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Nintendo Famicom Autopsy

FamicomWe spend so much time focusing on video games that sometimes we forget about the hardware that brings Mario, Ratchet, or Master Chief to life.  What goes on inside those mysterious plastic shells?  Are there little hamsters running on exercise wheels next to the processor?  Are the Pikmin hard at work coordinating the Wii's Wi-Fi capabilities?  Just as I learned about biology in middle school by dissecting a worm, the time has come to open up a vintage Nintendo Famicom (you know, the Japanese Nintendo Entertainment System,) and the disk system add-on to see what makes/made them tick.

The Famicom Disk System had one major Achilles heel: a rubber drive belt, which often broke or melted into a pile of gunk with the consistency of bubble gum. As a result, finding a working FDS today that hasn't had its drive belt replaced is impossible. Furthermore, finding replacement belts in the United States is also hard, due to the belt's unique size.

Something else that I learned back in middle school was involved writing a properly structured research paper (well, proper for middle school).  I was allowed to choose my own topic, so I set out to explore how the NES functions.  My primary resource was a then-current issue of Nintendo Power that diagrammed some of the chips and parts inside the beloved gray box.  The last page of the report looked ahead to the Super NES's hardware and included a small low resolution screenshot of the then-upcoming Mega Man X2 that I found on a very primitive gaming website.  I scored an A on the paper with extra credit for the screenshot, as the teacher was impressed that I'd managed to not only include an image in the paper, but the image was so clear that she couldn't figure out how I'd taken a photo of the television without distorting the picture.  Ah yes, those were the days when anything involving computers and the Internet were completely mysterious and magical.

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