Family Computer Disk System

Nintendo released the Family Computer Disk System in 1986 as a peripheral for the Famicon or family computer console in Japan. Family Computer Disk System used proprietary floppy disks as a means for data storage. The connectivity to the device is provided by the Famicon deck and by plugging a modified cartridge or RAM adapter into the cartridge port. The cartridge port is attached through a supplied cable to the disk drive.  The RAM adapter contained an ASIC, typically identified by the name 2C33, 32 kilobytes of RAM to store programs temporarily, 8 kilobytes of RAM to cover and sprite information storage. The double-sixed floppy disks or disk cards had the total capacity of 896 kilobits or 112 kilobytes per disk. The user was expected to switch the sides of the disk at a point during the gameplay as many games were spanned on both sides of the disk. Some games even used two full disks i.e. four sides. The Famicon Disk system or Disk System or FDS possessed the capability of running on six C-cell batteries that would last 5 months on a regular game play (daily) or the supplied AC adapter.

Technology

The Disk cards of the Disk System’s were slight alterations of the Mitsumi’s Quick Disk 2.8 square disk format that was used in a few computers owned by the Japanese and several synthesizer keyboards and a handful of word processors. Mitsumi had close ties with Nintendo by virtue of its manufacturing of the Famicom and NES consoles along with other Nintendo hardware.

Family Computer Disk System and Piracy

Modifying Quick Disks as well as other disk copying techniques could easily make piracy apparent. Various publications like Hacker publications by the name of Backup Technique and Famicom Kaizo Manual demoed plans to create and build devices to copy the disks with simple plans to convert Quick Disks to FDS disks. There were also other commercialized versions of do-it-yourself projects that were advertised in the Backup Technique publications. Repeated efforts of thwarting the copying of disks was made by Nintendo but in vain as several unlicensed FDS programs facilitated the copying of disks. Some of these FDS programs included:

  • Disk Hacker
  • Kosodate Gokko
  • Copy master
  • Disk Keeper

Reliability

The Disk System faced several reliability issues in the size of the drive belt, which was smaller than the size of standard floppy drive belts; the old belts had the habit of either breaking or melting; the disks were required to be tested and verified to work as they had the vulnerability to attract dirt or demagnetize over time; error messages during the loading of the game et cetera.

Games

The disk version of Super Mario Bros was released by Nintendo in addition to its cartridge version. Some of the launch titles released were:

  • Baseball
  • Golf
  • Mah-jong
  • Soccer
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Tennis
  • The Legend of Zelda

Disk-kun

Nintendo was known for another feature, which was holding of game score contests. The mascot was called Disk-kun. The winners of the game were liable to claim two gold prize disks, one of which was for the game Golf US course and for Golf Japan course. Like the blue disk cards, these gold disks had metal shutters on them. Other prizes included a stationary set, gold cartridge version of the Punch-out exclusively for the family computer.

Games

The following is the list of games released for the Family Computer Disk System

Title Release date Manufacturer Serial number
Adian no Tsue 12-12-1986 Sunsoft SSD-ADA
19-Neunzehn 03-04-1988 Soft Pro SFC-NEU
Ai Senshi Nicol 04-24-1987 Konami KDS-AIN
Akumajo Dracula 09-26-1986 Konami KDS-AKM
Aku Senki Raijiin 07-12-1988 Micro cabin SQF-RJN
All One 02-22-1991 Tokuma Shoten GTS-ALD
Aso Maze 10-28-1988 Taito TFD-UMZ
Apple Town Monogatari: little computer people 01-03-1987 Square SQF-APT
Aso Maze 10-28-1988 Taito TFD-UMZ
Aspic-majaou no noroi 01-31-1988 Bothtec BTC-ASP
Bomberman 04-24-1990 Hudson Soft HFC-BMD