Following a series of arcade game successes in the early 1980s, Nintendo made plans to create a cartridge-based console called the Family Computer. Original plans called for an advanced 16-bit system which would function as a full-fledged computer with a keyboard and floppy disk drive, but Nintendo president rejected this and instead decided to go for a cheaper, more conventional cartridge-based game console as he felt that features such as keyboards and disks were intimidating to non-technophiles. A test model was constructed in October 1982 to verify the functionality of the hardware, after which work began on programming tools. Because 65xx CPUs had not been manufactured or sold in Japan up to that time, no cross-development software was available and it had to be produced from scratch. Early FAMICOM games were written on a system that ran on an NEC PC-8001 computer and LEDs on a grid were used with a digitizer to design graphics as no software design tools for this purpose existed at that time.
The code name for the project was 'GameCom', but Masayuki Uemura's wife proposed the name FAMICOM, arguing that "In Japan, 'pasokon' is used to mean a personal computer, but it is neither a home or personal computer. Perhaps we could say it is a family computer." Meanwhile, Nintendo président decided that the console should use a red and white theme after seeing a billboard for DX Antenna which used those colors.
Original plans called for the FAMICOM's cartridges to be the size of a cassette tape, but ultimately they ended up being twice as big. Careful design attention was paid to the cartridge connectors since loose and faulty connections often plagued arcade machines. As it necessitated taking 60 connection lines for the memory and expansion, Nintendo decided to produce their own connectors in-house rather than use ones from an outside supplier.
The game pad controllers were more-or-less copied directly from the Game & Watch machines, although the FAMICOM design team originally wanted to use arcade-style joysticks, even taking apart ones from American game consoles to see how they worked. However, it was eventually decided that children might step on joysticks left on the floor and their durability was also questioned. Katsuyah Nakawaka attached a Game & Watch D-pad to the Famicom prototype and found that it was easy to use and had no discomfort. Ultimately though, they did install a 15-pin expansion port on the front of the console so that an arcade-style joystick could be used optionally. The controllers were hard-wired to the console with no connectors for cost reasons.
The FAMICOM was released on July 15, 1983 in Japan for 14800 yen alongside three ports of Nintendo's successful arcade games Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. and Popeye.
[JP] Light Gun [Model HVC-005]
[JP] Family Basic Keyboard [Model HVC-007]
[JP] Data Recorder [Model HVC-008]
[JP] R.O.B. the Robot [Model HVC-012]
[JP] Famicom 3D System [Model HVC-031]
[JP] Network System [Model HVC-050]
[JP] Controller (Redesigned) [Model HVC-102]
[JP] "Family Computer Disk System [Model HVC-022]
[US] [EU] "Nintendo Entertainment System [NES] [Model NES-001]