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  • July 15, 1983. Two consoles hit the Japanese market: The Sega SG-1000, and the Nintendo

  • Family Computer. One was a bit more successful than the other. Sega’s system survived in

  • its original incarnation for two years and saw the release of about 80 games. The Famicom,

  • on the other hand, boasted 1,055 titles over the space of 11 years, from Donkey Kong to

  • Adventure Island IV. That’s a damn healthy lineup for this unassuming lump of plastic.

  • Seriously. This thing’s barely larger than a single NES cart, slightly wider, a couple

  • inches longer, and maybe the height of two or three games stacked on top of each other.

  • Were here to celebrate the winner of that day’s console war... even if it did take

  • me 2 hours to get it connected and running on an American TV. Apparently, you have to

  • use the RF switch from an NES, set that to Channel 3, set the Famicom itself to Channel

  • 1, and then it shows up on Channel 95 for whatever reason. I’m even further confused,

  • because Felicity in the UK sent this to us, which means she also had PAL issues to figure

  • out. I salute her diligence.

  • The Famicom and the NES, despite being effectively the same hardware, are very, very different

  • systems. As you can see, the Famicom carts are tiny compared to NES carts, though the

  • size of the circuit board in each is about the same. NES carts also have a 72-pin connection

  • as opposed to the Famicom’s 60-pins, owing to the presence of the 10 NES lockout chip

  • that seemed like a good idea for a few seconds in 1985 but ended up just being a pain in

  • the butt. Also, while the form factor of the controllers are almost identical, the Famicom’s

  • controller has the wire running out the side rather than the top, and is completely hardwired

  • into the body of the system itself. The good news is, the controller can’t get lost.

  • The bad news is, the cord is only about two feet long, so youve gotta be hovering right

  • over the system in order to play it. Weirder still, the second controller lacks Select

  • and Start buttons of its own, instead boasting a MICROPHONE. Because when’s the last time

  • you remember using Select or Start in a two-player NES game? At least the microphone served a

  • purpose in a handful of games, like shouting to kill Pol’s Voice enemies in the Legend

  • of Zelda and haggling with shopkeepers in Kid Icarus. With hardwired controllers, the

  • only way to connect another input device - like the infamous Hudson Joycard - is through this

  • serial port at the front of the machine, which also allows for strange devices like the Hori

  • Game Repeater. Look it up. It’s nuts. But it speaks to one of the most important aspects

  • of the Famicom: its expandability. There were dozens of peripherals released, including

  • - as befitting a system called theFamily Computer” - a keyboard and cassette-based

  • data recorder, for word processing and BASIC programming (as well as saving Excitebike

  • tracks). And then there was the Famicom Disk System, which did away with the more expensive

  • cartridge-based media in favor of rewritable floppy disks. But well save that magic

  • for tomorrow.

July 15, 1983. Two consoles hit the Japanese market: The Sega SG-1000, and the Nintendo

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