Family Computer Disk System

Last updated

Family Computer Disk System
Family Computer Disk System logo.png
Manufacturer Nintendo
Type Video game console add-on
Generation Third generation
Release date
  • JP: February 21, 1986
Media Floppy disks b[]
CPU Ricoh 2A03

The Family Computer Disk System(Japanese:ファミリーコンピュータ ディスクシステム, Hepburn:Famirī Konpyūta Disuku Shisutemu) [1] is a peripheral for Nintendo's Family Computer home video game console, released only in Japan on February 21, 1986. It uses proprietary floppy disks called "Disk Cards" for data storage. [2] Through its entire production span, 1986—2003, 4.44 million units were sold. Its name is sometimes shortened as Famicom Disk System(ファミコンディスクシステム,Famikon Disuku Shisutemu) or simply Disk System(ディスクシステム,Disuku Shisutemu), and abbreviated as FCDS, FDS, or FCD.

Japanese is an East Asian language spoken by about 128 million people, primarily in Japan, where it is the national language. It is a member of the Japonic language family, and its relation to other languages, such as Korean, is debated. Japanese has been grouped with language families such as Ainu, Austroasiatic, and the now-discredited Altaic, but none of these proposals has gained widespread acceptance.

Hepburn romanization is a system for the romanization of Japanese that uses the Latin alphabet to write the Japanese language. It is used by most foreigners learning to spell Japanese in the Latin alphabet and by the Japanese for romanizing personal names, geographical locations, and other information such as train tables, road signs, and official communications with foreign countries. Largely based on English writing conventions, consonants closely correspond to the English pronunciation and vowels approximate the Italian pronunciation.

Peripheral hardware device which attaches to a computer and which provided input, output, storage or communication facilities

A peripheral or peripheral device is "an ancillary device used to put information into and get information out of the computer".


The device is connected to the Famicom deck by plugging a special cartridge known as the RAM Adapter into the system's cartridge port, and attaching that cartridge's cable to the disk drive. The RAM adapter contains 32  kilobytes (KB) of RAM for temporary program storage, 8 KB of RAM for tile and sprite data storage, and an ASIC known as the 2C33. The ASIC acts as a disk controller for the floppy drive, and also includes additional sound hardware featuring a single-cycle wavetable-lookup synthesizer. Finally, embedded in the 2C33 is an 8KB BIOS ROM. The Disk Cards used are double-sided, with a total capacity of 112 KB per disk. Many games span both sides of a disk, requiring the user to switch sides at some point during gameplay. A few games use two full disks, totaling four sides. The Disk System is capable of running on six C-cell batteries or the supplied AC adapter. Batteries usually last five months with daily game play. The inclusion of a battery option is due to the likelihood of a standard set of AC plugs already being occupied by a Famicom and a television.

The kilobyte is a multiple of the unit byte for digital information.

Sprite is a computer graphics term for a two-dimensional bitmap that is integrated into a larger scene, most often in a 2D video game.

Application-specific integrated circuit Integrated circuit customized (typically optimized) for a specific task

An application-specific integrated circuit is an integrated circuit (IC) customized for a particular use, rather than intended for general-purpose use. For example, a chip designed to run in a digital voice recorder or a high-efficiency bitcoin miner is an ASIC. Application-specific standard products (ASSPs) are intermediate between ASICs and industry standard integrated circuits like the 7400 series or the 4000 series.


Diskun, the official mascot of the Disk System. Family Computer Disk System logo, vector.svg
Diskun, the official mascot of the Disk System.

In 1983, the disks' 112  KB of storage space was quite appealing due to the high cost of cartridge-based solid state storage chips. [3] The rewritable aspect of the disks also opened up new possibilities; games such as The Legend of Zelda , Metroid , and Kid Icarus were released to the FDS with a save feature. Many of these titles were subsequently converted to cartridge format and released for the NES a year or two later, with saving implemented either via password resume or battery-backed memory.

<i>Metroid</i> (video game) 1986 video game in the Metroid series

Metroid is an action-adventure game developed and published by Nintendo. The first installment in the Metroid series, it was originally released in Japan for the Family Computer Disk System peripheral in August 1986. North America received a release in August 1987 on the Nintendo Entertainment System in a ROM cartridge format, with the European release following in January 1988. Set on the planet Zebes, the story follows Samus Aran as she attempts to retrieve the parasitic Metroid organisms that were stolen by Space Pirates, who plan to replicate the Metroids by exposing them to beta rays and then use them as biological weapons to destroy Samus and all who oppose them.

