back to article Cigarette ash proves a drag for Nintendo's Wii

Everyone knows smoking's bad for you, but, until now, we didn’t know if it was also detrimental to the health of games consoles. Nintendo’s claiming that a build-up of tobacco is partly to blame for recent complaints about the quality of gameplay in Super Smash Bros Brawl. Super_smash_bros_brawl Smokers to blame for SSBB …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Ash

    Yet another "common sense" mystery solved...

    Combine a sticky tar-filled atmosphere, dust, and components which rely on clear and precise readings via optical systems, and expect failure.

    Wait until they figure out the same thing applies to heat sinks. Bearingless fan? Doesn't mean shit; it'll still jam, the heatsink intself will be covered in dust, hair, and tar, and the damn thing will HACF.

  2. Lloyd
    Thumb Down

    30th April

    Really? It was supposed to be in December 2007, then January, then March, last I heard it was May and I'm certainly not holding my breath.

  3. Morely Dotes

    How is this news?

    I.T. professionals have know for decade(s) that airborne contaminants will settle on the lens in an optical drive and degrade performance; in extreme cases, they can totally disable the drive's ability to read discs. It also affects DVD players and video tape recorders (although VCRs tend to wear out the heads, which are not optical, long before contaminants are a problem).

    Cigarette smoke (or candle smoke, or cooking vapors, etc., etc.) is something that is *expected* to cause problems.

    Protect your drives by covering the console/PC with a non-porous material when the power is off, and keep a good-quality air filter running near the electronic gear at all times.

  4. steve

    we smokers should all know this

    dunno bout the wii i don't have one but i go through cpu/case fans like anything on my pc due to smoking in this small room, dust mixes with the smoke and ends up as resin on my fans lol.

    i have to replace them about every 3 months.

  5. Hans Mustermann

    Well, it IS news

    Well, it is news, because it seems that the drives are getting more and more fragile. Which seems kinda stupid for a piece of consumer electronics supposed to be used by everyone, without computer expertise or even knowledge that there's a lens in there at all.

    E.g., my old Playstation (one) or my Dreamcast saw more than their fair share of smoke and dust, plus they often got shoved in a shoulder bag and hauled from here to there. They still work with no problems.

    It's also worth noting, though, that both of those had the lens easily accessible. Just open the lid, and there it bloody is, right in front of your nose. So if you did manage to get yours dirty, you can just clean it yourself.

    Of course, that too got lost in the rush to look funkier than the competition. Yeah, designer cases are cool, but don't offer the same kind of access.

    Heatsink and fans? Well, those too used to be either (A) unnecessary, or (B) large, almost passive things, that had plenty of headroom to work even with restricted airflow.

    By now it all probably looks like a geezer's "bah, in my times..." nostalgia, but it's not. There's a lesson about simple and robust design in consumer electronics in there. Yeah, you could rely on your users being savvy about how a DVD drive works, or sell it only to non-smokers. (There goes half your potential market, eh?) But alternately you could just make the damn thing robust or user-serviceable enough so it doesn't matter. Methinks that the latter has its own advantages, you know?

    Plus, it seems to me it goes downhill even from the "no smokers" point. The whole drive to make hotter and hotter chips even in consoles seems like a losing proposition in the long run anyway. The combination of undersized heatsinks and leafblower fans means that the question isn't if you'll have a problem, but _when_. If there's _any_ dust or smoke or cooking vapours in the air, it will get sucked in and some of it will clog the fans and heatsinks. It's a design that's guaranteed to eventually fail, and we're just discovering the variability among people's home environments. For some it's sooner than expected.

    And oh yeah, I should buy a good air filter just to keep a cheap console working? Heh. Why doesn't it just come with its own air filters, if it needs any? Ah, right, because they saved a few cents and passed half of that onto me the consumer... at the price of requiring me to spend a lot more money to keep the damn thing working.


  6. JC

    How is such a simple concept misunderstood?

    It is not cigarette ash to blame, it's tar buildup. Smoke != ash. Why is an article so wrongly titled and how can it happen?

  7. Jason Togneri

    No surprise there then

    Over all the years I've been working with computers, only twice have I had to deal with one that's been in the presence of a heavy smoker - and both times it's been thick with dirty yellow nicotine fluff. It's disgusting and the worst combination of two things that can most harm a PC, aside from bursts of static or drops from 100ft-high windows.

  8. Chris C

    re: Well, it IS news

    With all due respect, your Playstation and Dreamcast didn't have such problems with their optical drives because they had CD-ROM drives. The Wii has a DVD drive. The lens and laser beam on a DVD drive is much smaller than the lens/laser on a CD drive. If a CD's lens becomes partially obstructed, it may be able to compensate because it still has a large area of non-obstructed lens. Because a DVD's lens is much smaller, any obstruction will be much more disabling.

    Also, a CD is only one layer. DVDs can have two layers. That means the DVD laser has to be able to read through the first layer in order to read and decode the second layer. To do this, it absolutely must have a clean lens.

