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Harmonesica: Preparation

Right. I've kept this project a moderate secret for a couple weeks now, and all that time I've been trying to think of a way to spring the big reveal on the last page, the last image, something. I couldn't. The very nature of an illustrated walkthrough prevents any sort of surprise ending. So I'll just blow the surprise right now.

cart, harp, and cream

That's a NES cartridge and a harmonica. I think you know where this is going. This is going exactly where the intersection of nostalgia and commercialism should have gone like ten freaking years ago. I've googled all sorts of combinations like "NES harmonica" and "nintendo harmonica" and "NES cartridge instrument" and I can't find anything like this. Everybody talks about blowing on the game like a harmonica, but as far as I know I'm the first person on the Internet to actually use a harmonica.

Mint chocolate chip ice cream provided for scale.

I began my journey with what I thought was a solid plan. I had a cart I was willing to bust open, I had a harmonica I had purchased specifically to be busted open, and I had a brand-new Dremel to bring the magic. There's also a package of Dremel drill bits and a bag of #4-40 3/4" bolts with included nuts.

all the essential tools

The most important thing to consider in this whole venture is which game to use. You want to use something that you don't mind never playing again; ideally, you have two carts and one of them doesn't work any more. You have to strike a balance between a game you want to sacrifice and a game you will essentially be making out with. Don't get caught in public frenching tunes through Total Recall, is what I'm saying.

Tecmo Super Bowl

Tecmo Super Bowl is a solid choice. Everybody remembers it fondly, but it's still pretty easy to find and all of its football knowledge now borders on lies. New England Patriots are the worst team in the game? Dominant 49ers? It is a mad bizarro NFL, and Bo Jackson is ridiculous hax. The first person to try this mod with an authentic golden Zelda 1 cart wins three Internets.

Okay, time to look at the harmonica. I chose the Hohner Pocket Pal because it was like 10 minutes before Schmidt Music closed and this was the cheapest model. I didn't do any fancy measuring or soul-searching in the store because hey, it's $7 and if this doesn't work out it's still a harmonica.

Hohner Pocket Pal

Turns out the Pocket Pal was a pretty awesome choice. It unscrews into three pieces; two decorative aluminum covers and the main harmonica. You can see the tiny screws and one of the tiny decorative nuts in the picture below. The other nut is missing because Edmond decided to play with it until it disappeared and that's why I can't have nice things :(

Dismantled Pocket Pal

Here's an angle on the harmonica. The only obstacles here are the black plastic tabs on the top and bottom. They're designed to brace the aluminum pieces, but we won't have any use for them.

The vital center of the Pocket Pal

Be still my heart! Who needs measurements with luck like mine?

Pocket Pal and cartridge comparison

Page 2: Opening the Cartridge