<i>Kid Icarus</i> 1986 video game

Kid Icarus, known in Japan as Light Mythology: Palutena's Mirror, is an action platform video game for the Family Computer Disk System in Japan and the Nintendo Entertainment System in Europe and North America. It was released in Japan in December 1986, in Europe in February 1987, and in North America in July 1987.

Nintendo Entertainment System 8-bit video game console produced by Nintendo in 1983

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is an 8-bit home video game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo. It is a remodeled export version of the company's Family Computer (FC) platform in Japan, commonly known as the Famicom for short, which launched on July 15, 1983. The NES was launched through test markets in New York City and Los Angeles in 1985, before being given a wide release in the rest of North America and parts of Europe in 1986, followed by Australia and other European countries in 1987. Brazil saw only unlicensed clones until the official local release in 1993. In South Korea, it was packaged as the Hyundai Comboy and distributed by SK Hynix which then was known as Hyundai Electronics; the Comboy was released in 1989.

Hardware versions

The Sharp Twin Famicom is a Famicom with built-in Disk System. Sharp-Twin-Famicom-Console.jpg
The Sharp Twin Famicom is a Famicom with built-in Disk System.

Sharp released the Twin Famicom (ツインファミコン,Tsuinfamikon), a Famicom model that features a built-in Disk System.

Sharp Corporation is a Japanese multinational corporation that designs and manufactures electronic products, headquartered in Sakai-ku, Sakai. Since 2016 it has been a subsidiary of Taiwan-based Foxconn Group. Sharp employs more than 50,000 people worldwide. The company was founded in September 1912 in Tokyo and takes its name from one of its founder’s first inventions, the Ever-Sharp mechanical pencil, which was invented by Tokuji Hayakawa in 1915.

Twin Famicom

The Twin Famicom is a video game console system that was produced by Sharp Corporation in 1986 and was only released in Japan. It is a licensed Nintendo product that combines the Family Computer (Famicom) and the Family Computer Disk System (FDS) into a single piece of hardware.

Disk Writer and Disk Fax kiosks

Widespread copyright violation in Japan's predominantly personal-computer-based game rental market inspired corporations to petition the government to ban the rental of all video games in 1984. [4] With games then being available only via full purchase, demand rose for a new and less expensive way to access more games. In 1986, as video gaming had increasingly expanded from computers into the video game console market, Nintendo installed Famicom Disk Writer Kiosks in game stores across Japan. For a rental fee of ¥500 (then about US$3.25) compared to the ¥2,600 (then about US$17) cost of new games, these stations allowed users to copy new games to their disks for an unlimited time. Some game releases are exclusive to these kiosks.[ further explanation needed ] Calling the Disk Writer "one of the coolest things Nintendo ever created", Kotaku says the system's premise still offers modern retail and online stores a potential innovation in game rentals. The service was very popular and remained available until 2003. [2] [3] [5]

Disk Writer kiosks in select locations were also provisioned as Disk Fax systems. Players could take advantage of the dynamic rewritability of blue floppy disk versions of Disk System games (such as Famicom Grand Prix: F1 Race ) in order to save their high scores at their leisure at home. The player could then bring the disk to a retailer's Disk Fax kiosk, which collated and transmitted the player's scores via facsimile to Nintendo. Players participated in a nationwide leaderboard, with prizes. [3] [6]

Fax method of transmitting images, often of documents

Fax, sometimes called telecopying or telefax, is the telephonic transmission of scanned printed material, normally to a telephone number connected to a printer or other output device. The original document is scanned with a fax machine, which processes the contents as a single fixed graphic image, converting it into a bitmap, and then transmitting it through the telephone system in the form of audio-frequency tones. The receiving fax machine interprets the tones and reconstructs the image, printing a paper copy. Early systems used direct conversions of image darkness to audio tone in a continuous or analog manner. Since the 1980s, most machines modulate the transmitted audio frequencies using a digital representation of the page which is compressed to quickly transmit areas which are all-white or all-black.


