An impossible idea on a night out: that's how Nintendo's mythical NES was born

The engineer who brought the Famicom to life talks about Nintendo's 8-bit console.

Much has been said about the birth of the mythical NES, the console Nintendo that conquered the video game market in the eighties, becoming a resounding success around the world, but it is always interesting to know the experiences of those who saw the console born, and nobody better for it than the designer of the hardware itself from Nintendo, the old man Masayuki Uemura, who has recalled some of the funniest anecdotes. The most curious? Without a doubt, the origin of the project: one night he received a call from the then president of the Great N, Hiroshi yamauchi, who after having had a few drinks, told him his ideas to create a home console.

Although it ended up looking like a toy, that was not the intention when we designed the FamicomMasayuki Uemura "It all started with a phone call in 1981. President Yamauchi told me about a video game console that could be played with cartridges," says Uemura in an interview with Kotaku. . "He always liked to call me after having a few drinks, so I didn't think about it too much. I just said 'sure, boss,' and hung up. "To the engineer 's surprise, Yamauchi brought it up again the next morning."' That thing we talked about, are you on it? "And it struck me: I was serious. ".

Masayuki Uemura at a Famicom demo in 1985. Photo: The Asahi Shimbun (Getty Images)

After receiving this surprising commission, the engineer bought "each and every one" of the existing consoles at that time, "I disassembled them, and analyzed them piece by piece. I looked at their chips, the CPU they used, I checked the patents and all that." continues Uemura. "That took me about six months." In a statement in the book The Nintendo Story: Vol. 3, Uemura himself said that "the development of the Famicom started at the right time, when manufacturers began to be able to customize components and circuits according to the order of each client ".

The NES ended up selling more than 60 million consoles worldwide This allowed Nintendo engineers to stay true to the surprising price limitations Yamauchi imposed on them, as the console had to be sufficiently cheap so that any child could have an NES at home. Asked how he went about studying the inside of the competitor's chips, Uemura assures that he spoke with some acquaintances so that they would dissolve the plastic that covered the chips, "exposing their internal circuitry [...] He had some experience with arcades, like this I immediately realized that nothing I was seeing would help me in the design of the new home gaming system, "he adds.

Uemura describes that technology as "old-fashioned"It didn't serve their purposes, plus there were lots of patents that they had to avoid to avoid making NES production more expensive. The engineer tells other interesting details such as that at that time, it was very difficult to show what videogames offered, since toy stores had to have a television for that purpose; which was not always possible. That is why Nintendo chose to look for some striking colors, with red as a hallmark, so that the console stood out above the others. "It was the cheapest way to do it. The colors were based on a scarf that Yamauchi liked. It's true ", Uemura emphasizes, in another of those nice curiosities.

Masayuki Uemura poses with the Famicon in this 2013 photo. Photo: Kyodo News (Getty Images)

"Although it ended up looking like a toy, that was not the intention," he continues. "The idea was for it to stand out" with those vivid colors. Finally, when asked if he was surprised by the NES success around the world, the Nintendo engineer leaves us with another of those quotes to remember. They realized their success based on the huge number of defective consoles that came in for repair. "I didn't have time to be surprised! When it really started to succeed I was totally focused on designing the NES for the American market, and I was also creating the Disk System. I was totally busy," he says.

Never before has there been such a popular console. This happened more or less when Super Mario Bros Masayuki Uemura was released "And we were saturated with returns of faulty consoles"Never before had there been such a large number of returns," and that's when I realized all the people who had bought it. Never before has there been such a popular console. This happened around the time Super Mario Bros. was released in 1985. Everyone at the company realized we were going to be overwhelmed. "The rest of the story is well known. NES sold more than 60 million consoles. all over the world, being the platform on which great classics such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Punch Out! or Mega Man were born to name just a few.

Some of these classics are available on the successful NES Mini, which has been followed by other retro consoles such as the SNES Mini, PlayStation Mini, or Mega Drive Mini.

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