Monday, June 19, 2017

Official Variations of the Nintendo 8-bit NES/Famicom Console Hardware

Nintendo tried to get its 8-bit system into homes across the world.  It was most successful in Japan, the United States and Canada.  But it also distributed its hardware in many other countries, usually with the assistance of a local distributor.  Some of these systems are rather rare, but have been documented to exist.  In this blog post let I will attempt to identify every officially licensed variation of the 8-bit hardware Nintendo ever released.



For each distinct device, I will give its official name followed by its product code, if known.  Text in brackets means that the information is unofficial or in the case of the front loading NES units, not on the console itself.  For the rarer systems, I will try to give links to more information and photographs.

A. 60-Pin Systems

1. Family Computer HVC-001
TV System : NTSC

The original 8-bit Nintendo console, comes in three variations :

Square Button Controller
Round Button Controller
Round Button Controller VCI/GMP

The original square button controllers represent the earliest revisions of the system that was ever released to the public. These systems have smooth and shiny red bottom shells. They also tend to have somewhat incomplete and fragile CPUs and PPUs. The square button systems are especially rare because most of them were recalled at the end of 1983 to fix a hardware issue.

The round button systems almost always have a matte finish on the bottom of the case. Their the controller buttons are much more durable.

The later round button controller systems with the VCI/GMP logos have more internal RF shielding and slightly improved video quality. They can be distinguished by the VCI and GMP logos on the bottom of the system.

Except where noted all Famicoms only support RF output and Japanese channel frequencies and the controllers are hardwired but additional controllers can be used through the Famicom Expansion Port.

I talk about the original Famicom here : http://nerdlypleasures.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-nintendo-family-computerfamicom-nes.html

2. Family Computer Hong Kong Version HVC-001 (HKG)
TV System : PAL 60/50Hz

This system is very similar to the Japanese Famicom. It has English language labels and slightly different coloring on Family Computer strip. It uses NTSC chips, but the clock crystal is slightly slower (21.3125MHz) versus the canonical NTSC clock crystal (21.47727MHz). It has a “Fast/Slow” switch on the back to change from 60Hz to 50Hz operation. This works by a custom chip that freezes the PPU periodically to reduce the effective frame rate. Don’t expect it to play all PAL exclusive games. The RF modulator outputs PAL color and frequencies suitable for Hong Kong TVs.  It does not appear to have a channel select switch.

Curiously, Nintendo also released a Hong Kong Version of the Famicom Disk System. The only differences between the Japanese and the Hong Kong version of the Disk System are the box and manual.

More information is available here : http://www.famicomworld.com/forum/index.php?topic=4138.0
Better pictures can be found here : http://scanlines16.com/blog-3/retro-gaming/super-nintendo-super-famicom/for-sell-use-in-hong-kong-only/

3. Family Computer [Taiwan Version] HVC-001 (TPE)
TV System : NTSC

This system is essentially a Japanese Famicom using Chinese characters on the labels and an RF modulator and switchbox designed for Taiwanese TV frequencies.

More information here : http://scanlines16.com/en/blog-3/retro-gaming/nintendo-nes-famicom/famicom-from-taiwan-et-autres-histoires-sur-la-distribution-asiatique/

4. AV Famicom HVC-101
TV System : NTSC

Nintendo’s redesign of the Famicom was based off the NES Top Loader. It supports detachable standard controllers and adds composite video. It loses the RF modulator (sold separately) and cannot use the microphone function on Controller II. This is the only 8-bit Nintendo console to use the Nintendo Multi-Out connector. It comes with two dogbone-style controllers with short cables.

I talked about the AV Famicom in some detail here : http://nerdlypleasures.blogspot.com/2014/10/famicom-av-issues-and-solutions.html

5. Sharp C1 Famicom TV 14C-C1FW/R, 19C-C1FW/R
TV System : RGB

This was Sharp’s first offically licensed Famicom, released in 1983. This system contains a 14” or 19” TV and a Famicom, and comes in red and black bezels. The system uses detachable controllers with a mini-DIN plug. The PPU is a 2C03 RGB PPU, giving higher quality output but the 2C03 has somewhat different colors and lacks color emphasis support, leading to minor issues in some games and at least one licensed Famicom game incompatibility (Just Breed will not work and informs the player on its box). Due to the front loading nature of the cartridge slot, peripherals like the Famicom Disk System cannot be used.