The Disk System's Disk Cards are somewhat proprietary 71 mm × 76 mm (2.8 × 3 in) 56K-per-side double-sided floppy. They are a slight modification of Mitsumi's Quick Disk 89 mm 2.8 in square disk format which is used in a handful of Japanese computers and various synthesizer keyboards, along with a few word processors. QuickDisk drives are in a few devices in Europe and North America. Mitsumi already had close relations with Nintendo, as it manufactured the Famicom and NES consoles, and possibly other Nintendo hardware.

Modifications to the standard Quick Disk format include the "NINTENDO" moulding along the bottom of each Disk Card. In addition to branding the disk, this acts as a rudimentary form of copy protection - a device inside the drive bay contains raised protrusions which fit into their recessed counterparts, ostensibly ensuring that only official disks are used. [7] [8] If a disk without these recessed areas is inserted, the protrusions cannot raise, and the system will not allow the game to be loaded. This was combined with technical measures in the way data was stored on the disk to prevent users from physically swapping copied disk media into an official shell. [8] However, both of these measures were defeated by pirate game distributors; in particular, special disks with cutouts alongside simple devices to modify standard Quick Disks were produced to defeat the physical hardware check, enabling rampant piracy. [7] An advertisement containing a guide for a simple modification to a Quick Disk to allow its use with a Famicom Disk System was printed in at least one magazine. [7]

Startup screen

Nintendo's flagship mascot brothers Mario and Luigi make an appearance in the FDS's boot firmware. After turning on the system, a "battle" between the two characters begins over the color scheme of the Nintendo sign and screen border, until a disk is inserted into the FDS.


While the Disk System was years ahead of its time in terms of a disk-format game console, the drive and disks both have reliability issues. The drive belt in the drive is a proprietary size, since standard floppy drive belts are too large. Until 2004, Japanese residents were able to send their systems to Nintendo directly for repairs and belt replacements, but Nintendo of America and the PAL regions did not service them as the system was not released in those regions. Due to a flaw in manufacturing, the old belts have a tendency to break, decompose, or occasionally melt.

In an effort to save money on production, Nintendo opted to not use disk shutters (a feature seen on 89 mm (3.5 in) floppy disks) to keep dirt out, instead opting to include wax paper sleeves as with the older 133 mm (5.25 in) disks. The only exception to this were certain games that were specially released on blue disks, which do have shutters.

Error messages produced during disk read operations are unusually simple, to the point where it is difficult to know what the exact problem is. Most in-game error messages during loading are often displayed as "Err. ##", with "##" being the designated number for the type of error message; the most common ones are Err. 02 (the Disk System's batteries being low on power or with no batteries put in altogether), Err. 07 (Side A and B reversed when trying to load the disk), and Err. 27 ("Disk trouble", usually involving the disk surface itself, but can also be due to a belt replacement from an inexperienced technician, resulting in the disk drive's head being inaccurately aligned). However, the error messages themselves consist of little explanation (Err. 27, for example, only gives the accompanying message "Disk trouble") and in most cases within gameplay itself, such as Zelda II: The Adventure of Link , the error message is not given at all, with only the number code shown.


A Zelda no Densetsu (Legend of Zelda) Disk Card. Famicom Zelda Disk.png
A Zelda no Densetsu (Legend of Zelda) Disk Card.
A blue 3D Hot Rally Disk Card with shutter. Blue famicom disk.jpg
A blue 3D Hot Rally Disk Card with shutter.

Square Co., Ltd. had a branch at one point called Disk Original Group, a software label that published Disk System games from Japanese PC software companies. The venture was largely a failure and almost pushed a pre- Final Fantasy Square into bankruptcy. Final Fantasy was to be released for the FDS, but a disagreement over Nintendo's copyright policies caused Square to change its position and release the game as a cartridge.[ citation needed ]

Nintendo released a disk version of Super Mario Bros. in addition to the cartridge version. The Western-market Super Mario Bros. 2 originated from a disk-only game called Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic .

Launch games

These games accompanied the Famicom Disk System's launch to market.