    While I understand your thinking, asking why a DVD lens can't deal with things a CD lens can is a bit like asking why you can't erase pen marks when you can erase pencil marks. Sure, both pens and pencils perform similar tasks, but they're still not the same.

  9. ImaGnuber

    Smoke and Mirrors

    B***S**T!! Don't know what kind of crap you people are buying but I've never had a problem due to smoke/tar buildup. And no, I don't keep an air filter next to my system.

    We are next to a major roadway so dust is ever-present and then there's the cat with a dandruff problem. The system I'm writing this on is about five years old and the case has been left open most of that time.

    The only reason I've ever had to purchase a new system or component was to upgrade.

    Anti-smoking comments are so fashionable aren't they? I'll let you get back to roasting your tofu on your windmill-powered grills. Me? I'm going to go finsih my scotch and have another cigarette.

  10. Kevin Raymond

    Not a new problem

    My last laptop started having a problem with over heating and I always chalked that up to nicotine/tar building up inside it. Also, I'm fairly sure that the xbox 360 has a warning somewhere in the manual about not smoking around the console.

  11. skeptical i

    air filters

    If the innards are so delicate that the "average home environment" (i.e., smoke, dust -- here in Southwest Amurka, cooking fumes, candles, incense, whatever) can bring a piece of equipment sold to average customers to its knees, then perhaps having air filters attached would save everyone a bunch of hassle. Offer them as optional add-ons ("If there is a possibility your machine might be exposed to ... then consider buying ...") if there is concern about customer resistance to having them as ++cost mandatory additions; at least then customers would be aware.

  12. Barry Rueger

    Hardly news

    Back in the bad old days when radio hosts all smoked (tobacco?) in the studio it was a least favorite job to dissasemble and clean all of the faders on the mixing console. Smoke and electronics is second only to liquid in mucking things up badly.

    Well, that and a taco chip that falls into a Penny and Giles fader...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    fag tar is a big problem

    I used to work at a small company that made the boxes that drive the displays in bookmakers shops. It's basically a mini itx board and custom backplane/graphics cards inside a big metal box.

    Some of these would come back after a couple of years in a shop with the circuit boards literally coated in brown tar. It didn't do the fans any good either. The boxes still ran, being low power and all, but it was fairly gross to see.

    I'd imagine their failure rates will be a lot lower what with the smoking ban now.

  14. daniel

    Only 3 times in 12 years...

    Have I ever felt the need to clean the lens of a CD/DVD drive!

    Having a mother who smoked while playing on the Best of Windows Entertainment Pack games for years, and the CD ROM still works 7 years on!

    How many fags are these people smoking to gum up a lens after what 1 year? 2?

  15. Ian Ferguson

    Re: Smoke and Mirrors

    RTFA - it's tar buildup, not dust, that is a problem on the lens.

    I think there's a simple answer - bring back console cartridges! Even a two year old bashing NES cartridges against a lego castle can't stop 'em being played - try that with your newfangled optical disks!

  16. Simon King

    @ChrisC: FAIL - Dreamcast did not have a CD-ROM

    The DC sported a custom 'GD-ROM' drive, made by Hitachi. DVD drives were still hideously expensive and Sega wanted to keep the BOM down. They also reckoned by using an obscure format they would keep the piracy down.


  17. Paul F

    Tar covered innards

    In the last ten+ years I've been working on computers, I've done thousands of repairs. I've had a few come through that were simply discolored, and a few that were absolutely and irrefutably damaged due to smoke.

    In some cases the drive cables became brittle and cracked. Given that I've ONLY seen that kind of damage in computers in heavy smoke environments, I call that a logical inference of causality.

    The tar also contributes to a different kind of dust-bunny. It's a denser, more massive kind of thing than usual, and harder to remove.

    I once sickened a coworker who was cleaning a tar-encrusted-dust filled computer my mentioning that all that tar had been in someone's lungs.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    If you think the inside of a smokers PC / console is bad...

    What about their lungs!

    I open up PCs every day as part of my job and it's always the smokers' computers that have up to an inch of brown, sticky fluff and dust clogging every vent, grille, heatsink and fan... no wonder they run hot and noisy. DVD drives do seem to fail quicker in these systems, too.

  19. Steve Roper

    Every time you light a ciggy

    the Anti-smoking lobby kills a kid. And blames it on cigarette smoke.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Smokers need industrial environment okayed gear.

    "'s been thick with dirty yellow nicotine fluff. It's disgusting"

    Yeah, but I guess it will kill the cockroaches dead that thought they had found a new, electrically equipped home.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dust hell

    I use to work for a company that service the PC for best buy. I Dont know how they got that much dust inside a computer. Some of the power supplies actually caught fire. I would have to wear a dusk mask and turn the PC upside down and shake a few times before using compressed air to get the rest out.

  22. TeeCee Gold badge

    Wii issues.