It does have a Famicom Expansion Port. Original controllers are very rare. The second controller does support a microphone, making it the C-1 Famicom TV the only system to support the microphone via a detachable controller.  It has a built-in graphics program and a note program and came with a Donkey Kong Jr/Donkey Kong Jr. Math multi-cart. There is a special keyboard peripheral for the TV, presumably for the note program.

Images of the controllers and bundled cart can be found here :

http://nintendoage.com/forum/messageview.cfm?catid=10&threadid=135077

6. Sharp Twin Famicom AN-500R/B & AN-505R/B
TV System : NTSC

This is Sharp’s combination of a Famicom and a Famicom Disk System and released in 1986. The mainboard contains both the Famicom hardware and the Disk System RAM Adapter's hardware.  The disk drive's mechanics and electronics occupy the left half of the case.  There is a button to switch between disk and cartridges.  It has an eject button, start and reset buttons.  On the right side is the Expansion Port and the RAM Adapter's unused expansion port.  On the rear there is a cover protecting a pair of ports.  One of the ports can be used to connect an external disk drive to the built-in RAM Adapter.  This allows you to use an FDSStick.

 It has AV output and a DIN connector for an RF switchbox. They come in either black plastic or red plastic. The later Twin Famicoms (AN-505) come with turbo controllers. They show a similar bootup screen to the Famicom Disk System.  The later Twins have the words "Twin Famicom" embossed horizontally straight across the front of the system while the earlier Twins have the word "Famicom" embossed in a semi-circular pattern.

This is the best page I have seen that showcases all four of the Twin Famicoms :

https://retro-video-gaming.com/2015/03/07/sharps-twin-famicom-and-the-twin-famicom-turbo/

7. Sharp Famicom Titler AN-510
TV System : NTSC-derived from RGB

This device was released in 1989 and is a combination of a Famicom and a simple video mixer. It has RF output connector DIN, composite AV inputs and outputs and an S-Video input and output. It uses a 2C05-99 PPU, which like the 2C03 has RGB-based output. It also has a tablet area on the console for drawing on the screen. Extremely rare and expensive. While it doesn’t natively provide RGB output, it can be modded to do so : http://www.chrismcovell.com/gotRGB/fctitler.html

The diagram here can give you a better idea of how the device was supposed to be used :
http://kotaku.com/the-nintendo-console-from-the-80s-that-could-record-gam-1739086864

Information about the device's capabilities can be found here :
B. 72-Pin Consumer Systems

1. Nintendo Entertainment System NES-001
TV System : NTSC
Lockout Chip : 3193, 3193A, 6113, 6113A, 6113B1

The standard NES. There are far more of these NESes in the world than any other NES. Released in the U.S. and (initially by Mattel) in Canada.

2. Nintendo Entertainment System European Version NESE-001
TV System : PAL
Lockout Chip : 3195A (PAL-B)

This system was distributed in the Netherlands, Belgium, (West) Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland. The consoles and cartridges intended for the German-speaking countries may instead have “Europa Version” on the box, but the console itself will have “European Version” on its cartridge lid.

3. Nintendo Entertainment System Version Española Spanish Version NESE-001
TV System : PAL
Lockout Chip : 3195A (PAL-B)

For some reason, Spain got a NES styled in this manner, but this console works identically to the European Version.

4. Nintendo Entertainment System [French Version] NESE-001 (FRA)
TV System : PAL RGB
Lockout Chip : 3195A (PAL-B)

This console does not have an RF modulator or RCA jacks. Instead it has a proprietary connector that connects to a cable which outputs “RGB” and audio. This RGB has been converted from the PAL video signal output by the 2C07 PPU to be SECAM friendly. The cable ends in a SCART connector. Because of the PAL to RGB conversion it is not a high quality RGB solution.

