The NES: how it started, worked and saved an industry



Nintendo’s family computer, or Famicom, turns 30 today!

Update, December 9, 2021: Masayuki Uemura, the main architect of Famicom and Super Famicom, died on December 6 at the age of 78. Uemura worked at Nintendo from 1971 to 2004 and oversaw notable accessories like the Famicom Disk System and the Super Famicom Satellaview modem accessory.

In honor of Uemura’s career and his lasting impact on the gaming industry, we’re republishing this 2013 article we published to mark the 30th anniversary of the Famicom, delving deep into the technical details of the game. system and exploring its history and heritage.

We’re on the cusp of another generation of gaming consoles, and whether you’re an Xbox One fan or a PlayStation 4 fanatic, you probably know what to expect if you’ve been through a few of these cycles. The systems will launch in time for the holidays, each will have a decent launch title or two, there may be a year or two where the new console and the old console coexist on store shelves, and then the “new one.” generation “will become the current generation, until we start over in a few years. For gamers born in the 1980s or later, this cycle has remained familiar even though old console makers have bowed out (Sega, Atari) and new ones have taken their place (Sony, Microsoft).

It hasn’t always been that way.

The system that started this cycle, resurrecting the American video game industry and bringing the third-party game publisher system as we know it to life, was the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), which launched in Japan on July 15. 1983, under the name of Family Computer (or Famicom). Today, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the original Famicom, we’re going to take a look back at what the console accomplished, how it performed, and how people (by both legal and illegal means) are keeping its games alive today. ‘hui.

From Japanese beginnings to American triumphs

The Famicom wasn’t Nintendo’s first home console – that honor goes to “Color TV Game” consoles only in Japan, which were inexpensive units designed to play a few different variations of a single built-in game. It was, however, the first Nintendo console to use interchangeable game cartridges.

The original Japanese Famicom looked like some sort of hovercar with controllers stuck to it. The top-loading system used a 60-pin connector to accept its 3-inch-high and 5.3-inch-wide cartridges and originally had two hard-wired controllers that could be stored in cradles on the side of the l ‘device (unlike the removable system of the NES controllers, these were permanently connected to the Famicom).

The second controller had a built-in microphone in place of its start and select buttons. A 15-pin port for hardware add-ons was built into the front of the system – we’ll talk a bit more about accessories that used this port. After a first hardware recall linked to a faulty circuit on the motherboard, the console was a big hit in Japan thanks to the strength of arcade ports like Donkey Kong Jr. and original titles like super mario bros.

A first prototype of what would become the North American version of the Famicom.  Nintendo's advanced video system communicated with its peripherals wirelessly via infrared.
Enlarge / A first prototype of what would become the North American version of the Famicom. Nintendo’s advanced video system communicated with its peripherals wirelessly via infrared.

The North American version of the console has been beset by several false starts, not to mention unfavorable marketing conditions. Distribution deal with then-era giant Atari collapsed at the last minute after Atari executives saw a version of Nintendo Donkey kong running on Coleco’s Adam computer at the 1983 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). By the time Atari was ready to trade again, the 1983 video game crash had crippled the US market, killing what would have been the “Nintendo Enhanced Video System “before he had a chance to live.

Nintendo has decided to go its own way. By the time the 1985 CES took place, the company was set to show off a prototype of what had become the Nintendo Advanced Video System (AVS). This system was impressive in its ambition and came with accessories including controllers, a lightweight gun, and a cassette player which were all intended to interface with the console wirelessly, via infrared. The still terrible video game market made such a complex (and possibly expensive) system hard to sell, and after a mixed reception Nintendo returned to the drawing board to work on what would become the Nintendo entertainment system that we have. still know and love today.


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