Nintendo held game score contests for certain games that were released on blue-colored disk cards. [3] Some of the prizes to these contests included two gold prize disks, one for the game Golf US course, and one for Golf Japan course (not to be confused with Golf ). These two gold disks have metal shutters on them, like the aforementioned blue Disk Cards. Nintendo awarded other prizes including a stationery set, and a gold cartridge version of the Punch-Out!! for the Family Computer. In the gold version of Punch-Out!!, the final opponent is Super Macho Man, before Nintendo used Mike Tyson and Mr. Dream instead in later NES versions.[ citation needed ]


Many years after the FDS was released, the system and its Disk-kun mascot would be recognized by Nintendo and others. In the GameCube video game Super Smash Bros. Melee , switching the language to Japanese (via the options menu) results in the trophy gallery's Nintendo Entertainment System and Super NES being replaced with a Family Computer and Super Famicom, respectively. Additionally, Disk-kun can be unlocked as a trophy via accessing all bonus scores.

The background music to the GameCube's main console menu is actually the jingle to the FDS boot-up screen slowed down 16 times. [9]

The FDS boot up theme is briefly played in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door when Princess Peach inserts a floppy disk into Sir Grodus's computer during the fifth chapter's interlude.

Disk-kun appears in Super Mario Maker as an unlockable Mystery Mushroom costume via an update.

See also

Related Research Articles

Super Nintendo Entertainment System home video game console developed by Nintendo and first released in 1990 in Japan

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), also known as the Super NES or Super Nintendo, is a 16-bit home video game console developed by Nintendo that was released in 1990 in Japan and South Korea, 1991 in North America, 1992 in Europe and Australasia (Oceania), and 1993 in South America. In Japan, the system is called the Super Famicom (SFC). In South Korea, it is known as the Super Comboy and was distributed by Hyundai Electronics. The system was released in Brazil on August 30, 1993, by Playtronic. Although each version is essentially the same, several forms of regional lockout prevent the different versions from being compatible with one another.

A video game console is a computer device that outputs a video signal or visual image to display a video game that one or more people can play.

<i>Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels</i> video game

Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels is a 1986 side-scrolling platform game developed and published by Nintendo as the first sequel to their 1985 bestseller Super Mario Bros. The games are similar in style and gameplay, apart from a steep increase in difficulty. Like the original, Mario or Luigi venture to rescue the Princess from Bowser. Unlike the original, the game has no two-player option and Luigi is differentiated from his twin plumber brother with reduced ground friction and increased jump height. The Lost Levels also introduces setbacks such as poison mushroom power-ups, counterproductive level warps, and mid-air wind gusts. The game has 32 levels across eight worlds, and five bonus worlds, each of which also has four levels.

64DD Nintendo 64 add-on

The 64DD is a magnetic disk drive peripheral for the Nintendo 64 game console developed by Nintendo. It was originally announced in 1995, prior to the Nintendo 64's 1996 launch, and after numerous delays was finally released only in Japan on December 1, 1999. The "64" references both the Nintendo 64 console and the 64 MB storage capacity of the disks, and "DD" is short for "disk drive" or "dynamic drive".

<i>Excitebike</i> motocross racing video game series made by Nintendo.

Excitebike is a motocross racing video game franchise made by Nintendo. It debuted as a game for the Famicom in Japan in 1984 and as a launch title for the NES in 1985. It is the first game of the Excite series, succeeded by its direct sequel Excitebike 64, its spiritual successors Excite Truck and Excitebots: Trick Racing, and the WiiWare title Excitebike: World Rally. 3D Classics: Excitebike, a 3D remake of the original game, was free for a limited time to promote the launch of the Nintendo eShop in June 2011.

Following the popularity and longevity of the Nintendo Entertainment System, the system has seen many clone video game consoles. Such clones are colloquially called Famiclones, and are electronic hardware devices designed to replicate the workings of, and play games designed for, the NES and Famicom. Hundreds of unauthorized clones and unlicensed copies have been made available since the height of the NES popularity in the late 1980s. The technology employed in such clones has evolved over the years: while the earliest clones feature a printed circuit board containing custom or third party integrated circuits (ICs), more recent (post-1996) clones utilize single chip designs, with a custom ASIC which simulates the functionality of the original hardware, and often includes one or more on-board games. Most devices originate in Asian nations, especially China, Taiwan, India, Southeast Asia, and to a lesser extent, South Korea.