5. Nintendo Entertainment System Mattel Version NESE-001 (GBR), NESE-001 (AUS), NESE-001 (ITA)
TV System : PAL
Lockout Chip : 3197A (PAL-A)

Mattel obtained distribution rights to sell the NES in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Italy. These consoles seem identical except for the stickers for each region. However, they are unlikely to use the same RF frequencies, so their compatibility stops at the RF modulator. Also, their AC adapters use different connectors, Type G for the U.K., Type I for Australia and New Zealand and Type C for Italy.

6. Nintendo Entertainment System NES Version NESE-001 (GBR)
TV System : PAL
Lockout Chip : 3197A (PAL-A)

This console was released after Mattel’s rights to distribute the NES in the U.K. had lapsed.

7. Nintendo Entertainment System [Australasian Version] NESE-001 (AUS)
TV System : PAL
Lockout Chip : 3197A (PAL-A)

This console was released after Mattel’s rights to distribute the NES in Australia and New Zealand had lapsed.

8. Nintendo Entertainment System Versione Italiana NESE-001 (ITA)
TV System : PAL
Lockout Chip : 3197A (PAL-A)

This console was released after Mattel’s rights to distribute the NES in Italy lapsed.

9. Nintendo Entertainment System Hong Kong Version NESA-001 (HKG)
TV System : PAL
Lockout Chip : 3196A

These Hong Kong, Asian and Indian NESes have gray instead of black around the controller ports and the vent.  For some strange reason Nintendo decided to try Hong Kong with the NES after failing with the Famicom.  They had little success with either console thanks to rampant piracy.  Here are pictures of this console and most of the other non-US NESes :

http://scanlines16.com/en/blog-3/retro-gaming/nintendo-nes-famicom/nes-hong-kong-version/

10. Nintendo Entertainment System Asian Version NESA-001
TV System : PAL
Lockout Chip : 3196A

It is uncertain where Nintendo marketed this system, as Southeast Asia is checkered with NTSC and PAL countries.

11. Samurai Electronic TV Game [Nintendo Entertainment System Indian Version] NESA-001
TV System : PAL
Lockout Chip : 3196A

In India the NES had to be distributed by a local company, hence the Samurai logo.

More information about the system and its releases can be found here :
http://nintendoage.com/forum/messageview.cfm?catid=5&threadid=139340

12. Comboy Nintendo Entertainment System Korean Version NES-001 (KOR)
TV System : NTSC
Lockout Chip : 3195A

As with India, in South Korea Japanese electronics had to be released by a local company, in this case Hyundai Electronics. This console has black lettering instead of red on its cover and Hangul characters. It functions like a regular NTSC NES except for its PAL-B lockout chip.

More information about this system and Korean releases can be found here : http://www.autofish.net/hosted/famitek/comboy.html

13. Nintendo Entertainment System [Brazilian Version] NES-001 (BRA)
TV System : PAL-M
Lockout Chip : 6113B1

Released rather late in the NES’s lifespan by Playtronic, this console must output a PAL-M signal. The PCB must have color conversion circuitry because the 2C02 PPU outputs NTSC color and the 2C07 outputs 50Hz timings. PAL-M is 60Hz and 525 lines, so the 2C02 would be the best chip to use by far.

Some information can be found here :
http://s4.zetaboards.com/PGC_Forums/topic/10280137/1/

14. Nintendo Entertainment System NES-101
TV System : NTSC

The top loader removed the AV outputs, the lockout chip and the unused NES Expansion Port. A very rare late revision uses a Multi-Out connector like the AV Famicom for composite video output. This system introduced the NES Dogbone controller.

15. Nintendo Entertainment System NES-101 (AUS)
TV System : PAL

The PAL top loader was only released in Australia and New Zealand.

16. Sharp Nintendo Television 19SC111, 19SV111
TV System : NTSC
Released in : U.S., Canada

Unlike the Japanese Sharp TV, this only comes in black and uses a 2C02 PPU. It works just like a front loader and supports all NES controllers. It came with black plastic controllers. The unit has four feet and they often break. These may have only come with 19” screens.

