Remember the Red Ring of Death? Though today it's more meme than catastrophe, there was once a time when that terrifying symbol of hardware failure seemed to strike every Xbox 360 on the planet, morphing them all into useless bricks.
But what about the ones that lasted? What about the launch-day Xbox 360s that still work in 2012? How did their lucky owners dodge that menacing red ring? Kotaku has rounded up five of these Xbox Survivors, each of whom told us his own unique ritual for keeping the volatile console alive.
"I just did what everyone should do," said Mark Lane, who bought his 360 on November 22, 2005 — launch day. "Kept it cool, off when I wasn't using it, and I always kept it laying flat. But once the whole three red lights fiasco happened, it did make me personally feel better to cross my fingers whenever I booted it up. Call it crazy, but it seemed to have worked."
"I'm not really worried that it'll red ring at some point. I'm almost certain that it will."
Although Lane's console still functions, he doesn't have to cross his fingers much anymore — he shelved his launch-day unit for the 250 gigabyte Slim model that came out last year. But some other Xbox Survivors still haven't upgraded.
"I'm not really worried that it'll red ring at some point," said John Phillips, who says he still uses his original 360, but not for more than 4-5 hours at a time. "I'm almost certain that it will."
Phillips insists on keeping the system horizontal, and he always makes sure to keep it running in open space. He says he's always been lucky with hardware, so he doesn't feel the need to keep a rabbit's foot in his pocket. Plus, he just knows his Xbox will brick at some point or another.
"I've certainly got my money's worth out of the system by now so it won't be a complete tragedy that came out of nowhere," he said. "I know it's like a glass balanced on the edge of a counter. It's more a question of when than if at this point."
Then there are the magical, Lazarus-like cases. Erwin Ocampo, who says he hasn't followed any strange rituals or habits, says his console just somehow keeps chugging along.
"Fortunately I haven't had to do much," he said. "There are times where it hangs and a simple power cycle does the trick. When it got the [Red Ring of Death] a year back, we left it alone for a few weeks and then it magically started working again.
"I guess just keeping it in a ventilated place helps. Plus the Bay Area doesn't get too hot."
Launch-day buyer Cooper Bibaud, whose 360 is pictured above, calls his system the "I Am Legend of Xbox 360s."
"I've actually always been crazy lucky with every console, and electronics in general," Bibaud said. "I take great care of everything, and even though I'm a pretty heavy gamer I've never had any issues with it."
Jesse Gouldsbury had his launch-day Xbox 360 signed by staff members of Bungie, the development studio behind Halo. It still works.
Bibaud says he has his own set of rituals that he uses to ensure that his 360 won't tank. He won't touch the hard drive, for example, pointing out that many of his friends have received red rings after swapping their hardware around.
"It was a quirk I developed out of paranoia after seeing theirs all die multiple times," he said. "I felt if I did remove the hard drive ever, I'd be cursed like them too haha."
Like most of the Xbox Survivors I spoke to, Bibaud says he's always kept his 360 horizontal. But that common practice might not be necessary. Launch-day owner Jesse Gouldsbury says he's moved his all over the place, even lugging it around New York City back in 2010, when he took it to get signed by the developers behind Halo: Reach at a launch event.
"I'm still impressed it hasn't red ringed considering how much time I spent playing it [and] bringing it different places," Gouldsbury said. "That's probably the coolest part about it."
Microsoft has never released official statistics for Xbox red rings, but one study indicated a whopping 54% hardware failure rate. I asked Microsoft this week if it had any data on just how many launch-day Xbox 360s are still working, but if anybody in the company does know, he or she isn't sharing. Red Rings of Death don't seem to be prevalent in any newer models of the gaming console, and I'm sure it's an issue that most of Microsoft would like to bury.
As for the Xbox Survivors? All they can do is cross their fingers — and pray they won't see red.
(Top photo: Cooper Bibaud shows us his working launch-day Xbox 360.)