1988 has seen many sequels and prequels in video games and several new titles such as Super Contra, Super Mario Bros 2,Assault and Altered Beast, and Super Mario Bros 3

History of the Nintendo Entertainment System

Nintendo's 8-bit video game console, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), known in Japan as the Family Computer or Famicom, was introduced after the video game crash of 1983 in North America. It enjoyed a long lifespan and dominated the North American video game market during the late 80's. Facing obsolescence in 1989 with the advent of 16-bit consoles, it was later supplanted by its successor, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, but support and production continued until 1995. After its discontinuation, interest in the NES has since been renewed by collectors and emulators, including Nintendo's own Virtual Console platform.

Family BASIC 1984 video game

Family BASIC or Famicom BASIC is the consumer product for programming Nintendo's Family Computer video game console of Japan. Family BASIC was launched on June 21, 1984 to consumers in Japan by Nintendo, in cooperation with Hudson Soft and Sharp Corporation. A second version titled Family BASIC V3 was released on February 21, 1985, with greater memory and new features.

Nintendo Power (cartridge) flash RAM cartridge

The Nintendo Power flash ROM cartridge is a Japan-only peripheral which was produced by Nintendo for the Super Famicom and the Game Boy. The now defunct service allowed owners to download Super Famicom and Game Boy games onto a special flash memory cartridge for a lower price than that of the full cartridge.

<i>Mario no Photopi</i> video game

Mario no Photopi is a creativity video game released for the Nintendo 64 in 1998 exclusively in Japan. With a variety of photo retouching and image composition functions, SmartMedia storage card slots, and planned 64DD floppy disk compatibility, the game was intended to supplant the Japanese market's desire for a personal computer.

ROM cartridge removable enclosure containing read-only memory devices

A ROM cartridge, usually referred to simply as a cartridge or cart, is a removable memory card containing ROM designed to be connected to a consumer electronics device such as a home computer, video game console and to a lesser extent, electronic musical instruments. ROM cartridges can be used to load software such as video games or other application programs.

<i>Famicom Tantei Club: Kieta Kōkeisha</i> 1988 video game

Famicom Tantei Club: Kieta Kōkeisha is an adventure game developed and published by Nintendo for the Family Computer Disk System, with the first disk released on April 27, 1988, and the second disc released on June 14, 1988. Production was directed by Gunpei Yokoi, and the scenario was written by Yoshio Sakamoto.

This is a list of accessories for the Nintendo 64 video game console.

Game backup device

A game backup device, formerly usually called a copier and more recently a flash cartridge, is a device for backing up ROM information from a video game cartridge to a computer file called a ROM image and playing them back on the real hardware. Recently flash cartridges, especially on the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS platforms, only support the latter function; they cannot be used for backing up ROM data. Game backup devices also make it possible to develop homebrew software on video game systems. Game backup devices differ from modchips in that modchips are used in conjunction with systems that use generally available media such as CDs and DVDs, whereas game backup devices are used with systems that use cartridges.

The Super Famicom Box is a video game system created by Nintendo that incorporated a "pay to play" mechanism in a manner similar to arcade machines. It was sold only in Japan in the early 1990s and was only available for installation in hotel rooms. The device consists of Super Famicom console hardware enclosed in a box along with a coin acceptor for time-limited playing of video games. The device includes original Super Famicom controllers.


  1. "Family Computer 30th Anniversary Book (supplemental booklet)". Weekly Famitsu (in Japanese). Enterbrain (1284). July 25, 2013.
  2. 1 2 "FDS Copying, Writing, and Dumping Information". Famicom Disk System. February 21, 1986. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 McFerran, Damien (November 20, 2010). "Slipped Disk - The History of the Famicom Disk System". NintendoLife. Retrieved September 5, 2014.
  4. Eisenbeis, Richard (June 1, 2012). "Why You Can't Rent Games in Japan". Kotaku. Retrieved June 26, 2014.
  5. Eisenbeis, Richard (March 14, 2014). "Digital Distribution Could Learn from Nintendo's Disk Writer Kiosk". Kotaku. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  6. "Famicom Disk System (FDS)". Famicom World. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  7. 1 2 3 "Famicom - FDS Disks | Famicom Disk System" . Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  8. 1 2 Plunkett, Luke. "Nintendo's Early DRM Was Simple (And Didn't Work)". Kotaku. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  9. Double X (March 4, 2010). "Famicom Disk System and the Gamecube" . Retrieved April 4, 2018 via YouTube.