C. 72-Pin Specialized Systems

1.  M8 Game Selectable Working Product Display

This was the first console Nintendo made that allowed customers to try games in stores before they bought them.  These consoles have a pair of controllers that sit in a pair of cradles and a button to select the game.  Unlike the M82, this device does not use cartridges.  It can support up to sixteen sets of ROMs and has little slots on the front of the unit for the name of each game.  An LED next to the name tells the player the name of the active game.  Games that are known to have been previewed with this system are :

10-Yard Fight
Balloon Fight
Baseball
Clu Clu Land
Donkey Kong Jr. Math
Duck Hunt
Excitebike
Golf
Hogan's Alley
Ice Climber
Kung Fu
Mach Rider
Popeye
Pinball
Soccer
Stack-Up
Super Mario Bros.
Tennis
Wild Gunman
Wrecking Crew

The faceplates on the front of the display were made as one unit, so retailers could not freely pick and choose which games they wanted to display.  There were three versions made, each with its own set of games.  Most of the games can be found in more than one version, but the first set only has Mach Rider and Popeye, the second set only has DKjr. Math and the third set only has Stack-Up and does not have the ROM for the attract screen logo.

Inside the unit is a NES mainboard connected to a large PCB.  This PCB has thirty-two ROM sockets.  Sixteen of these sockets are dedicated to the PRG-ROM of each game, the other sixteen are dedicated to the CHR-ROM of each game.  The game ROMs come on EPROMs.  As a consequence, this system supports only mapperless NROM games.  There is a dial on the back of the unit to set the playing time (25 seconds, 3 minutes, 6 minutes, 25 mintues).  The system has RF and AV outputs and its own built-in power supply.  It also has four pairs of four dipswitches to set the mirroring for each game (horizontal or vertical).

More information and links to more information and pictures can be found here :

http://nintendoage.com/forum/messageview.cfm?catid=5&threadid=8153

2. M82 Game Selectable Working Product Display
TV System : NTSC
Lockout Chip : 3193, 3193A, 6113, 6113A, 6113B1

This system was used to preview NES games in stores, and a potential customer could pick one of twelve cartridges plugged into the unit to try for a short period of time. These cartridges were identical to the officially released cartridges. It has RF and AV outputs and has the power supply built-in. There was a timer function switch which would reset a game after a certain length of time (30 seconds, 3 minutes, 60 minutes, 128 minutes). It has five NES controller ports located inside the unit and can support light guns. It has a menu attract screen which is separate from the games. A red button selects the game with an LCD display to tell you which game has been selected.

The M82 is not the most compatible device, it does not work properly with many officially licensed NES games that assert the IRQ line (MMC3, MMC5, FME-7).

I remember these units at the World of Nintendo kiosk at my local mall in the early 90s.  The controller cradle on the front of the unit was very distinctive, as was the clear window that displayed the game labels.  (except when the didn't as with early Jaleco titles)

Game-Tech.us did a multi-part series, partially with Kevtris, exploring this device in enormous detail.  Here is the Youtube video playlist of that epic series :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meFh58xBTGU&list=PL0jJKUt9b_UqAxr-0XyUzMP1Grl3qdkt4

3. M82 Game Selectable Working Product Display
TV System : PAL
Lockout Chip : 3197A

Here is more information about the PAL-A unit :

https://kelamyaus.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/nintendo-pal-a-m82-demo-unit/

4. M82 Game Selectable Working Product Display
TV System : PAL
Lockout Chip : 3195A

Here is more information about the PAL-B unit :

http://nintendoage.com/forum/messageview.cfm?catid=6&threadid=174214

5. FamicomBox
TV System : NTSC
Lockout Chip : 3198 & 3199

This is essentially a combination of the M82 Demo Unit and a “PlayChoice-15”. It uses special 72-pin black cartridges and can fit up to fifteen of them. These cartridges will work in an NES top loader or lockout-chip disabled front loader. They use a 3198 lockout chip, which is unique to these cartridges. If one cartridge is inserted without the correct lockout chip, none of the games will work. Pro Wrestling had a unique cartridge release for the FamicomBox, it was otherwise released in Japan only for the Disk System.

