Released in 1983, the Family Computer (whose official nick-name was the Famicom) was the first console released by Nintendo of Japan. The launch titles for the console were Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. and Popeye which were ports of earlier Nintendo arcade games.
The first Famicom games all bore a standardized cartridge design, referred to most commonly as “pulse line carts”. Famicom carts where not exclusively produced by Nintendo (like North American cartridges) and therefore varied greatly in color, size, and design as each manufacturer was able to create the casing as they wished provided it still fit into the Famicom’s cartridge slot.
The Family Computer used a top loading style of cart insertion and is much smaller than the North American NES. The size difference, despite containing essentially the same hardware, was due to the American FCC’s strict regulations on RF shielding in electronic devices. The Famicom has no RF shielding within it’s case at all, and smaller because if this. The NES also used ZIF (zero insertion force) in it’s cartridge loading mechanism to align the console more closely with a VCR and to distance itself from the glut of top loading consoles from the late seventies/early eighties, many of which never survived the video game crash of 1984.
Also unique to the Famicom where hardwired controllers. Unlike the NES, the Famicom’s controllers could not be removed and exchanged as they were wired directly to the mother board. There was however, an expansion port located at the front of the Famicom which served as a peripheral input for the light gun and various third party controllers such as track balls and arcade sticks. Of the two controllers hardwired to the Famicom, only the first player’s had a start and select button. The second controller instead contained a microphone was used in a few titles, most notable among them being both the original Famicom Disk System version of The Legend of Zelda and the later cartridge re-release.
The Famicom featured numerous peripherals that never made it out of Japan including 3D glasses hardware, a keyboard attachment/basic programming cartridge system, and a disk drive attachment called the Famicom Disk System which allowed games to be played from small disks that closely resembled 3.5″ floppies. All of these peripherals are examples of first-party hardware; developed, marketed, and sold by Nintendo themselves.
The Famicom was fully supported by Nintendo until 2003, at which time Nintendo ceased repairing the console because certain chips required for the mother board had ceased production by third party vendors. Although the console was supported by Nintendo for 20 years, the last commercially Famicom game, Takahashi Meijin no Bōken Jima IV (Adventure Island 4), was released in June 1994.