Famicom Hardware Designer Masayuki Uemura Explains Origins of its Name and Red Colouring
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Colour choice "due to an order from the company's president"
The original Famicom — which would be branded as the NES in the West — remains an iconic example of Japanese hardware design. That's not to say it was perfect, with one notable feature being that the controllers were hardwired into the system — it's easy to see why that idea was scrapped when the system was redesigned for the West. Nevertheless, it's an important part of Nintendo's history and, by extension, that of home console gaming.
One piece of speculation that's been doing the rounds in recent years is that its colour choice, that of a dark red, was driven by cost-cutting; reports have suggested that plastics of that colour were available cheaply at the time. Yet in an interview with Weekly Playboy — a magazine that covers topics of interest and also, yep, adult content — former Nintendo hardware designer Masayuki Uemura has refuted that story. He says the choice of red was less about saving money, and more to do with following orders from the top brass.
Originally, the inexpensive steel body we planned to use was too fragile, so we changed it to a highly durable plastic.
The reason why we used the dark red was simply due to an order from the company's president.
Uemura also said that the suggestion of the Famicom name came from his wife, who felt the term "Family Computer" would just be shortened by consumers, in any case. The bosses at Nintendo disagreed and opted for the full name, but the public did indeed — and have ever since — nickname the system Famicom. In truth we often do it without thinking here at Nintendo Life, but even the recent anniversary promotion for the system on the Wii U eShop is named the Family Computer anniversary; Nintendo is sticking to its guns on that one.
In any case, if you ever stumble across this question in a quiz — unlikely, perhaps — now you know.