The FamicomBox was activated by coins and would play for a certain amount of time before resetting the system. You could insert another coin to continue playing or try a new game. Selecting games was done by a software menu, which would give the game’s title in English. The system has a 3199 lockout chip to run the coin box timers. It has RF and AV output and a Famicom Expansion Port.

The system has the same IRQ issue that the M82 has.

Famicom World has many pictures and a good write-up about the FamicomBox :

http://famicomworld.com/system/other/famicombox/

Kevtris has almost all the technical information about the system available here :

http://kevtris.org/mappers/famicombox/

6. Sharp FamicomStation
TV System : NTSC

Like the Twin Famicom, Sharp’s FamicomStation functions identically to the FamicomBox but has different menu graphics.

6. NES Test Station
TV System : NTSC
Lockout Chip : 3193, 3193A, 6113, 6113A, 6113B1

These were sent to Nintendo Service Centers to test NES systems, peripherals and games. It can test the AC Adapter, cartridges, the AV cables, the RF switch, controllers (standard gamepad, R.O.B., Zapper and Power Pad) and the control deck’s video and audio output.

The external slot is a 72-pin slot that does not use the push down mechanism of the regular front loader. Inside the case is a 60-pin slot with an NTF2 System Test Cartridge.
Game-Tech.us's Youtube series on the NES Test Station has more information than you probably ever  wanted to know :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OaaJLkBBak

7. NES Counter Tester
TV System : NTSC

This was a cut-down version of the Test Station sent to Service Centers later in the NES’s life. It can test the same things as the larger unit.  A little more information can be found here :
http://www.limbofunk.com/nes-counter-tester.html

D. Arcade and Other Systems

1. VS. System
TV System : 60Hz RGB

The VS. System arcade cabinets came as two monitors driven by one board. There were sockets on the board to support either two separate games or one VS DualSystem game. Later Nintendo released an upright cabinet with only one monitor. The lack of a second monitor meant that this cabinet could not support DualSystem games. Games for the VS System came on EPROMs and typically came with special PPU chips or other copy protection measures. The games would typically be more challenging than their regular cartridge versions. Light gun games were available on this system. The system had its own bankswitching, but games could implement custom bankswitching schemes via daughterboards.

I have discussed the VS. System at length here : http://nerdlypleasures.blogspot.com/2015/07/nintendos-vs-system-just-like-at-home.html

2. PlayChoice-10
TV System : 60Hz RGB

The PlayChoice-10 could also use two monitors, one for the game and the other to select a game and display the instructions. A smaller tabletop version only used one monitor and the buttons would alternate between the game menu/instructions and the game screen. Games came on special PCBs and had an extra ROM chip for the instructions. Up to ten games can be inserted on the motherboard. One game, The Goonies, was only released to the West via the PlayChoice 10. The PlayChoice-10 uses a 2C03 RGB PPU. Light gun games were available on this system.

I have discussed the PlayChoice-10 at length here :
http://nerdlypleasures.blogspot.com/2015/06/nintendos-playchoice-10-arcade.html

3. 2A03 Sound Chip Usage

Donkey Kong 3, Punch-Out, Super Punch-Out and Arm Wrestling arcade machines all use the revisionless 2A03 as a sound chip and sound CPU. Their graphics capabilities exceed the 2C02 in certain ways and all but Donkey Kong 3 use two monitors.

4.  Family Computer Network System Dataship 1200

One of Nintendo's weirder combinations, this is a combined Famicom and the Famicom Modem from the Family Computer Network System.  The Famicom portion is severely cut down, it has no regular cartridge slot and no attached controllers.  It only has an Expansion Port for the special controller and a cartridge slot for the card-lke cartridges the Modem used.  However, as shown here : http://offgao.blog112.fc2.com/blog-entry-36.html, there is complete or nearly complete Famicom hardware inside the machine.

1 comment:

Iván Díaz Álvarez said...

Hi:
PAL-A Consoles are in a separate region with respect to PAL-B consoles, and the lockout chip from one subregion will reject games from the other. This means that some games can have pretty wild price differences from PAL-A to PAL-B and games that were released on one bu not the other.

Also the Twin Famicom has a slider to switch between carts and disks, not a button.