridge port assembly). Guessing the really old stuff stumps them at times, as no one is perfect. Hopefully they will take this post with a grain of salt, and I will say ‘hi’ to the guys this year. (On the side, I won’t take the unit apart again, but I could bring a spare along to show the guys, if they would really be interested in the original underdog programmable cartridge-based console – the Channel F).
And with that, I officially announce that the Channel F is in the U.C. exhibit for 2013, with a nice selection of games using a great multi-cart I had from last year (and updated to work a lot better for this year). Alien Invasion, Dodge-It, Spitfire, Video Whizball, and a Pac-Man homebrew will be running during the show.
Channel F innards
Channel F cartridge port
Fix for Channel F cartridge port