Nintendo Entertainment System

The Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES for short, is an 8-bit video game console that was released in 1983 in Japan, 1985 in North America, 1986 in Europe, and 1987 in Australia. It was manufactured by Nintendo, originally called Famicom. The initial plans of the Famicom was to be a 16-bit computer with keyboard and floppy disc drive, but Nintendo president decided to build a cartridge-based game console instead.

The Famicom was released on July 15, 1983 with Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. and Popeye game cartridges. A product recall was issued from a bad chipset and reissued with a new motherboard.

In June 1983, Nintendo and Atari entered negotiations for the release of the Famicom in North America, but Coleco was illegally demonstrating their game console with Nintendo’s Donkey Kong game. So the signing did not go through and Nintendo decided to market the system on its own.

In June 1985, the American version of the Famicom (NES) was shown at the Consumer Electronics Show and the release to limited markets started on October 18, 1985. In February of 1986, Nintendo released the system to a nationwide market, along with 18 game titles.

In the early 1990s Nintendo released a new version of the system, the NES-101. The last licensed game was Wario’s Woods, but unlicensed games are still being produced. The NES was officially discontinued in 1995 in America and the Famicom was discontinued in Japan in September 2003.

The NES runs a 1.79 Mhz CPU, has 2KB of onboard RAM with some cartridges containing expanded RAM, has a 5.37 Mhz PPU for video, and 16 levels of volume control.

The NES had a front loading slot that used 72-pin cartridges and an expansion slot on the bottom of the unit. Four different bundles were initially released: a Deluxe Set, the Control Deck, the Action Set, and the Power Set.

The Deluxe Set included R.O.B., a light zapper, two controllers, and two games.

The Control Deck featured two controllers and the Super Mario Bros game.

The Action Set included two controllers, an NES Zapper and two games.

The Power Set included two controllers, an NES Zapper, a Power Pad, and three games.

In 1990 three more bundles were released, the Sports Set that included an NES Satellite wireless multitap adapter, four controllers, and the Super Spike V’ball / Nintendo World Cup game pak; the Challenge Set with two controllers and Super Mario Bros. 3; and the Basic Set with two controllers and no game.

The NES used both an RF switch and RCA composite output cables and the NES-101 used just an RF switch for output.

The game controllers were rectangle with four buttons, (dog bone shaped for the NES-101) “A” and “B”, “START” and “SELECT.” It also had a cross shaped directional pad to the left of the buttons. Other types of controllers included the NES Zapper, R.O.B., and the Power Pad. Each was designed for use on certain games. Nintendo also released two turbo controllers: the NES Advantage and the NES Max.

Unlike other game console manufacturers, Nintendo encouraged third party developers to develop software for the NES, but with strict rules. The console and licensed cartridges contain a authentication chip to protect the public from poor quality games. Unlicensed cartridges would not load into the console. Third party developers under a contract with Nintendo had to order at least 10,000 cartridges and could only produce five games per year.

NES test stations were developed in 1988 and were located at World of Nintendo stores and used for testing the console, hardware, and cartridges for the NES.

Image Caption: The original NES with controller. Credit: Evan-Amos/Wikipedia