Released in 1989, the DMG (Dot Matrix Gameboy) was the first Gameboy Nintendo ever released. It’s a lot of fun to mess with, so here’s a quick guide of my experiences taking apart, restoring, and modifying the DMG with an awesome new backlight.
The Gameboy I had was in fairly good condition, with the exception of several vertical lines through the display. After some research, I learned this is usually due to a faulty display connector, where the solder connections have weakened and eventually separated from the top layer of the display circuitry. Using a soldering iron, I learned that we can reflow (that is, remelt and reconnect) this broken solder below the connector. It’s not that hard, and fixes what is perhaps the most common issue with these Gameboys.
Step 1: Taking It Apart
The first step is to remove the back cover of the DMG. There are six screws, and depending on when your Gameboy was made, they are either going to be triwing or phillips. Triwing screws, for those of you unfamiliar, are Nintendo’s favorite way to make opening their products just ever so slightly more irritating. If you don’t want to spend a couple dollars on a triwing driver, you can do what I did and use a small flathead in one of the three slots in the screws. It’s not super difficult, but you definitely want to be careful to avoid stripping the screws. There’s four obvious ones on the back of the Gameboy, and two inside the battery compartment. You’ll need to remove all of these.
Once you take those screws out, don’t pull the Gameboy apart quickly. There’s a fairly short ribbon connector connecting the screen half of the Gameboy to the circuitry half. Carefully hinge unit so the screen half is face down on your desk with the circuitry portion sticking vertically upward. You could disconnect the ribbon cable at this point (it’s a ZIF socket, so the connector just slides out), but I didn’t want to bother having to reconnect it when I was done. You can do this repair quite easily without having to put this connector back in.