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Nikon has several modes for flash. When you are in Full Auto then auto controls the flash. When you are in P mode then you determine if the flash should fire. The flash menu allows you to ALWAYS fire. NEVER FIRE and some other, Like RED-EYE modes. So put the camera in P and go to Flash menu and make sure it is ON.
You have 2 options to try before you consider a service tech to look @ the camera.
Prelim : Ensure the batteries are charged & your using standard batteries.
Option 1 : Put the dial in Auto mode and see if that helps with the flash, also ensure you are trying to click the picture in a dim or dark environment, else the Auto flash won't fire if the environment is bright enough
Option 2 : Backup your pictures and reset your camera by using the menu. This should take care of any settings that might have been accidentally turned ON or OFF, then try to get back to the option 1 to see if the flash fires... (you will have to set the date & time post this action)
If nothing else it should pop up when you put the camera in A or M or S and then press the flash button on the side. It might or might not fire, depending on the light available, but it should for certain pop up. When you do this, you should hear a click and the flash should pop up. If you hear the click and it doesn't pop up, then it's jammed or glued or somehow being mechanically prevented from coming up.
In Auto modes, you can select the flash to off with the side button and the back rotary selector. This is where the flash symbol with the slash through it tells you the flash is off. If you push the flash button in Auto modes with the flash selected off, it won't pop up.
There are also some things the D70 can do to control external flash units that may be set abnormally.
The best way to make sure those aren't messing you up is to select "reset to default". That will take the camera back to a base setup that should work.
If none of these things gets it going, take it in to the Nikon dealer in town.
The flash up button is located on the left hand side of the camera right near the top. You should use this button to pop up the flash. Prying it up could/has broken this button.
Also, depending on what setting you are using, the flash doesn't always pop up automatically. Check to see what mode you are in, on the round dial on the left -- ie Auto, Portrait, Manual, etc. I can move sometimes without your knowledge, and this may be the problem.
To answer your flash question...the Nikon flash system fires the flash when the camera thinks the picture will be too contrasty without the flash. You can Google for "fill flash" to learn more.
This is usually beneficial; if not, holding the flash button and turning the main dial will cycle through flash options on the top screen.