    You don't have to smoke around the bloody things, they're inherently unreliable. Stripping one, you'll find that it's assembled from what can best be described as "cheap tat". The DVD drives need their lenses cleaned and emitters replaced with alarming regularity and the units themselves are prone to overheating from dust build up and inadequate cooling / ventilation.

    To add insult to injury, purchasing a replacement when the problems get too serious will not help. Nontendo have decided that the only reason for wanting to transfer your data and accounts from one Wii to another is because you're trying to cicumvent their DRM systems and have made it impossible. Any queries addressed to them on how to replace one Wii with another are met with "Fuck off", or words to that effect, a stony silence or an offer to do it for you if you send it in, wait a few months and pay them more than the bloody thing's worth.

    It's a marvellous product, made and sold by unhelpful, rude, cheapskate arseholes.

  23. Andy Worth

    Re: Smoke and Mirrors

    Someone touched a nerve because you really threw your toys out of the pram on that one? Sorry, but ask anyone who has worked on PCs that exist in an environment full of ciggy smoke. Tar/nicotine can gunk up the inside of a PC like nothing else, because it sticks to everything, just like it sticks to the insides of your lungs.

    I'm not knocking smoking, I did it for 15 years myself even though I was fully aware of the damage it does to the body. I am knocking those who live in denial of the truths about smoking, rather than those who know the facts but choose to do it anyway. And I love the fact that any anti-smoking comment could only have been made because it is "fashionable".

    Face it, it is a fact that a PC situated in a smoky environment will get gunked up with a sticky, brown, tar-like substance. That, and the mess it makes of the walls in a house (our old smoking room at work had brown/yellow walls - they WERE light blue) are the reasons why even when I still smoked, I didn't smoke in my house for over 5 years.

  24. Joe Cooper

    @Simon King: Double fail

    ChrisC is spot on, as he was talking all about lasers and the fact that CD\GD lasers don't need to do the same thing as a dual layer DVD.

    Remember that a GD-ROM is just a CD with different angular velocity and data density. There is no practical difference as far as this discussion is concerned. If you actually knew what a GD-ROM was, you wouldn't get so "OMG IT HAS A G AND NOT A C" on everyone.

    Anyway, I've been going through old systems lately and finding that they actually are quite delicate.

    One Gamecube I could not get to read ~at all~. Had to buy a new one. While dropping for a used Dreamcast, the first one I found didn't read discs at all either, had to get another one of those.

    The first Playstation I got here worked, but it's video playback is pretty choppy at times.

    Sorry but these older system designs aren't magically better.

    And Nintendo will clean your system anyway.

  25. Ralph B

    Obvious innit?

    Deal with it the same way as the PC keyboard - stick the Wii in the dishwasher.

  26. Steve

    @ Paul F

    "The tar also contributes to a different kind of dust-bunny. It's a denser, more massive kind of thing than usual, and harder to remove."

    But he was no ordinary Techie...

    And when the world calls out for a hero, one man will answer the email...


  27. Nick Miles


    Enough of this debate on smoking, let us not forget the spelling mistake in the article.

    Accumlation? No, it's accumulation

    I'll get me coat.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    least of my problems

    I think i shall complain to nintendo about how smoking and playing their consoles at the same time leads to poor graphical performance, which in turn leads to severe eye pain.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not cigarette smoke...'s the overly oily smoke from weed that really fouls things up. Open a window while havin a toke and you'll have no probs.

  30. A J Stiles
    Thumb Down

    To be expected

    In these days of rampant unchecked capitalism, it's not surprising. If a manufacturer can shave a few pence off the materials cost, they will. Once, products were designed up to a specification; nowadays, they are designed down to a price.

    Product unreliability ordinarily doesn't benefit manufacturers, because most consumers are smart enough not to buy the same make next time; but the situation is inverted when the manufacturer of unreliable products holds a monopoly.

    If John Thomas's Panasonic stereo breaks, and he already has lots of CDs, he might buy a Philips next time. If John Thomas's Glow-worm boiler packs up in the middle of winter, he might replace it with a Worcester boiler. But if John Thomas's Wii breaks, and he already owns several games, he has precious little choice but to buy another one from Nintendo. The games may well have cost more than the console -- it would be a waste not to have anything on which to play them.

    Just wait till the current generation of gamers are old enough to become MEPs! The EU will come down hard on this blatant anti-competitive behaviour; and, once other manufacturers are allowed to make compatible consoles, manufacturers will be forced to compete on merit.

  31. Jon Brunson


    I guess noone saw this in the manual then -

  32. Alan Davies


    The problems is that SSMB is one of the first dual layer discs that Nintendo have released, as with such a huge demand for the game, maybe the production was rushed and Nintendo are trying to cover their mistake? Admittedly Ninty are offering free repairs if you send your Wii, the game and proof of purchase.

  33. Tom
    Thumb Up


    They're obviously not inhaling properly!

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like